Monthly Archives: January 2007

California’s Latest Dim Bulb Idea

In California, a state assemblyman has proposed, in the name of saving the environment of course, banning incandescent light bulbs.

Decrying the inefficiency of the common light bulb, a Democratic Assemblyman from Los Angeles wants California to become the first state to ban it — by 2012.

Assemblyman Lloyd Levine says compact fluorescent light bulbs, which often have a spiral shape and are being promoted by Wal-Mart, are so efficient that consumers should be forced to use them. The compact bulbs use a quarter the energy of a conventional light.

“Incandescent light bulbs were first developed almost 125 years ago, and since that time they have undergone no major modifications,” said Levine, who represents Sherman Oaks. “It’s time to take a step forward.”

Levine is known for his environmental bent. Last year, he authored legislation to require large supermarkets to recycle plastic bags. Schwarzenegger signed that bill but has not yet taken a position on the light bulb bill.

Levine isn’t the only one who’s seen the light. Democrat Jared Huffman, who represents San Rafael, is working on a similar bill.

The idea has annoyed some Republicans, who say people should be allowed to make their own choices about which bulbs to buy. But Levine, who heads the Assembly’s Utilities and Commerce Committee, points out that the new bulbs are so efficient that electric utilities give them away.

Nevermind the lack of evidence behind man made global warming for starters, but I’m guessing California has solved all of its major problems to tackle an issue like this. The people of California have the right to buy and use whatever light bulb they choose, not a light bulb that is “efficient” enough for a politician’s liking.

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.
FacebookGoogle+RedditStumbleUponEmailWordPressShare

Atlas Shrugs In Venezuela

As Hugo Chavez continues his apparent quest to become the heir apparent to Fidel Castro, Venezuelans who desire freedom and prosperity are starting to vote with their feet:

CARACAS, Venezuela — The line forms every day after dawn at the Spanish Consulate, hundreds of people seeking papers permitting them to abandon Venezuela for new lives in Spain. They say they are filled with despair at President Hugo Chávez’s growing power, and they appear not to be alone. At other consulates in this capital, long lines form daily.

Two months after Chávez was reelected to another six-year term by an overwhelming margin, Venezuela is experiencing a fundamental shift in its political and economic climate that could remake the country in a way perhaps not seen in Latin America since Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959. On Wednesday, the National Assembly is expected to entrust him with tremendous powers that will allow him to dictate new laws for 18 months to transform the economy, redraw the structure of government and establish a new funding apparatus for Venezuela’s huge oil wealth.

Chávez’s government announced earlier that it intends to nationalize strategic industries, such as telecommunications and electric utilities, and amend the constitution to end presidential term limits.

The new, more radicalized era is enthralling to the president’s supporters. To them, Chávez is keeping the promise he has consistently made over eight years in office — to reorganize Venezuelan society, redistribute its wealth and position the country as an alternative to U.S. capitalist policies.

“This is a moment that could be key in the history of Latin America,” said Joanna Cadenas, 36, a teacher in the state-run Bolivarian University. “I never thought you could love a president.”

But the moves — which opponents say are marked by intolerance and strident ideology — are prompting some Venezuelans to leave the country and others to prepare for a fight in the last battlegrounds where the opposition has influence. A few are trying, against the tide, to remain apolitical in a country marked by extreme, even outlandish rhetoric.

“What we’re seeing happen here is not good,” said José Manuel Rodríguez, 42, an accountant seeking travel documents at the Spanish Consulate. “What we see here is the coming of totalitarianism, fewer guarantees, fewer civil rights. I want to have everything ready to leave.”

Given the rhetoric coming from Chavez lately, the desire of these people to emigrate is entirely understandable:

Even some of Chávez’s allies have raised eyebrows over some of his plans. The president has formed a coalition, the United Socialist Party, to unite the numerous parties in the National Assembly — all of them pro-government. But the leaders of bigger, well-established parties such as the Communist Party and Podemos are balking, at least for now.

In a recent meeting for leaders of Podemos, one delegate, Pedro Peraza, said that although support was strong for folding into the president’s party, Podemos needed to be cautious. “Things cannot be that way, that it’s all about what the president says and that we just follow along,” Peraza said. “That would be like communism.”

Despite concern voiced by several Podemos members, the president of the party, Ismael García, said that the dissolution of his party was only a matter of time. Asked if folding Podemos and other parties wouldn’t give Chávez too much power, García cited the widespread support the president enjoys.

“We’re not turning over anything to anybody,” he said. “The president has won this through his prestige, his worth as a leader, his courage.”

Sounds like surrender to me. And that’s what’s distressing about all of this. Even as Fidel Castro, Latin America’s worst dictator, lies dying, another is preparing to take his place and enslave yet another nation.

Can We Please Elect Someone Else ?

Michael Barone thinks it’s time that America ended it’s obsession with the Clinton and Bush families:

Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton. It sounds like the Wars of the Roses: Lancaster, York, Lancaster, York.

