Monthly Archives: March 2007

Get A Parking Ticket, Lose Your House

The City of Brooksville, Florida is apparently seriously considering a law that would allow the city to seize someone’s house if they owe as little as $ 5.00 in parking tickets:

According to the proposed ordinance, a vehicle owner must pay a parking fine within 72 hours if a meter maid claims his automobile was improperly parked, incurring tickets worth between $5 and $250. Failure to pay this amount results in the assessment of a fifty-percent “late fee.” After seven days, the city will place a lien on the car owner’s home for the amount of the ticket plus late fees, attorney fees and an extra $15 fine. The fees quickly turn a $5 ticket into a debt worth several hundred dollars, growing at a one-percent per month interest rate. The ordinance does not require the city to provide notice to the homeowner at any point so that after ninety days elapse, the city will foreclose. If the motorist does not own a home, it will seize his vehicle after the failure to pay three parking tickets.

And to make this whole thing even more Kafka-esque, here’s what you have to do if you want to appeal a parking ticket:

Any motorist who believes a parking ticket may have been improperly issued must first pay a $250 “appeal fee” within seven days to have the case heard by a contract employee of the city. This employee will determine whether the city should keep the appeal fee, plus the cost of the ticket and late fees, or find the motorist not guilty.

I don’t think we need to wonder what the outcome of the appeal would be.

H/T: Radley Balko

Judge To Feds: You Can’t Treat Us All Like Children

Today, a Federal Judge in Philadelphia struck down a 1998 law that made it illegal for online content providers to allow children access to “harmful” material:

PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge on Thursday dealt another blow to government efforts to control Internet pornography, striking down a 1998 U.S. law that makes it a crime for commercial Web site operators to let children access “harmful” material.

In the ruling, the judge said parents can protect their children through software filters and other less restrictive means that do not limit the rights of others to free speech.

“Perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection,” wrote Senior U.S. District Judge Lowell Reed Jr., who presided over a four-week trial last fall.

The law would have criminalized Web sites that allow children to access material deemed “harmful to minors” by “contemporary community standards.” The sites would have been expected to require a credit card number or other proof of age. Penalties included a $50,000 fine and up to six months in prison.

The judge accepted the arguments of the opponents of the law that software filters and parental supervision are sufficient means to protect children from seeing inappropriate content online, and have the added benefit of not infringing on the right of adults to view such material if they wish.

The response of one of the government’s attorneys to this argument is particularly galling:

“It is not reasonable for the government to expect all parents to shoulder the burden to cut off every possible source of adult content for their children, rather than the government’s addressing the problem at its source,” a government attorney, Peter D. Keisler, argued in a post-trial brief.

In other words, the government knows better than parents what is appropriate for children.

This is only the latest in a long line of defeats for the Federal Government on this issue. In 1997, the Supreme Court struck down a 1996 law that would have banned online pornography. And, in the years since, the Supreme Court twice granted injunctions forbidding enforcement of the law because it found that the opponents of the law were likely to prevail. And prevail they have.

One would like to think that this will be the end of it, but the government is likely to appeal this ruling. Which is fine, because it will be good to have a good anti-censorship case coming out of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.

Full text of the opinion is here.

A Pox On Both Their Houses

Writing in today’s New York Times (firewalled behind their TimesSelect thingy), David Brooks says there’s been bad behavior from both parties over the U.S. Attorney firings:

When you look at the prosecutors who were fired by the Bush administration, you see some who were fired for proper political reasons and some who were fired for improper ones. Carol Lam seems to have been properly let go because she did not share the president’s priorities on illegal immigration cases. David Iglesias seems to have been improperly let go because he offended some members of the president’s party.

But what’s striking in reading through the Justice Department e-mail messages is that senior people in that agency seem never to have thought about the proper role of politics in their decision-making. They reacted like chickens with their heads cut off when this scandal broke because they could not articulate the differences between a proper political firing and an improper one.

