Monthly Archives: May 2007

Ron Paul, The Polls, And Reality

For the first time in the 2008 campaign, Ron Paul has actually gotten press attention thanks to the showdown he had with Rudy Giuliani during Tuesday night’s debate. That may or may not be a good thing in the long run, but given the results of the latest Gallup poll, it certainly can’t hurt at this point.

Let me summarize.

Ron Paul has not gotten above the 2% in any poll of Republican voters that Gallup has done this year. There is no upward trend, there’s not even really a downward trend. It’s just a flatline.

That’s why this week, and the weeks that follow will be the test. If there is ever going to be a Ron Paul boomlet, this is when it’s going to happen. He’s been on the nightly news, CNN, Fox, all over the place. His name recognition is certainly higher than it has been at any point in the campaign to date. Whether that translates into support, though, is another question.

Now the reality part. If Ron Paul doesn’t start to move up in the polls significantly after this week, then I don’t think he ever will.  If he doesn’t at least start moving past the Duncan Hunters, Sam Brownbacks and Jim Gilmores, then this isn’t going to last long at all.

And “The System” Rolls On

So, it’s been over 100 most days for the last month and a bit, with some massive wind and dust storms… generally not the most pleasant outdoor environment, and like many Arizona residents we’ve neglected our yard a bit.

Note, I said “a bit”; here’s the total weed growth since we last did the weeds in March(the dead branches are damage from a series of severe wind storms over the past couple months. We’ve been waiting for the trees to recover a bit before trimming back; and the desert scrub grass at the base of the trees is there ON PURPOSE):

Today we received a notice from the city of Scottsdale, demanding we remove the “Excessive weed growth” from our “desert landscaped” front yard by Sunday, or face a $2000 fine.


Well, first of all, they call THAT EXCESSIVE?

WTF Over?

Not only that, but a $2000 fine?

We’re not talking about some anal HOA here. Our house was built in 1953, long before the unholy institute of unlawful prior restraint, the home owners association, was an itch in Satans scrotum.

No, this is the city of Scottsdale…

Now, I thought something was a bit fishy about that; so I started looking at city ordnances etc… and there is nothing that says they can levy a $2000 fine for weeds. The only thing I can find is a “blighted property” statute where they can charge you $2000 for allowing your property to fall into a dangerous state of disrepair or abandonment.

Sooo, they’re going to declare a property “blighted” because of (and I counted them) 29 small weeds, mostly right along the edge of concrete.

Yeah, Ok, that’s really gonna fly. Obviously, if I took them to court then I would win; but seriously, who’s going to do that? Hell, just to take them to court, I’d have to post the fine, AND fees penalties and costs in escrow before hand.

So, grumbling, we go out in the 102 degree sun and pick the weeds. Then we notice a bunch of other folks outdoing similar things.

It seems that every house in the neighborhood got some kind of a violation notice.

Our neighbor got a notice saying he would have to pay a $600 fine for not having his house number posted properly so that it was visible from the street…


Not only that, but it’s also on his mailbox, which is on the side of his house facing the driveway. He has a set of numbers on the side facing the street as well, but one of the numerals had fallen off during a recent windstorm, and he hadn’t fixed it yet.

This one was flagged because it was a “fire hazard” because “emergency services may not be able to find the address in case of emergency”.

Did I mention that every address in the city is in the cities GIS database, which is GPS linked to all city vehicles, and emergency services?

We talked with him (a great guy actually. A rastaman in his early 50s who’s been here for 20 years. He and his wife have a beauty salon a couple miles away, and a bunch of grown kids), and he says a few days ago a guy from the city was around looking at everyones houses, and didn’t leave ’til he found violations on everybody. Then this morning he went around posting notices.

So, what would have happened if we were gone on vacation for the week?

This is your tax dollars at work ladies and gentlemen. bureaucrats have to justify their existence after all, or they could be downsized (unlikely, but hey, it could happen). Thus, they drive around every neighborhood in the city, and search every house and yard for some kind of violation.