To compare our political struggles to the conflicts between rival dynasties may be carrying it too far. But we have become, I think, a nation that is less small-r republican and more royalist than it used to be. Viscerally, this strikes me as a bad thing. But as I’ve thought about it, I’ve decided that something can be said for the increasing royalism of our politics. And whether you like it or not, you can’t deny it’s there. Not when the wife of the 42nd president is a leading candidate to succeed the 43rd president who in turn is the son of the 41st president. The two George Bushes are referred to in their family, we are told, as 41 and 43. If Hillary Clinton wins, will she and her husband call each other 42 and 44?

And, when you think about it, it’s even worse than that. Starting with the 1976 Presidential Election, there has not been a single Presidential election where someone with the last name Bush, Clinton, or Dole was not on the ticket of one party or the other. Now, it looks like that trend will continue into 2008, and quite possibly, 2012 if Hillary manages to win the election. Is that really what we want ? A nation ruled by a handful of families ?

As Barone points out, this is part of a trend that has been developing for years: » Read more

California Court Extends First Amendment Rights To Bloggers

In a first-of-it’s-kind ruling, a California Court has ruled that bloggers are entitled to the same First Amendment rights extended to journalists:

Santa Clara, CA (AHN)-In a landmark ruling in favor of bloggers and cyber journalists, a Santa Clara County Court defended the First Amendment rights of online journalists to protect their confidential sources, effectively giving web journalists the same protections afforded to traditional print journalists.

Apple Inc., had issued subpoenas to online tech journalists, including the publisher of AppleInsider.com and PowerPage.org, over reports the company claimed “violated California state trade secret law” which divulged so-called confidential information about not-yet released Apple products. Apple claimed the journalists were not entitled to First Amendment protections similar to those afforded to their print counterparts.

However, a California court disagreed, ruling against Apple and in favor of the defendants, who were represented by legal counsel from The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Apple was ordered to pay all legal costs associated with the defense, including a 2.2 times multiplier of the actual fees, bringing the total to about $700,000.

The ruling was hailed by web journalists and EFF staff members as a legal victory in the battle to defend and protect the rights of online journalists.

Kasper Jade, publisher of AppleInsider.com, one of the defendants in the case, said, “The court’s ruling is a victory for journalists of all mediums and a tremendous blow to those firms that believe their stature affords them the right to silence the media. Hopefully, Apple will think twice the next time it considers a campaign to bully the little guy into submission.”

Time to start removing the word citizen from that phrase “citizen journalist.”

The Case For Legalizing Prostitution

Today’s Washington Post carries an interesting column by Syrian journalist Sami Moubayed where he makes a rather convincing case for the legalization of prostitution, citing his own country as an example:

For years, many in the Arab World have been sexually deprived. This is because of social restrictions, seclusion, bad education, poverty, etc… Some would argue that Islam is the reason for sexual deprivation, but I stand against such an argument. True, Islam limits interaction between sexes and calls for modesty in dress and conduct, but so does Christianity and Judaism. The other factors — mainly seclusion, lack of education education, and poverty — lead to a permanent psychological disorder. In many cases, people become obsessed with sex in its most primitive form.

Economic factors are very important: women enter the profession to make money because of poverty while men invest in it because they are unable to marry or satisfy their desires in a formal, legal manner. Many men, who live in societies divided along gender lines in the Arab World, start viewing women — all women — as nothing but sexual objects. Meanwhile, pornographic movies abound. Internet and satellite TV provide images that trigger the imagination and desires of sexually deprived men. No authority — no matter how strict or Puritanical — can control or curb such underground subculture.

Repressing these trends (such as the case in some Islamic countries) is not only unsuccessful, but actually fuels more dangerous sexual deviations. When men become obsessed with sexual desires, and have no outlet for these urges, they start doing strange things, such as viewing all women in a derogatory fashion. They can neither work or think properly, affecting overall production in society.

Contrast that with the case of Syria in the early 20th Century where, surprisingly, prostitution was legal:

Prostitution was legalized and professionalized under the Ottoman Empire. Back then there was fear in Damascus that the wandering soldiers would attack or rape young Syrians. That is why affordable prostitution centers were created for them in the Syrian capital, as a form of maintaining public security. This system was maintained when the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1918. The destruction of World War I, along with the poverty imposed on the Syrians, however, made many young women turn to prostitution for a living and the years 1914-1918 are considered the worst in the past 100-years of Syrian history. When the French came to Syria in 1920, they professionalized prostitution in major urban cities of Syria. Prostitution centers were registered in government records, and guarded by armed men from the colonial troops of France, mostly, from the Senegal. Any woman found to be engaged in illegal sexual conduct for more than three times would be arrested and sent to the prostitution center. There she would become an “official” employee. She would pay taxes to the central government, and receive check-ups twice a week at the Ministry of Health.

With the rise of Arab Nationalism, though, the trend toward repression continued anew. Moubayed’s argument is, in some senses, unique to the nation he writes about. He contends that traditional Arab repression of sexual desire leads to unhealthy attitudes toward women and that legalizing prostitution, while it may not solve the problem, would at least have it out in the open where everyone would be safer.

I don’t know whether that argument is correct or not, but his central argument — that government regulation of an activity that people have shown a desire for seldom results in anything good — is applicable to any nation or culture.