Moreover, they had no coherent sense of honor. Alberto Gonzales apparently never communicated a code of conduct to guide them as they wrestled with various political pressures. That’s a grievous failure of leadership.

The bad behavior has not stopped there. The Democrats, apparently out of legislative ideas after only 11 weeks in the majority, have gone into full scandal mode, professing to be shocked because politics played a role in prosecutorial priorities. They and those on their media food chain have made wild accusations far in advance of the evidence, producing enough cacophonous demagoguery to make rational discussion nearly impossible

This is what our political system has come down to. Instead of actually running the country, our leaders spend their time engaged in partisan bickering. It happened during the Reagan Administration when the Demorats held Congress, it happened during the Clinton Administration when Republicans were in power, and it’s happening again now. The only good thing about it is that they can’t do any real harm to the country when they’re distract by nonsense like this.

I maintain my position, articulated here, that this whole “scandal” is much ado about nothing, but Brooks is right when he points out that the Bush Administration is partly to blame for all of this thanks to the inept way they handled it.

H/T: Ann Althouse

Point/Counterpoint

As Doug mentioned Monday night, we here at The Liberty Papers have been brainstorming some interesting new features here. One, that we will roll out shortly (likely before the end of the week) is called Point/Counterpoint.

While our contributors generally agree on most issues, there are always issues where we don’t. We all share a love of liberty, but the contributors run the gamut from those who are nearly anarchists to those who would feel at home amongst small-government conservatives. Thus, Point/Counterpoint will be an opportunity for one contributor to offer a topic for debate, and be rebutted by another contributor a day or two later.

If nothing else, I think we contributors will enjoy this. In addition, I hope that it will be entertaining for you. In the future, we will make sure that every post in this series is tagged as part of the category “Point/Counterpoint”, and will try to keep titles on-topic so that readers scrolling through the category itself can keep up with who is responding to who.

We’ve got a couple other things in the works as well, so stay tuned!

A Retraction On The United States Attorneys Story

Last week, I wrote this post attempting to argue why the story surrounding the firing of eight United States Attorneys was something that needed to be looked into.

Well, I completely blew that one.

I’ve followed this story as best I can, including today’s story that subpoenas will be issued to top White House aides, and this much has become clear:

1.    United States Attorneys have always served at the pleasure of the President. Traditionally, when a new President takes office, each sitting U.S. Attorney hands in their resignation and the incoming Administration makes the hiring decision regarding their replacement. It happens every 4-8 years like clockwork. Sometimes, a particular U.S. Attorney may stay on, especially if there wasn’t a change in the President’s political party during the preceding election, but that has always been the choice of the President and Attorney General.

2.     When Congress passed the PATRIOT Act, which I personally consider ill-advised but it is still the law of the land, it included provisions that expanded the ability of the President and Attorney General to remove a sitting U.S. Attorney and replace him on an expedited basis. It was under this statutory provision, as I understand it, that the eight firings were made.

3. There is no evidence that any of the dismissed prosecutors were removed because they were pursuing something that the Administration wanted covered up. For the most part, they were removed because they were not pursuing investigations that the Administration, or Republican Congressional leaders, wanted to see pursued. This may be improper in some sense of legal ethics, and maybe we should change the law so that prosecutors are immune from these political considerations, but it is not illegal.

Given all of this, it’s pretty clear that there really isn’t a scandal here, although the media has already started using that word. Before long, I’m sure we will start calling this whole thing “Attorney-gate” or something like that.

If it’s not a scandal, then what is it ?

Politics, pure and simple. The Democrats in Congress are behaving toward the Bush Administration precisely the same way that the Republicans did toward Bill Clinton, holding hearings to investigate every little story coming out of the White House.

It may well be that there are things that this President has done that deserve to be investigated. I’d like someone to look into what the heck went wrong with intelligence in the months before the Iraq War. And the whole issue of domestic surveillance without a warrant is something not even the Democrats are touching with a ten foot pole.

But don’t waste our time with this non-scandal.

Does Pajamas Media Have It In For Ron Paul ?

