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 The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

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.

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