Risking economic liberty…

This by far one of the best arguments against the minimum wage I’ve seen. Please note that when you see the word “liberal” in this article, it’s referring to classical liberalism:

Passage by the House of Representatives of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, as part of the Democrats’ first 100-hour agenda for “A New Direction for America,” was a step in the wrong direction. It leads our nation further astray from the limited government, market-liberal order envisioned by the Founding Fathers. It appears the Senate is about to make the same mistake.

Many in Congress seem to have forgotten that their powers are enumerated and thus limited by Article 1, Section 8 of what George Washington in his first inaugural address in 1789 called “the great constitutional charter” designed to preserve “the sacred fire of liberty” and the “republican model of government.”

[…]

In a free society, employers should have the right to hire and fire workers and to pay them wages that are mutually agreed upon, and workers should have the right to freely compete for jobs and, thus, to accept employment at mutually beneficial wage rates. A worker’s minimum acceptable hourly wage, of course, will depend on his or her next best alternative employment opportunity and, hence, on the value of his or her productivity in the marketplace.

Arbitrarily increasing the legal minimum wage simply increases the price of labor without changing a worker’s skill level or other conditions that lead to low wages. Congress cannot repeal the law of demand by a stroke of the legislative pen. When the real (inflation-adjusted) minimum wage rises above the prevailing market wage for unskilled workers, employers will cut back on hours, reduce benefits, and introduce labor-saving methods of production. This is common sense.

[…]

Big businesses such as Wal-Mart can weather a 20 percent increase in the federal minimum wage, but small businesses, especially in low-wage states, will suffer. In a recent study in the Cato Journal, Thomas Garrett and Howard Wall, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, find that “in the relatively poor states the federal minimum wage results in fewer entrepreneurs and fewer of the benefits that entrepreneurship can bring.”

Government interventions such as the minimum wage destroy opportunities for the least skilled members of society. The government promises low-skilled workers higher wage rates, but their incomes will be zero if they lose their jobs. Contrary to popular opinion, a minimum wage law is not “progressive” legislation. Rather, it prevents progress by limiting the options of poor people.

[..]

If Congress passes and President Bush signs a new federal minimum wage law there will be a further drift away from the liberal principles that have made America the land of opportunity. Alternatively, doing nothing or abolishing the federal minimum wage would create new job opportunities for low-skilled workers, spur development in poorer states, and, ironically, help lift people out of poverty as they gain experience.

A new direction for America should not be a false progressivism but a swing back toward true liberalism, or what Thomas Jefferson called “a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another” and “shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement.”

Today the Senate invoked cloture on the minimum wage legislation, only ten Senators voted against it. A tip of the hat to my Senators, Isakson and Chambliss for voting against it, even thought it includes the tax cuts that the Bush Administration wanted.

Last week, Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO) filed an amendment that would have allowed the States the ability to determine their own minimum wage, free from federal interference…you know, how the Constitution says these types of issues should be handled per the Tenth Amendment. But it was rejected. Admittedly, I was surprised with how many Senators voted for the amendment, Isakson and Chambliss voted in the affirmative.

An op-ed in the Gainesville Times drives it home:

Mandating an increase in the minimum wage means one of three options for employers: they accept a smaller profit margin, they cut expenses to maintain existing profit margins or they increase the cost of their product or services.

For many small businesses, reducing profit margins is not a realistic option. Small-business owners frequently walk a tightrope between being viable and being out of business, where one unexpected expense of any magnitude can mean closing the doors for good.

If businesses opt to maintain profits by reducing expenses, they most likely will do so by cutting employee costs, which may well mean the elimination of the very jobs most likely to be affected by a minimum wage increase. A dramatic rise in the mandatory minimum wage may mean the local ice cream shop employs two minimum wage employs at $7.25 an hour rather than three at $5.15 an hour, which is a boon for the two who remain employed, but means job loss for the third.

I’ve seen polls that support an increase in the minimum wage, I’ve seen people say that these people “deserve” a raise, that’s fine that you feel that way, but an economic cost will be paid and that is reality. And let’s not forget that 53% of the people that make minimum wage are 24 years old and younger [Source: BLS – Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers: 2005].

Why risk economic liberty for 2.5% of the workforce, a quarter of these workers are under 19, another quarter are between the age of 20 and 24, all to increase their “purchasing power” by $80 a week. I don’t think it’s worth it.

Freelance Hookers Rebuffed In Oz

There are few times one can talk about the economics and politics of cartels and licensing requirements, and still make it this fun:

Brothel owners accuse backpackers of selling sex in Australia

Foreign backpackers funding their Australian travels through illegal sex work are robbing the legitimate industry of profits and threatening clients’ health, a brothel lobbyist has warned.

Many young tourists to sun-soaked northeastern Queensland state were making a quick buck as black market prostitutes, undermining registered operators’ attempts to uphold health and safety standards, the Queensland Adult Business Association’s Nick Inskip claimed.

“Especially when you go up to northern Queensland, it’s not unusual for them to be working in the illegal escort industry,” Inskip said.

Having fewer overheads, they could often undercut the legal sex industry on price, making it harder for the state’s 23 legal brothels to make a profit, he said.

It sounds absurd when you hear it this way. But here in this country, pundits regularly rail against the “illegal invaders from the south taking our jobs”, and it seems perfectly acceptable to require that workers such as beauticians should be required to seek a state license.