I guess if here are no violations, then obviously they aren’t doing their job; so there have to be violations.

Just like lawmakers have to make new laws… because after all, they are lawmakers right; if they arent making laws then they aren’t doing their jobs…


But what about when there AREN’T any violations, or no more laws are needed?

Of course THAT would never happen, because there are ALWAYS more laws to make, and the laws are written so that EVERYONE is a violator, no matter how they try not to be; because the government cannot control you if you aren’t guilty of something.

So everyone is guilty, and the system rolls on

…and more bureaucrats are hired, and more attorneys, and more prosecutors, and more officers… and the system rolls on.

Because that’s what systems do. They perpetuate themselves. They create work, to ensure that there is always work. They increase work, to ensure they can always increase their empires. They justify work, to ensure they will always increase their budgets… and the system rolls on.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Comment of the Day

The comment thread can be (and sometimes actually is) an excellent vehicle for reasoned discussion. It can also be a great way to disabuse well-meaning ideologues of their naïve, utopian sense of “social


A classic example of the latter comes in the form of an exchange on a recent Julian Sanchez post, which is a response to this gem from Ezra Klein.

Christopher M. suggests that:

The idea that it's reasonable alturnative for prednisone to spend only

two weeks per year not working, from age 22 to age 65 or so, is one of those notions that just seems so utterly bizarre to me that I literally can't understand how

people just accept it.

Brian Moore’s retort:

The only notion more bizarre would be assuming that your preferences are the universal truth, and should be applied by force to everyone else through the application of mandatory vacation time.


Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani, Who’s Right?

The slapping match between Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani at Tuesday night’s Republican debate has ignited a debate on foreign policy. Ron Paul made his controversial remarks ,which I have to disagree with my fellow contributor Doug about, that can be interpreted by a reasonable person as showing moral equivalence between the enforcement of the no fly zones by bombing anti-aircraft positions and radar towers in Iraq from 1991-2003 and the mass murder of over 3,000 civilians in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Having said though, I do not believe that Ron Paul was trying to show moral equivalence instead he was making his point about blowback but was very inarticulate, to say the least.

Ron Paul’s position on the causes of terrorism, to paraphrase, is that terrorism is the result of American intervention in the Middle East. Rudy Giuliani’s position on the causes of terrorism, again to paraphrase, is that terrorism is the result of religious fanatics who hate our freedoms. Suffice to say, both men are right on certain aspects and both men are wrong about other aspects.

To examine Al-Qaeda’s casus belli we need to examine a document, Osama Bin Laden’s first fatwa against America. In this document, he lays out several grievances he has against the United States as paraphrased by James Joyner:

1) The end of U.S. aid to Israel and the ultimate elimination of that state

2) The removal of U.S. and Western forces from the Arabian peninsula

3) The removal of U.S. and Western military forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim lands

4) The end of U.S. support for the oppression of Muslims by Russia, China, and India

5) The end of U.S. protection for repressive, apostate Muslim regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, et cetera

6) The conservation of the Muslim world’s energy resource and their sale at higher prices

Just by these demands alone, we can dismiss Rudy Giuliani’s rhetoric of “they hate us for our freedom” as absurd. We can further dismiss the rhetoric by pointing out that there have been no terrorist attacks in Canada, which is even more socially liberal than the United States; and only isolated incidents in places like Holland which is one of the most hedonistic countries on the Earth. By this lack of depth on such a serious subject, Rudy Giuliani is simply not qualified to be president.

Al-Qaeda is motivated by a jihad ideology that calls for the following:

Jihad ideology separates humanity into two hostile blocs: the community of Muslims (Dar ul-Islam), and the infidel non-Muslims (Dar ul-Harb). Allah commands the Muslims to conquer the entire world in order to rule it according to Koranic law. Hence Muslims must wage a perpetual war against those infidels who refuse to submit. This is the motivation for jihad. It is based on the inequality between the community of Allah and the infidels, as was re-emphasized in the Cairo Declaration. The first is a superior group, which must rule the world; the second must submit.