Vox Day accuses Pajamas Media of taking Ron Paul’s name out of their online Presidential Straw Poll because he was consistently beating all the other candidates and that wasn’t too the liking of PM’s conservative owners:

[T]he truth is that there are alternatives, genuine alternatives to the three-part multiple choice quiz, but the mainstream media is, as always, doing its best to prevent anyone from considering them. And in their best freshmen-at-the-frat-house fashion, Pajamas Media is playing precisely the same game, as evidenced by their 2008 Pajamas Media Presidential Straw Poll.

PAJAMAS MEDIA PRESIDENTIAL STRAW POLL has officially begun. Bill Richardson and Rudy Giuliani were again winners in the seventh week with over 70,000 votes now cast. Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich (undeclared) were runners-up on the Democratic and Republican sides respectively.

What the headline fails to mention is that in the Feb. 19 Pajamas Media poll, Ron Paul, the Texas congressman and now a declared candidate for the Republican nomination, roundly defeated Rudy Giuliani, 43.1 percent to 20.1 percent. Moreover, he did so by winning more votes, 1,769, than Giuliani subsequently did in winning the Mar. 4 (1,431) and Mar. 11 polls (1,158).

The innocent observer might wonder how Ron Paul could slip so much in three weeks that Giuliani could surpass him with fewer votes, or that a disgraced adulterer and non-candidate for president like Newt Gingrich could claim second place. Did his actual declaration of his candidacy on Mar. 11somehow inspire a backlash against him? No, the truth is much more simple.

Because they didn’t like the results, Pajamas Media simply dropped Ron Paul from the poll, while retaining the likes of George Pataki, Tommy Thompson and other no-hopers who aren’t even running for president!

A few points.

First of all, it’s their poll and they can include or exclude anyone they want. Libertarians above all others should recognize that.If they want to exclude a declared candidate because they don’t like his message and include people who aren’t even running for President, they can do that too. However, it does call into question the accuracy of the poll.

And that leads to the second point. This is an online poll we’re talking about. All of the participants are self-selected and it’s easy to game the system which, incidently, is what may have actually been going on here. There is no scientific value in the poll itself. Why get yourself worked up over something like this ?

I just don’t get it.

H/T: Lew Rockwell

Congress Subpoenas Rove And Sets Up A Constitutional Showdown

The House Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas today for five top aides to President Bush in connection with the developing investigation into the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys:

A House panel today authorized the issuance of subpoenas for top White House and Justice Department aides as it investigates the firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year.

The House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on commercial and administrative law passed by voice vote a motion giving the committee chairman, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the power to issue subpoenas for five current and former officials, as well as for “unredacted documents” from the White House and Justice Department. Among the five are Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff, and Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel.

In authorizing the subpoena power over the objections of Republican members, the subcommittee rejected an offer by President Bush yesterday to allow the officials to testify under strict conditions. The White House is demanding limits on the kinds of questions they would answer, opposes having them testify under oath and does not want their testimony to be recorded or transcribed.

Absent an agreement between the White House and Congress, this one act turns what I’ve got to admit is a confusing “scandal” over the firing of a few U.S. attorneys into a Constitutional showdown.  President Bush made clear yesterday that the White House would assert executive privilege as a bar to any effort to force Presidential aides to testify under oath.

And, quite honestly, they would have a pretty good argument in their favor if they did.

Presidents have claimed executive privilege, if not by name, since the time of the Jefferson Administration, but it’s most famous example is the U.S. v. Nixon case, where the Supreme Court ruled that President Nixon had to turn over the tapes of Oval Office conversations sought by the Watergate Special Prosecutor. At the same time, though, the Court did recognize that some form of privilege does exist:

The Court recognized “the valid need for protection of communications between high Government officials and those who advise and assist them in the performance of their manifold duties.” It noted that “[h]uman experience teaches that those who expect public dissemination of their remarks may well temper candor with a concern for appearances and for their own interests to the detriment of the decisionmaking process.”