I support relatively free immigration, and fight against government trade licensing requirements. For that reason, in the interest of ideological consistency, I also support (although don’t patronize) the rights of freelance hookers.

The Quest for Security of Privilege

I’m rereading F.A Hayek’s “The Road To Serfdom“. In Chapter 9, where I currently find myself, Hayek is discussing security and freedom. This seems timely, considering the conversation occuring on Doug’s post The Right Direction on Health Insurance Reform.

In this chapter of Hayek’s classic work, he discusses the quest for security and how it impacts the freedom of the individual. Beyond that, he shows that as we increase security for one segment of the population, the insecurity of the other segments necessarily increases. This applies whether we are discussing securing certain levels of income, specific jobs, or social benefits like healthcare. The basis of this is very simple. As one group has their jobs, for example, secured by society, then other groups are left to compete in a smaller market for jobs. Further, those people are going to be more significantly impacted during economic cycles than they would be if a larger pool of jobs and employees were in the free market. The more security you provide, the larger the group that has that security, the more insecure will the unprivileged groups become.

You can read the chapter yourself (here’s an online version of the book) if you like. The bottom line is that the only way to avoid this problem AND provide security of position or income or privilege is to provide perfect security to everyone. To do this requires taking away all liberty. I leave it to the reader to follow the logic on this. So, your option, if you wish to provide security, is to remove liberty.

Hayek has this very insightful thing to say about the quest for economic security (as well, it applies to security of position and privilege) on page 143 (of the 50th anniversary edition):

Thus, the more we try to provide full security by interfering with the market system, the greater the insecurity becomes; and what is worse, the greater becomes the contrast between the security of those to whom it is granted as a privilege and the ever increasing insecurity of the underprivileged.

This is precisely what has happened with healthcare in this country. As I pointed out in my post Specific Healthcare Changes, our supposedly free market healthcare system is massively regulated and subsidized. The effect of the tax subsidies, regulations requiring specific health insurance minimum standards, healthcare welfare and so forth is to create security and privilege for a subset of the population. This has, necessarily, increased the insecurity of those that do not have that security through the action of the government. If you wish to provide the most security to the most people, you have to stop providing privileged security to a subset of the whole. Or become a serf.

When the government controls all of your decisions about, and ability to get, healthcare, you have lost your freedom. You may retain the illusion of freedom by being allowed to vote in elections, or choose which doctor you will see, but you have no true freedom. Are you truly willing to sell your freedom for the illusion of security? Because even that security is an illusion. It is only secure so long as someone other than you decides it should be.

Milton Friedman vs. The Philosopher Kings

Arnold Kling has a piece at TCS Daily about the two different approaches that exist to dealing with problems that arise in the world:

One solution, that might be traced to the expression “philosopher-king” associated with Plato, is to hand the reins of government to the best and the brightest. Since the late 19th-century, the Progressive Movement in American politics has championed this approach. The Progressive vision, which DeLong embraces, is to channel brains and technical know-how through government in order to improve people’s lives. One hundred years ago, they sought to prohibit alcohol. Today, they are going after trans fats. One hundred years ago, they favored eugenics, based on the then-new science of evolution. Today, they embrace anti-growth economic policies, based on the contemporary science of happiness. Indeed, we get headlines like ‘Tories promise to make happiness a priority‘.

The other way to avoid having our lives run by idiots is to limit the power that others have over us. This is the approach that was embedded in our Constitution, before it was eviscerated by the Progressives. It is the approach for which Milton Friedman was a passionate advocate.

Friedman’s insight is that a market limits the power that others have over us; conversely, limiting the power that others have over us allows us to have markets. Friedman argued that no matter how wise the officials of government may be, market competition does a better job of protecting us from idiots.

It scarcely matters which side of the politcal aisle you look at. Today, both Republicans and Democrats both clearly identify more with the idea of the philospher-king than they do with the idea that the market, made up as it is of the choices of millions of people acting in their own self-interest does a far better job of allocating resources and reaching the best result possible than any philosopher king could ever hope to do.

Related Posts:

Milton Friedman: An Appreciation
Milton Friedman: The Power Of Choice

Preach it Brother!

The High Priest of the Church of the Painful Truth, Neal Boortz has written an excellent response to this insane tirade by Ted Kennedy regarding the minimum wage. I wrote my own post on the minimum wage here at my blog Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds but Boortz’s response to Kennedy explains the problems of the minimum wage in a way I could never articulate.

For the purpose of context, the video below is Ted Kennedy’s emotional indictment of Republicans who dare to be against “the working class”

Neal Boortz’s Response:

Let’s deal with this “working men and women” line first. This rhetorical nonsense is now a basic part of the left wing class warfare arsenal. The goal here is to foster the idea that the more money you make the less you work. The reality is that there we have two resources we can use to make money, physical labor and mental labor. Most of us use a combination of the two. The ugly little fact is that, generally speaking, and professional athletes aside, the more of your mind you use the more money you will make, and the more of your muscle you use the less money you’ll make.