Only by learning the ideology can we study the grievances more in depth. We can dismiss the fourth grievance out of hand. The United States has not supported China, India, or Russia in their actions against Islamic insurgencies in their countries. The purpose of the fourth grievance is the same as the grievance against the UN sanctions on Iraq, even though Saddam and UN bureaucrats siphoned off money that should have gone for food and medicine. It is a propaganda ploy designed to increase recruitment from the Arab street.

While we do need to point out that there are legitimate grievances against American foreign policy (mostly the support for tyrannical Arab regimes); the main reason why Al-Qaeda is targeting the United States is that the United States is the only country that can stop them from forming the Islamic Caliphate they want. As long as the United States supports “moderate” Arab regimes and Israel, Al-Qaeda will fail to topple them.

The question is, should we step out of the way of Al-Qaeda. The answer is clearly, no. To do so will condemn in the short term, the Jews in Israel to another Holocaust and secularists and non-Muslims in the Arab world to virtual slavery. In the long term, Al-Qaeda intends to reconquer first the lands previously held by the Islamic world and then conquer the remaining nations of the House of War. Ron Paul is absolutely wrong when he suggests we should withdrawal from the world, because as the lessons of Pearl Harbor show, the world will eventually come to us.

Finally, to leave the Middle East to Al-Qaeda will only tell others that you can change American policy by committing mass murder against American citizens. While you may have grievances against American policy, mass murder is never an acceptable means of expression. That’s what Ron Paul is saying, even though he may not mean to, when he suggests the only solution for terrorism is to give in to terrorist demands. For these naive views of the world, Ron Paul is simply not fit to be president.

America, like all nations, has the right to act in its own self-interest and according to its own values. Defeating Islamofascism is in America’s best interest because they will not stop until they rule the world. Just listen to them. However, Ron Paul is correct when he says we cannot be the world’s policeman. We must factor that in when developing the post-Cold War foreign policy.

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

More on the Fair Tax

In a comment, Phillip Hinson brought up some very interesting points arguing in favor of the Fair Tax. I think he is on the wrong path, but they are quite respectable arguments, and I thought I would answer them.

He was writing in response to a post of mine where I argued:

To me the Fair tax is at best a waste of time or at worst a dangerous method of growing the size of government. I see few benefits to it; most people simply do not care how much they are paying in tax! It creates a new form of taxation to add to the income tax. I don’t think the income tax will ever go away. It may, at best be repealed for a decade or so, then will be brought back at the next fiscal crisis.
In the end, it is a frivolous exercise. The damage done by taxation is based on the amount taxed. How the tax is collected is far less important. Thus, while the Fair Tax does not prevent reducing spending at all, nor does it promote it. Thus every ounce of political capital and energy spent on adopting it is, in my mind, wasted.

Phillip responded,

We spend several hundered billion $$ per year in wasted compliance costs. Using a recent and conservative estimate of $265 billion/year, that is substantially more over a 10 year planning horizon than the last round of hotly contested Bush tax cuts. Are you saying that relieving that burden from American taxpayers is trivial?

I do not think compliance costs are trivial in and of themselves. I am starting my own business and compliance costs are my biggest single expense. However, in general the compliance costs are dwarfed by the actual cost of the taxes themselves. The compliance costs are a drain on the economy. As bad as they are, though, the amount taxed represents a far more destructive drain.

Phillip went on to say,

Also, we have a system which provides a competitive advantage in an increasingly global marketplace to foreign producers over and above our own domestic producers. Are you saying that you support, as a matter of public policy, the US providing an advantage to foreign producers?