What executive privilege really is, though, is a result of the Seperation of Powers doctrine. As a the head of a co-equal branch of government, the argument goes, the President has the right to have confidential meetings with his advisors and not fear that those conversations will be divulged to Congress, or to a prosecutor, using their subpoena power. How far that privilege goes is the answer that Courts have wrestled with since the early 19th Century.

If nothing else, this exceedlingly confusing story could provide the nation with some clarity on this issue.

Rudolph Giuliani In His Own Words

The date is March 20, 1994. The forum is a conference on crime in major cities sponsored by the New York Post. The speaker is Rudy Giuliani: [Emphasis is mine]

We constantly present the false impression that government can solve problems that government in America was designed not to solve. Families are significantly less important in the development of children today than they were 30 or 40 years ago. Religion has less influence than it did 30 or 40 years ago. Communities don’t mean what they meant 30 or 40 years ago.

As Americans, we’re not sure we share values. We’re sometimes even afraid to use the word values. We talk about teaching ethics in schools — people say, “What ethics? Whose ethics? Maybe we can’t.” And they confuse that with teaching of religion. And we are afraid to reaffirm the basics upon which a lawful and a decent society are based. We’re almost embarrassed by it.

We look upon authority too often and focus over and over again, for 30 or 40 or 50 years, as if there is something wrong with authority. We see only the oppressive side of authority. Maybe it comes out of our history and our background. What we don’t see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.

Okay, so there you have it. Freedom is about your willingness to give up your freedom.

And War is Peace.

And Ignorance Is Strength.

Seeking Justice For Police Negligence

Back in January, I wrote about the case of Salvatore Culosi, a Fairfax, Virginia man who was shot to death by police sent to arrest him in connection with an alleged illegal gambling operation. Today, Culosi’s parents filed a lawsuit against Fairfax County and several police officers in connection with Culosi’s death:

The parents of Salvatore Culosi, who was shot to death last year by a Fairfax County tactical officer, filed a federal lawsuit yesterday against the county, the police chief and the officer, alleging that police exercised gross negligence by using deadly force to arrest a suspected sports gambler.

Because, of course, there’s no greater threat to public safety than a guy who will give you 3-1 odds on the Wizards.

And, for those who have forgotten, here’s how this particular outrage went down:

On Jan. 24, 2006, police moved to arrest Culosi. A decision was made to use the tactical, or SWAT, team to detain Culosi while his apartment was searched. Bullock, 41, was one of two officers assigned to arrest Culosi while he met with the detective outside his apartment. Other officers were to handle the search.

According to a report issued by Rohrer in January, Bullock bounded out of his sport-utility vehicle, which was parked behind the detective’s, and pulled his .45-caliber pistol out of its holster. But his door “bounced back and jarred him,” Rohrer wrote, “causing him to lose his balance.”

Bullock fired one round into Culosi’s chest, killing him almost immediately. Culosi was not armed.

Rohrer’s public report said that using a SWAT team in such a low-risk case — Culosi never owned a weapon and had no history of violence — was unnecessary, and that police had developed a “comprehensive risk assessment form” to determine when a SWAT team should be used. He also established a Use of Force Review Committee to examine such incidents.

Bullock has not yet been formally disciplined. Rohrer wants to suspend him for three weeks without pay and remove him from the SWAT team, but Bullock appealed to County Executive Anthony H. Griffin, sources familiar with the case said. Griffin has yet to rule, and Bullock remains on administrative duties.

A SWAT team. Against a guy who was brokering bets on sports games. Tell me why this isn’t an outrage.

Commendation for a friend

My State Representative, Steve Davis, was the only legislator to vote against Georgia’s bloated budget:

We had the 2007 Amended budget that I was the stand alone vote against. I voted against the budget for the first time for numerous reasons but I will start with the fact that the amended budget increased by $700 million to $19.3 Billion just over the break. Furthermore, the 2008 Budget which we will probably vote on next week that will increase the budget by another $900 million to $20.2 billion. These amounts do not include the bond issues of another $1 billion of our taxpayer dollars!