[…]

Knowing that almost all Americans value the concept of hard work, the Democrats have worked to promote the concept that the only real work that physical labor. Working with your mind — managing investments, for instance — just isn’t work. Therefore the only real working people out there are those who work with their hands instead of their brains…. or those more likely to vote Democrat. Once you’ve made this absurd concept a reality you have created a wonderful class warfare weapon. If you’re smarter than the average bear, and if you realize that it is not the role of government to set wages, you then become an enemy of “working men and women.”

Read the whole thing, it’s a very rational response to an emotional issue presented by the bleeding heart left’s class warfare logic.

Milton Friedman: The Power Of Choice

As I mentioned earlier, today is Milton Friedman Day. Tonight at 10pm, most PBS stations around the country will broadcast a new documentary about the life and ideas of Milton Friedman called The Power of Choice:

Rising like a phoenix from a troubled past, entrepreneurs have turned Chile’s rich Colchagua Valley into one of the world’s great economic miracles. Chilean wines now compete in the world market. Wine and ingenuity have made Don Melchor a very wealthy man. But if you think Chile is an unlikely locale for entrepreneurial success in the 21st century—consider Estonia, until recently part of the Soviet Union.

Economies all over the world are feeling the impact of free markets.

The world of the 21st century is a world of international markets interconnecting people everywhere —people who have never met, yet inadvertently have become integral to each other’s well being. The genie is out of the bottle. Every minute of every day products from all over the world are moving in perpetual motion.

For over 30 years the United States military has operated as a 100 percent volunteer force. To be successful it must offer attractive choices. The army alone now offers some 300 distinct career paths to attract young men and women to a professional life in the military.

All of these things reflect the economics of choice, the economics of individual freedom that have changed and are continuing to change the world in which we live. Still, individual freedom of choice can spark heated protest in the United States and around the world.

And, courtesy of YouTube, here’s a preview:

Definitely worth watching.

Google Founders Admit Censorship Was Wrong

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the founders of Google, have admitted that their decision to acquise in the Chinese Government’s demand for censorship of Google’s Chinese search engine was a mistake:

Google’s decision to censor its search engine in China was bad for the company, its founders admitted yesterday.

Google, launched in 1998 by two Stanford University dropouts, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, was accused of selling out and reneging on its “Don’t be evil” motto when it launched in China in 2005. The company modified the version of its search engine in China to exclude controversial topics such as the Tiananmen Square massacre or the Falun Gong movement, provoking a backlash in its core western markets.

Asked whether he regretted the decision, Mr Brin admitted yesterday: “On a business level, that decision to censor… was a net negative.”

For the bottom line, and for freedom.

Milton Friedman: An Appreciation

Since today is Milton Friedman Day, I figured it was as good a time as any to note my own personal appreciation for a man who contributed so much to the ideals of free minds and free markets.

I am not an economist, or a political scientist, so this won’t be an examination of Dr. Friedman’s contributions to either of these disciplines. Instead, I thought it would be appropriate to focus on the influence that Milton Friedman had on the evolution of my own political philsopophy.

It started when I was in college and was exposed to ideas that, quite honestly, didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Specifically, I had a Professor —- in a course ironically titiled “Capitaism, Socialism, and Democracy” —- who spent a good deal of time telling us just how evil capitalism was and specifically using Friedman as an example of all that was wrong with it’s defenders. I never really believed what he was saying, and knew that I wanted to learn more and that’s where Milton Friedman got involved.

As I’ve mentioned before, I graduated from Rutgers University. Among it’s claims to fame, Rutgers can, but seldom does, rightly claim Milton Friedman as an Alumnus. In fact, during the time I was there, you would have scarcely known that one of the most important economists of the 20th Century had graduated from Rutgers……and I am totally convinced that it was because his politics no longer coincided with those of the faculty.

Once I figured out that I wasn’t getting the whole story, I decided to check things out for myself.  In addition to whatever reading I needed to do for my classes, I started reading on my own. Friedman. Hayek. Mises. Rand. Quite honestly, I was amazed at how much independent reading I was able to get done and still keep up with my classes. In the end, though, I felt like I was on a journey that had less to do with the grades I was getting than it did with what I wanted to learn.

And the truth is that I started my intellectual journey with Capitalism And Freedom, and have never been the same. And for that I have nothing but gratitude for Milton Friedman.

Did America Elect The Wrong Bush Brother ?

Former Florida Governor, and Presidential brother, Jeb Bush, spoke this weekend at a conference sponsored by National Review devoted to examing what happened to the Republican Party in general, and conservatives specifically in last year’s elections. And, quite honestly, his remarks make one wonder if the wrong son of George H.W. Bush made it into the White House six years ago:

At a time when the conservative movement is looking bereft, humbled by midterm-election defeats and hungering for a presidential candidate to rally around, Jeb Bush delivered yesterday in Washington a resounding endorsement of conservative principles, bringing his audience repeatedly to its feet.

In his lunchtime remarks to the Conservative Summit, Bush struck every conservative chord, blaming Republicans’ defeat in November on the party’s abandonment of tenets including limited government and fiscal restraint.

“Don’t take offense personally if I get mad at Congress,” the Republican former Florida governor began. “It’s important for us to realize we lost, and there are significant reasons that happened, but it isn’t because conservatives were rejected. But it’s because we rejected the conservative philosophy in this country.”