I am also opposed to the US government giving any business an “advantage” over its competition. In this case, however, the solution to the problems caused by shooting ourselves in the foot are not to be fixed by shooting our neighbors in the foot too.

Phillip then stated,

Social Security and Medicare are headed for a financial disaster if we do not address the demographic dilemma which we are in. Of course, this problem never would have existed if those two programs had been set up on an actuarial sound basis to begin with. However, there is nothing that can be done about that now. The FairTax is the only proposal which I am aware of which addresses just this actuarial and demographic dilemma by replacing the revenue base of payroll taxes with a broader based tax on the entire economy.

This brings up an obvious question. If the programs are so screwed up, why bother saving them?

Social Security and Medicare are disasters precisely because they encourage waste, discourage production and as a result leave our society poorer in the aggregate. A program that is designed to help the government expand the resources it can commandeer to keep these disasters going isn’t a solution. It’ll just make the destruction wrought by those programs more extensive.

Phillip continued,

Furthermore, the current system facilitates and enables our legislators by allowing them to divide and conquer, passing out preferential tax treatment to friends while punishing enemies. By hiding much of the true cost from those bearing that cost, it reduces the public outrage which would otherwise occur.

This is one area where I strongly disagree with the Fair tax proponents about the immunity of their system to manipulation. The Fair Tax also treats different types of transactions differently; “new” goods for private consumption are taxed, everything else is not. I expect that politicians would get very creative about how they classify which transactions are taxable and which are not. Additionally, I would be very surprised if a uniform rate was kept in place. Just as food and clothing are taxed at different rates, or even sugar was taxed differently depending on whether it is imported dissolved in a solution or not, I think that within a few years a huge political movement would be put in place to tax “luxury” goods and “necessities” at different rates, despite the “prebate”.

Phillip then began to wrap up his argument with this,

We will never get to Constitutionally limited government under a continuation of the current system (which is probably why the Founders had the wisdom not to allow this type of system). We may not get there with the FairTax, but we certainly have a far better chance of it.

I agree with his first statement, and disagree with his second. Again, I think it is subject to the same forces of public choice gaming that any other form of taxation is prone to. People will not look at their receipts and scream “that’s outrageous”. They already see their tax-bill when they fill out their income tax forms. I think the vast majority of people simply do not care and that there is no way to get them to care. That, combined with the dangers that we will be saddled with a hybrid system combining both the income tax and the consumption tax makes the Fair Tax a very bad idea in my mind.

Again, I think the supporters of the Fair Tax are sincerely trying to make the United States a better place. I understand their arguments and respect them. I just think that they have misread the electorate and are underestimating the ability of politicians to exploit new ways of extorting the productive members of society.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

The Attack Machine Goes After Ron Paul

I’ve got my criticisms of Ron Paul, and I’ve said more than once here that I don’t think he has a chance of winning either a single primary or the nomination, but when I see crap like this it really gets me angry:

For all those getting really excited about anti-war, libertarian Republican Ron Paul, it’s worth noting that he’s pretty racist and also an anti-Semite.

The basis for this scurrilous allegation ?

A Houston Chronicle story from 1996:

Texas congressional candidate Ron Paul’s 1992 political newsletter highlighted portrayals of blacks as inclined toward crime and lacking sense about top political issues.

Under the headline of “Terrorist Update,” for instance, Paul reported on gang crime in Los Angeles and commented, “If you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be.”

Paul, a Republican obstetrician from Surfside, said Wednesday he opposes racism and that his written commentaries about blacks came in the context of “current events and statistical reports of the time.”

Selected writings by Paul were distributed Wednesday by the campaign of his Democratic opponent, Austin lawyer Charles “Lefty” Morris.

This is the best you can come up with ? Give me a break.