[…]

I have written about the fall of the National Republicans because they lost their way. They forgot why people are voting Republican. They vote Republican because they believe in less government, less taxes, traditional family values, common sense and morals. I am getting a little worked up but I ran for office on the above mentioned positions and I meant it. As I have found that many other legislators did not. This is shame because I believe we could move this state in a direction if we just had the heart to do the right thing.

Herman Cain once said that Democrats are better at pretending to be Republicans during campaigns than Republicans are at actually being Republicans while ruling.

We better take a hard look in the mirror and do some soul searching or we will become the big government politicians that we have grown to loath.

Steve and I disagree on most social issues, but he has done a damn fine job voting his convictions on fiscal issues. He’ll likely be chastized for this vote, but I just don’t think that is right.

Most Appropriate Location For A Government Agency Ever

The Department of Homeland Security is set to move into a former lunatic asylum:

WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is setting up its new HQ in a former lunatic asylum.

The DHS says it will consolidate most of the 60 offices it has across the Washington, D.C. region into a single new headquarters building.

The $3 billion move will begin in 2011, according to a plan prepared by the DHS, once a new building is ready in the grounds of the former mental hospital, St. Elizabeth’s.

The U.S. Coast Guard will be the first element of the DHS to move into the new building in 2011, department Spokesman Larry Orluskie told United Press International.

The DHS’s headquarters functions will follow in 2013, and the other components slated for centralization will move in after that.

Aside from the obvious humor of all of this, the truly insane part of it, as James Joyner points out, is the fact that they want to locate the agency responsible for homeland security in a single building near the center of the city that just happens to be a prime target for terrorism.

Now that is truly insane.

Kathleen Blanco Will Not Run For Reelection

According to PoliticsLA.com, Louisiana’s so-called governor, Kathleen Blanco, will not seek reelection. Even she saw the handwriting on the wall and saw she had no chance in hell at winning. The people of New Orleans may be stupid enough to reelect Ray Nagin and Bill Jefferson, but the people of Louisiana as a whole are not as stupid as the average New Orleans voter.

The biggest loser, other than Blanco, is of course the leading Republican candidate for governor, Bobby Jindal. He will now actually have to face a competitive campaign, something that he’s not that good at, instead of the cake walk he would have against Blanco.

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.

To Catch A Predator: Creating A Problem Where One Doesn’t Exist ?

By now, I think most of us are familar with Dateline NBC’s “To Catch A Predator” series. A decoy from a group calling itself Perveted Justice chats online with adult men. The decoy pretends to be either an underage boy or girl, and, when someone bites, they take the conversation as far as they can and then setup a situation where the adult comes to visit what they think is a teenager for sex.

But it’s not a teenager, of course, and all of this is being recorded by the cameras of NBC News and narrated by reporter David Chris Hansen. The mark comes to the house, goes inside, and has a brief conversation with an actor or actress protraying the teenager, and then Hansen does his “big reveal” and has a brief conversation with the mark before sending them outside to be arrested.

» Read more

Bob Barr: Angry Conservatives Should Join Libertarians

Former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr spoke to a Libertarian Party conference in Florida said that conservatives are angry,  looking for an alternative to the intellectual bankruptcy of the GOP, and that the LP could be a new home for them:

“They are eager for a philosophical home,” Mr. Barr said. “There are enough of them out there that a significant number can be weaned away” from the Republican Party.

More than 100 Libertarian officials and activists attended the three-day event at the Orlando International Airport Hotel and Conference Center that included a Friday meeting of the party’s national committee and a Saturday presentation by longtime conservative organizer Richard Viguerie.

“Whenever conservatives are unhappy, bad things happen for the Republican Party,” said Mr. Viguerie, author of “Conservatives Betrayed: How the Republican Party Hijacked the Conservative Cause.”

Mr. Viguerie, whose pioneering direct-mail operations helped revolutionize political fundraising, emphasized the value of issue-oriented appeals in building a successful movement.