He added, “If the promise of pork and more programs is the way Republicans think they’ll regain the majority, then they’ve got a problem.”

Bush’s speech prompted three standing ovations from the audience of hundreds at the National Review Institute’s conference at the JW Marriott Hotel, reflecting the widespread concern among conservatives that exorbitant government spending led to the loss of majorities in the House and Senate and concern about whether Republicans would again embrace the traditional principles.

It’s important to recognize that when Governor Bush talks about conservative philosophy, he clearly is the referring to ideas of limited government that the Republican Party used to believe in back in, say, 1980 when Ronald Reagan was elected. That is not the conservatism of 2007 by any means, at least not in practice.

As David Boaz notes:

President Bush sponsored most of those “more programs,” and in six years he hasn’t vetoed a single piece of pork or a bloated entitlement bill or a new spending program. And if Jeb thinks “we lost…because we rejected the conservative philosophy in this country,” he must realize that his brother has set the agenda for Republicans over the past six years almost as firmly as Putin has set Russia’s agenda. If Republicans turned their back on limited-government conservatism, it’s because the White House told them to. Not that congressional leaders were blameless — and on Social Security reform, they did decide to resist Bush’s one good idea — but it was President Bush and his White House staff who inspired, enticed, threatened, bullied, and bully-pulpited Republicans into passing the No Child Left Behind Act, the biggest expansion of entitlements in 40 years, and other big-government schemes.

In reality, of course, I doubt we will hear Jeb denounce the policies of his brother’s Presidency, not matter what he might think about them. Family loyalty will trump politicial differences. Nonetheless, I can’t help but wonder if we might not have been better off electing the other Bush brother.

The Lessons Of Katrina

As we approach the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it’s well known that vast areas of the Gulf Coast remain much as they were when the waters receded. What isn’t well known is the extent to which private charity and volunteer organizations have stepped in where the government has failed:

PEARLINGTON, Miss. — The two-by-fours inside the walls of George and Margaret Ladner’s new home are inscribed with biblical verses, each written by one of the Alabama schoolchildren who raised money to buy the lumber.

The framing work on the house was done by a Christian from Pennsylvania, the exterior planking was put up by people from Texarkana, Tex., and a group from Destin, Fla., worked on other details.

“This home was built by the hands of God,” Margaret Ladner, 75, said from the couch of her new living room last week.

In this small rural community, as in much of the hurricane-ravaged Mississippi Gulf Coast, this kind of motley charity effort accounts for the vast bulk of what halting progress has been made in the immense task of rebuilding.

While the national debate over the recovery has focused on the billions expected in federal aid and insurance, those sources have so far provided little for places such as Pearlington, and charity efforts have constituted more than 80 percent of the home rebuilding completed so far, local and charity officials said.

Fewer than one in five families here are back in their homes, but nearly all of them have relied to some extent on charity groups. The waves of volunteers typically come down for a week or two, work during the day and at night sleep on cots and bunks set up in places such as the old school library and huts on the community’s football field.

“Without the volunteers and the donations, we’d still be in the mud,” said Rocky Pullman, a tugboat captain who represents the Pearlington area on the Hancock County Commission.

But what, you might ask about the billions of dollars in aid from Washington that was supposed to rebuild New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast ? Not surprisingly, it’s tied up in bureaucracy:

The reason for the charity’s dominant role in the rebuilding is that little, if any, of the $3.2 billion in federal aid for Mississippi homeowners has reached anyone here — it is tied up for now at the state level. As for insurance, most residents of this rural community lacked any form of flood policy. People say there just hadn’t been a flood in recent memory, and of those who did have coverage, most had too little.

(…)

The $3.2 billion in federal aid disbursed by the Mississippi program has largely been untouchable by people in Pearlington.

The program’s first phase doles out money to people who were flooded but did not live in the federally designated flood zone.

Most people in Pearlington live in the flood zone and must wait for the second phase to begin. Under its guidelines, families of low and moderate income will be eligible for as much as $100,000, less any insurance and FEMA rebuilding payments they have received.

By the time that happens, though, one wonders if the Federal Government will even be needed in Pearlington.

Old Media vs. New Media

(Cross posted here at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds)

A rather interesting comment was posted in response to a minor point I made about the new media vs. the old media in a post I wrote entitled The Scales of Justice Need Rebalancing. I thought the comment raised some interesting questions that deserved to be answered in a post of its own as opposed to a response to the response on the original post.

My original point had to do with the MSM’s (the old media’s) incomplete, sloppy, and biased coverage of the so-called Duke Rape Case and how bloggers and talk radio (the new media) managed to turn the tide against the narrative the MSM was trying to establish. The MSM basically convicted the lacrosse players before they had their day in court. When it comes to accusations of rape or sexual assault, all too often the MSM automatically presumes that women never lie about these sorts of things, therefore; the men who are accused of the act are guilty. Very few in the MSM were even open to the possibility that Crystal Magnum (the stripper who accused the lacrosse players) was lying; few wanted to hear the other side of the story or even ask some very basic questions.

The following is the statement I made in the original post:

Thanks in-part to talk radio, bloggers, and others in the alternative media asking questions the MSM failed to ask, everything seems to be swinging in the defendants’ favor.