Update: As it turns out, and as pointed out in a comment to this post, Congressman Paul has already commented on this:

When I ask him why, he pauses for a moment, then says, “I could never say this in the campaign, but those words weren’t really written by me. It wasn’t my language at all. Other people help me with my newsletter as I travel around. I think the one on Barbara Jordan was the saddest thing, because Barbara and I served together and actually she was a delightful lady.” Paul says that item ended up there because “we wanted to do something on affirmative action, and it ended up in the newsletter and became personalized. I never personalize anything.”

His reasons for keeping this a secret are harder to understand: “They were never my words, but I had some moral responsibility for them . . . I actually really wanted to try to explain that it doesn’t come from me directly, but they campaign aides said that’s too confusing. ‘It appeared in your letter and your name was on that letter and therefore you have to live with it.'” It is a measure of his stubbornness, determination, and ultimately his contrarian nature that, until this surprising volte-face in our interview, he had never shared this secret. It seems, in retrospect, that it would have been far, far easier to have told the truth at the time.

Nothing to see here folks, move along.

H/T: Andrew Sullivan

The Latest Gallup Poll: An Opening For Change ?

According to the latest Gallup Poll, a full 3/4 of the American public are dissatisfied with the current state of the United States:

NEW YORK What’s going on? Gallup reports today a sudden plunge in its regular “satisfaction” index. Only 25% of Americans now say they satisfied with the state of their country — down 8% in just one month — and one of the lowest ever measured.

“The current 25% satisfaction level is very low by historical standards,” Gallup explained. “Since Gallup first asked this question in 1979, the average percentage of Americans saying they are satisfied with conditions in the country is 43%.”

Iraq continues to weigh the most on minds. “Even though skyrocketing gas prices may contribute to the public’s sour mood this month,” the organization revealed, “the issue is not mentioned by an especially high percentage of Americans as the nation’s top problem.”

The latest poll finds 45% of Republicans saying they are satisfied, compared with only 12% of Democrats. Over the past month, satisfaction fell more among Democrats, suggesting that some of them may be souring on their party’s actions or inactions in Congress.

The poll of 1,003 adults was taken May 10-13.

The conventional wisdom will be that this is bad news for Republicans. After all, George Bush is the President of the United States and the person the public is most likely to blame for the current state of the country. That analysis is correct, but it’s incomplete.

The Democrats are in control of both Houses of Congress and a large percentage of the state legislatures around the country. Their approval ratings aren’t any higher than President Bush’s.  And, like the Republicans their 2008 frontrunners are all Washington insiders of one form or another.

In this climate, the possibility exists that a outsider candidate who talks about real change could have a significant impact on the race. The question is whether such a candidate exists.

You can’t find such a person among the Republican frontrunners. McCain ? Senior Senator from Arizona and the man responsible for one of the most egregious violations of the First Amendment in centuries. Giuliani ? Former career DOJ prosecutor, NYC Mayor, and Republican fundraiser. Romney ? You’re kidding right ?

The same is true of the Democrats, of course.

Some may ask, what about Ron Paul ? Well, he certainly is a different kind of Republican and, as I’ve said already, he not only talks the talk of individual liberty, he follows through on his rhetoric with action. He’s far from perfect, though. As Tuesday’s debate demonstrates, he’s not entirely articulate sometimes. And, well, he’s just not going to get the nomination.

That said, I think that the reason that we’ve seen so much attention being paid to Ron Paul in the blogosphere, and the reason why he’s frequently at or near the top of Technorati and Google Blog searches is because people are looking for someone different. He’s filling a void that nobody else can fill right now.

Now, all we need is a candidate with the charisma of Ronald Reagan, the money of Ross Perot, and the ideals of Ron Paul and we’ll be set.

Republicans: The Party Of Censorship

Or so it would seem based on this report:

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The chairman of the Michigan Republican Party said Wednesday that he will try to bar Ron Paul from future GOP presidential debates because of remarks the Texas congressman made that suggested the Sept. 11 attacks were the fault of U.S. foreign policy.