“You must give the voters a tune they can whistle,” said Mr. Viguerie, who drew applause when he said of the 2008 Republican presidential candidates that Rep. Ron Paul of Texas “is the best of the lot.” Mr. Paul was the 1988 Libertarian nominee for president.

As Brian Doherty points out at Hit & Run, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about the idea of conservatives and libertarians finding common ground. On some very important issues, most notably the War On Drugs, either conservatives would have to give up their strong law-and-order stance, or libertarians would have to  water down their principles. The first alternative seems unlikely, the second is simply unpalatable.

Bong Hits 4 Jesus And Freedom Of Speech

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard argument in what has come to be known as the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case. The facts of the case are pretty straightforward, but it’s led to some interesting political alliances:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Supreme Court Monday debated the case of a high school principal who suspended a student over a “Bong Hits 4 Jesus,” banner displayed at a school-sponsored event.

The free-speech case tests the limits of student messages officials could try to suppress.

Joseph Frederick, then 18, unveiled the 14-foot paper sign on a public sidewalk outside his Juneau, Alaska, high school. Principal Deborah Morse confiscated it and later suspended the young man.

At issue was whether Frederick’s free-speech rights were violated and the discretion schools should be allowed to limit messages that appear to advocate illegal drug use.

A large part of the school board’s argument, which was made before the Supreme Court by none other than Kenneth Starr, was that the Principal should be allowed to regulate speech that disrupts the educational atmosphere of the school. As several Justices pointed out, though, that argument doesn’t stand up to the facts of this case where the banner was unveiled on a public sidewalk away from school grounds while the students watch the Olympic Torch pass through Juneau:

“There was no classroom here,” said Kennedy.

“This was education outside a classroom,” replied Starr of the torch relay observation.

“What did it disrupt on the sidewalk?” asked Souter of Frederick’s banner.

“The educational mission of the school,” was Starr’s answer.

“The school can make any rule that it wants on any subject restrictive of speech, and if anyone violates it, it’s disruptive?” asked Souter.

Justice Samuel Alito, alone among his conservative bench mates, appeared sharply critical of the school’s position

“I find that a very, very disturbing argument,” he said, “because schools have and they can define their educational mission so broadly that they can suppress all sorts of political speech and speech expressing fundamental values of the students, under the banner of getting rid of speech that’s inconsistent with educational missions.”

And, more importantly, that they can do so outside of school grounds during what is essentially a sanctioned recreational activity.

Law Professor Ann Althouse sums up how this case ought to turn out quite nicely:

This case is about something that happened on the street and not in a classroom. The banner was, of course, silent, and the occasion was a parade. It’s quite different from disruptive speech during a lesson. Scalia offered a distinction between “disruptive” and “undermining.” The school’s real objection is that a pro-drug message undermines the message it endorses. That is, they don’t want disagreement and debate. They still convey their anti-drug message all the time, and this student isn’t interrupting them or even distracting anyone from hearing that message. He’s just delivering a counter-message on another occasion, and they object to the argument. That should be held to violate the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court held long ago that students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door, although they have recognized some limits on those rights that take into account both their status as minors and the need for school authorities to maintain order and discipline in the school.

Clearly, if students have rights inside the school, they have rights outside it even while under the supervision of school authorities. “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” may not be the most eloquent political statement in American history, but the school authorities had no right to punish Frederick for saying it.

Democrats Using Pork To Advance Their Iraq Policy

This morning’s Washington Post reports that Democratic leaders are using porkbarrel projects as inducements in an effort to secure votes for bills supporting their policies in the Iraq War:

House Democratic leaders are offering billions in federal funds for lawmakers’ pet projects large and small to secure enough votes this week to pass an Iraq funding bill that would end the war next year.

So far, the projects — which range from the reconstruction of New Orleans levees to the building of peanut storehouses in Georgia — have had little impact on the tally. For a funding bill that establishes tough new readiness standards for deploying combat forces and sets an Aug. 31, 2008, deadline to bring the troops home, votes do not come cheap.