William L. Anderson of LewRockwell.com made a much stronger case for the way the new media exposed the unethical and quite possibly criminal behavior of the District Attorney Michael Nifong. Anderson’s main point is that had it not been for the new alternative media, the other side of the story might not have come to light and Nifong could have gotten away with his framing of the young men in question.

This time, the new media got it right but was this good investigative reporting or just luck? The person who commented on my post who identifies herself as VRB believes it to be the latter:

I found the bloggers to be just as bad as MSN [the MSM?], they just happened to wind up on the right side. They did all their best to vilify the alleged victim before all the facts were in. They looked for every snippet of so called evidence to prove their point. Most seem to be saying if you are a whore you can’t possibly be raped and rapist aren’t smart enough to drug or use a condom. Of course all their arguments were so high minded how dare anyone questioned their motives. I think that bloggers are beginning to think the power they have, gives them truth. They just got lucky, so I wouldn’t pat them on the back. Bloggers are not any more pure than the rest of society.

I am sure that there were bloggers out there who instinctively went the other direction without considering any evidence but there were others who were fair-minded and only wanted to get to the truth. I hadn’t weighed in on the issue up to now but when the story first broke, I was concerned that the MSM wasn’t telling the entire story. I cannot speak for others but I would never be one to say that it would have been impossible for the lacrosse players to have raped Crystal Magnum because she was a ‘whore’. I wasn’t there, nor was anyone who commented on the case other than Magnum, the other stripper, and those who were at the party. All any of us can do is ask questions and draw our own conclusions.

When those in the new media started asking the questions, we discovered problems with Magnum’s story (such as the timeline), statements from witnesses (the other stripper, Magnum’s cab driver, etc.), a lack of DNA and other forensic evidence to implicate the accused players (some of which was withheld by Nifong), a report that Magnum had made false rape charges in the past, and other reports that cast doubt on Magnum’s version of events. In the end, all Nifong had to go on was Magnum’s ever-changing statements.

As to the motives, veracity, and ‘high mindedness’ of bloggers in the new media I just have to say they come in all shapes and sizes and are by no means ‘any more pure than the rest of society.’ Some are not at all concerned about accuracy and shoot from the hip while others do their homework and rival the veracity of MSM reports. Bloggers come from a much more diverse array of backgrounds, opinions, and motivations. It’s quite proper to question the motives of anyone who presents information (whether in the old media or new media) and VRB is correct in saying that power does not in any way equal truth.

Having said that, those in the new media who did ask the questions and uncovered facts about the case where much of the MSM failed do deserve a ‘pat on the back’. To avoid embarrassment, the MSM had to start asking the questions that ordinary people with laptops were already asking. If not for the new media, who knows what would have happened in this case?

The only reason the new media is gaining influence is because the old media is no longer adequate. The old media has one agenda and is driven by that agenda. The old media is much easier to censor and control than the new media; this is why some powerful people want to bring the new media down with legal restrictions such as McCain-Feingold and the so-called fairness doctrine.

One of the things that drew me to blogging was when bloggers exposed the forged documents in Dan Rather’s story on George W. Bush’s National Guard service. At the time I didn’t even know what blogging was. I was already skeptical of much of how the MSM reported the news as if everything they reported was stone cold fact. But when this fraud was exposed, I became even more skeptical. There is usually more than one side of the story but all too often, the MSM only presents the side they like. Now the new media has filled some of the void.

There is one problem no one seems to address when it comes to media of all kinds: the media consumer. Yes, you and I are the main problem. Far too often, we do not think critically about the news and receive it passively.

As consumers of the news, we should ask the same questions journalists are supposed to ask: who, what, when, where, how, and why. These are very simple questions that are rarely explored. For example: Why does the minimum wage need to be raised? Who says it should be raised, politicians or economists? What are the positive and negative consequences of raising the minimum wage? When should it be raised? How should it be raised? How will it affect the economy?

Apply these questions to any problem or issue and you will find that these questions are often not answered in the news story. Always be prepared to question the answers.

Are Cars Killing America ?

In today’s Washington Post, Ted Balaker and Sam Staley of the Reason Foundation debunk five common myths constantly propounded by the environmentalist left in their never-ending quest to force us out of our cars:

1.Americans are addicted to driving.

Actually, Americans aren’t addicted to their cars any more than office workers are addicted to their computers. Both items are merely tools that allow people to accomplish tasks faster and more conveniently. The New York metropolitan area is home to the nation’s most extensive transit system, yet even there it takes transit riders about twice as long as drivers to get to work.

(…)

2.Public transit can reduce traffic congestion.

Transit has been on the slide for well more than half a century. Even though spending on public transportation has ballooned to more than seven times its 1960s levels, the percentage of people who use it to get to work fell 63 percent from 1960 to 2000 and now stands at just under 5 percent nationwide. Transit is also decreasing in Europe, down to 16 percent in 2000.

(…)

3.We can cut air pollution only if we stop driving.

Polls often show that Americans think that air quality is deteriorating. Yet air is getting much cleaner. We miss it because, while we see more people and more cars, we easily overlook the success of air-quality legislation and new technologies. In April 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that 474 counties in 31 states violated the Clean Air Act. But that doesn’t mean that the air is dirtier. The widely publicized failing air-quality grades were a result of the EPA’s adoption of tougher standards.

(…)

4.We’re paving over America.

How much of the United States is developed? Twenty-five percent? Fifty? Seventy-five? How about 5.4 percent? That’s the Census Bureau’s figure. And even much of that is not exactly crowded: The bureau says that an area is “developed” when it has 30 or more people per square mile.

(…)

5.We can’t deal with global warming unless we stop driving.

What should be done about global warming? The Kyoto Protocol seeks to get the world to agree to burn less fossil fuel and emit less carbon dioxide, and much of that involves driving less. But even disregarding the treaty’s economic costs, Kyoto’s environmental impact would be slight. Tom M.L. Wigley, chief scientist at the U.S. Center for Atmospheric Research, calculates that even if every nation met its obligation to reduce greenhouse gas, the Earth would be only .07 degrees centigrade cooler by 2050.

In other words, all of the empircal arguments against personal automobiles is pretty much a bunch of nonsense. Would recognizing this cause the environmentalist left to give up its anti-auto crusade and stop trying to get us all to take the train ? Frankly, I doubt it.

I’m convinced that the real reason that Americans like their cars, and the real reason that certain people hate them so much, is because of the degree of personal freedom it gives them. Rather than having to depend upon the schedule of a government-run mass transit system, they can go where they want, when they want. There are people out there for whom that degree of personal autonomy is a bad idea. They would rather see us all living in high-rises, near train stations that can take us where they decide our jobs and shopping malls should be. Even if automobiles were 100% friendly to the environment, they still wouldn’t like them.

Solving The Television Violence “Problem”

According to L. Brent Bozell III, long time advocate of government censorship of television, the so-called problem of television violence is worse than ever and the person at fault is Tony Soprano:

The latest landmark (or landfill) in the TV world is the arrival of HBO’s pay-cable mob drama “The Sopranos” on the basic-cable channel A&E, where now virtually anyone with cable can watch. How carefully is this show with mature-themed sex, violence and profanity vetted for general audiences? TV critics wailed that any snip is messing with the “artistic integrity,” but the Hollywood Reporter reassured fans that “a few judicious snips to a series can be made without snuffing its profane soul.”

The early word is that the makers of “The Sopranos” prepared their Mafia-milking cash cow for general audiences by double-shooting scenes with clothed strippers and lots of uses of the word “freaking.” Still, the eye-opening violence is pretty much left untouched. “Have no fear, mayhem fans,” cooed the TV critic of the San Diego Union-Tribune, since A&E is “letting them act like gangsters and talk like dorks.”

The “quality” controllers at A&E have told critics that extraordinarily grisly sequences, such as someone’s brains being splattered all over a wall, have been shortened by a second or two. Who says these networks don’t have standards?

The arrival of “The Sopranos” marks the ongoing trend, wherein ultra-violent, ultra-sexual programming made for pay-cable channels oozes into basic-cable syndication. It began with “Sex and the City” reruns on TBS and now includes “Six Feet Under” on Bravo. And with basic cable now sliding into the muck, it is dragging over-the-air broadcast TV with it. Reruns of the vile bad-cop drama “The Shield” have gravitated to the new CW network. All of television is sliding into the violence swamp.

Brent, there are those of us who watch shows like The Sopranos because it happens to be good drama. There are others of us who don’t watch it all. We call ourselves adults, and we’re generally capable of making informed decisions for ourselves. You obviously don’t care for Tony and the boys, so don’t watch them, but don’t deprive me, or anyone else, of the opportunity to watch something other than Mother Angelica on our basic cable channels.
» Read more

A Lame Defense Of The Drug War

John Hawkins writes in a column at Human Events and a post at his blog Right Wing News in defense of the War On Drugs. As is typical with defenders of the drug war, it doesn’t really amount to much of anything.

Just take a look at his opening paragraphs:

Libertarians often attack the war on drugs as a waste of tax dollars and an infringement on personal liberties. That is misguided thinking that comes from trying to apply unworkable theoretical concepts in the real world.

For example, you often hear advocates of drug legalization say that we’re never going to win the war on drugs and that it would free up space in our prisons if we simply legalized drugs. While it’s true that we may not ever win the war against drugs — i.e. never entirely eradicate the use of illegal drugs — we’re not ever going to win the war against murder, robbery and rape either. But our moral code rejects each of them, so none — including drugs — can be legalized if we still adhere to that code.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen this one from the drug warriors…..well, I’d have a heck of a lot of nickels.

There is a distinct difference, of course, between murder, robbery, and rape on the one hand, and using a currently illegal substance like marijuana or cocaine. Murder involves violating the right to life of another human being. Robbery is an intrusion on property rights. And rape is an assault, also a violation of another individuals rights. You can’t say the same thing, though, about an individuals use of (currently) illegal drugs. If my neighbor is smoking marijuana in the privacy of his own home, he has done nothing to harm me, my property, or my family. That being the case, the state has no business telling him he can’t do it.

Hawkins doesn’t end there though. The rest of his argument is addressed below the fold. » Read more

1 2 3 9