But at least a few Republicans and conservative Democrats who otherwise would vote “no” remain undecided, as they ponder whether they can leave on the table millions of dollars for constituents by opposing the $124 billion war funding bill due for a vote on Thursday.

“She hates the games the Democrats are playing,” said Guy Short, chief of staff to Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), a staunch conservative who remains undecided, thanks to billions of dollars in the bill for drought relief and agriculture assistance. “But Representative Musgrave was just down in southeastern Colorado, talking to ranchers and farmers, and they desperately need this assistance.”

Democratic leaders say the domestic spending in the bill reflects the pent-up demand from lawmakers who last year could not win funding for programs that had bipartisan support such as disaster assistance.

Yeah, sure it does.

Say what you will about what the proper course of action in Iraq may be, but I can say quite clearly that I don’t want American foreign policy decided by which district in Iowa gets preference when it comes to farm subsidies.

Just How Much Patience Are You Asking For Mr. President ?

On the day that America marked the 4th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War, President Bush addressed the nation and asked for patience as he pursues his latest strategy:

President Bush asked skeptical Americans for additional patience as the Iraq war entered its fifth year yesterday, saying that the United States can be victorious, but “only if we have the courage and resolve to see it through.”

In a brief address to the nation four years after he ordered U.S. forces to invade Iraq, Bush also warned the Democratic-led Congress not to pass a measure scheduled for a vote in the House this week that would require troops to withdraw from the conflict.

“It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home,” Bush said in an eight-minute speech from the Roosevelt Room in the White House. “That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating.”

I’ve written more than once here about my feelings about the Iraq War, but, first, a history lesson.

I will admit that, in the beginning, I supported the invasion of Iraq. Like almost all of America, I bought into the weapons of mass destruction argument — after all, Colin Powell had presented a pretty compelling case in his speech to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 (little did we know at the time that his speech was based almost entirely on information obtained from an Iraqi defector in German custody that several CIA analysts believed to be suspect). Not only that, there were those compelling-if-unsubstantiated rumors of links between Iraq and the 9/11 conspirators that nobody has ever been able to prove. Add into that the fact that Persian Gulf War I never really ended in a satisfactory manner and the fact that Saddam definately did try to assassinate former President Bush during a visit Kuwait.

By the time President Bush addressed the nation late in the evening on March 19, 2003, the idea of America invading Iraq to topple the Ba`athist regime of Hussein sounded like a pretty good idea to me.

Then reality hit.

» Read more

200,000

Within the last few minutes, the 200,000th unique visitor as recorded by Sitemeter passed through The Liberty Papers. We reached the 100,000 mark on January 23, 2007 and it took about 428 days of posting to get that far. In other words, in the past 55 days, we’ve had as many visitors as we did during the first 14 months of existence.

The one thing I attribute that to is the great group of contributors that we’ve got here, and the great job they’ve all done in posting things that people want to read, even when it causes no small degree of controversy.

We’ve been having some discussions about where to take The Liberty Papers next, so keep an eye out for what will hopefully be some exciting additions. The great writing will still be here, of course, but we’re hoping to bring some new things that will keep all you new readers coming back for more.

And that, is where I’d like to end this little bit of self-congratulation. If you’ve found this site thanks to a link from Reddit, or Google News, or anyplace else for that matter. Stick around and read what else we’ve got here, and come back often because there’s more to come.

Related Posts:

100,000

An End To The Online Gambling Ban ?

Last year, Congress passed a law that effectively made it illegal for American citizens to gamble online even if the servers running the gambling site were located in another country. Now it looks like there are moves in Congress to repeal the ban lead, unlikely as it might seem, by Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Rep. Barney Frank said on Thursday he will give details in the coming weeks on possible legislation to repeal a ban imposed last year on online gambling.

In an interview, the chairman of the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee said he is in no hurry and plans to consult with others on the matter.

“I’m not ready to give you more details, but I will be by next week or so. We’ll talk more about it later. There’s no urgency on it,” he said.

Internet gambling in the United States was effectively banned last October when President George W. Bush signed legislation outlawing gaming financial transactions.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Democrat said on Wednesday Frank was considering legislation to repeal the ban but had not drafted a bill and had no timetable for action.

Not much to go on yet, but a good sign that this stupid law may be coming to a well-deserved end.

H/T: Radley Balko

U.S. Military Unprepared For Another Conflict

Thanks principally to the War in Iraq, the U.S. military is woefully unprepared to respond to a serious military crisis elsewhere in the world:

Four years after the invasion of Iraq, the high and growing demand for U.S. troops there and in Afghanistan has left ground forces in the United States short of the training, personnel and equipment that would be vital to fight a major ground conflict elsewhere, senior U.S. military and government officials acknowledge.

More troubling, the officials say, is that it will take years for the Army and Marine Corps to recover from what some officials privately have called a “death spiral,” in which the ever more rapid pace of war-zone rotations has consumed 40 percent of their total gear, wearied troops and left no time to train to fight anything other than the insurgencies now at hand.

The risk to the nation is serious and deepening, senior officers warn, because the U.S. military now lacks a large strategic reserve of ground troops ready to respond quickly and decisively to potential foreign crises, whether the internal collapse of Pakistan, a conflict with Iran or an outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula. Air and naval power can only go so far in compensating for infantry, artillery and other land forces, they said. An immediate concern is that critical Army overseas equipment stocks for use in another conflict have been depleted by the recent troop increases in Iraq, they said.

“We have a strategy right now that is outstripping the means to execute it,” Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

This is, of course, entirely unsurprising. We’ve got more than 100,000 troops in Iraq, and thousands more in Afghanistan. After four years of rotating deployments and a situation on the ground in Iraq especially that is active and threatening, troops and equipment are getting burned out.

What happens, then, if a crisis breaks out in Korea, or if China starts threatening Taiwain, or (more likely than the other two) the situation in Pakistan finally reaches a boiling point and we’re faced with the possibility of radical Islamists with ties to al Qaeda acquiring a very significant stockpile of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them throughout the Middle East ?

Well, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has the answer:

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked last month by a House panel whether he was comfortable with the preparedness of Army units in the United States. He stated simply: “No . . . I am not comfortable.”

“You take a lap around the globe — you could start any place: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Venezuela, Colombia, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, North Korea, back around to Pakistan, and I probably missed a few. There’s no dearth of challenges out there for our armed forces,” Pace warned in his testimony. He said the nation faces increased risk because of shortfalls in troops, equipment and training.

In earlier House testimony, Pace said the military, using the Navy, Air Force and reserves, could handle one of three major contingencies, involving North Korea or — although he did not name them — Iran or China. But, he said, “It will not be as precise as we would like, nor will it be on the timelines that we would prefer, because we would then, while engaged in one fight, have to reallocate resources and remobilize the Guard and reserves.”

And it’s not just the troops that are the problem:

The troop increase has also created an acute shortfall in the Army’s equipment stored overseas — known as “pre-positioned stock” — which would be critical to outfit U.S. combat forces quickly should another conflict erupt, officials said.

The Army should have five full combat brigades’ worth of such equipment: two stocks in Kuwait, one in South Korea, and two aboard ships in Guam and at the Diego Garcia base in the Indian Ocean. But the Army had to empty the afloat stocks to support the troop increase in Iraq, and the Kuwait stocks are being used as units to rotate in and out of the country. Only the South Korea stock is close to complete, according to military and government officials.

“Without the pre-positioned stocks, we would not have been able to meet the surge requirement,” Schoomaker said. “It will take us two years to rebuild those stocks. That’s part of my concern about our strategic depth.”

“The status of our Army prepositioned stock . . . is bothersome,” Cody said last week.

Some might say that we’ve been lucky over the past four years that a major crisis has not flared up elsewhere in the world that would require us to make a choice that the military really shouldn’t need to make. One wonders how long that luck will last.

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