Michigan party chairman Saul Anuzis said he will circulate a petition among Republican National Committee members to ban Paul from more debates. At a GOP candidates’ debate Tuesday night, Paul drew attacks from all sides, most forcefully from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, when he linked the terror attacks to U.S. bombings.


Anuzis called the comments “off the wall and out of whack.”

“I think he would have felt much more comfortable on the stage with the Democrats in what he said last night. And I think that he is a distraction in the Republican primary and he does not represent the base and he does not represent the party,” Anuzis said during an RNC state leadership meeting.

“Given what he said last night it was just so off the wall and out of whack that I think it was more detrimental than helpful.”

Anuzis said his petition would go to debate sponsors and broadcasters to discourage inviting Paul.

Because, of course, the last thing we want at a Presidential Debate is an actual, well, debate.

Rethinking Ron Paul’s Answer

At least one neo-con seems to be doing so:

I’m thinking that as obnoxious as Ron Paul’s remarks came across last night in the moment, he said something important and necessary to think about. If we’re ever going to avoid getting into quagmires like Iraq again, we’ve got to be able to talk about the kind of thing that Ron Paul had the bad taste to bring up last night. It feels good (felt good to me, anyway) to watch Giuliani’s eyes blaze and smoke come out his nostrils in rebuking Paul, but really, indignation is not the same thing as refutation. And insofar as indignation is allowed to kill the discussion of US foreign policy and its relationship to anti-American Muslim extremism, it does not serve the national interest. Ron Paul’s argument deserves to be answered, not shouted down as beyond the pale of discussion. “How dare you!” is not an argument, but an argument-ender.

And, that, I think, is the problem with Giuliani’s rhetorical rebuke of Ron Paul. He wasn’t debating the point that Congressman Paul was trying to make, he simply rejected it out of hand despite the fact that what he said isn’t any different from what the 9/11 Commission said.

Right or wrong, American foreign policy in the Middle East has been a motivation for al Qaeda action and a motivation for al Qaeda recruitment.  Given that, isn’t it legitimate for us to think about whether we’re doing the right thing over there to begin with ?

H/T: Andrew Sullivan

Ron Paul vs. Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity is not a person to go to if you want reasoned discussion of the issues. Even more than Rush Limbaugh, who famously said after the 2006 elections that he wasn’t going to carry the GOP’s water anymore and seems to be living up to that statement so far, Hannity has drunk so much of the George W. Bush Kool-Aid that he seems incapable of even understanding what someone who dares to question el Presidente’s actions, as this post-debate interview with Ron Paul makes clear:

All in all, I think Paul came out on top but I’m sure Hannity’s yes-man audience completely missed the point of what he was saying.

Isn’t That What The President Is For ?

Lt. General Douglas Lute was named yesterday by President Bush to fill a position that the media is calling the new White House “war czar” responsible for overseeing the Iraq War

President Bush tapped Army Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute yesterday to serve as a new White House “war czar” overseeing the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, choosing a low-key soldier who privately expressed skepticism about sending more troops to Iraq during last winter’s strategy review.

In the newly created position, Lute will coordinate often disjointed military and civilian operations and manage the Washington side of the same troop increase he resisted before Bush announced the plan in January. Bush hopes an empowered aide working in the White House and answering directly to him will be able to cut through bureaucracy that has hindered efforts in Iraq.

The selection capped a difficult recruitment process for the White House, as its initial candidates rejected the job. At least five retired four-star generals approached by the White House or intermediaries refused to be considered. Lute, a three-star general now serving as chief operations officer on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in effect will jump over many superiors as he moves to the West Wing and assumes authority to deal directly with Cabinet secretaries and top commanders.

“General Lute is a tremendously accomplished military leader who understands war and government and knows how to get things done,” Bush said in a statement.

Let’s just recap the command structure in Iraq. Commanding the Multi-National Force Iraq (MNF-I) is David Petraus. Above him is Admiral William J. Fallon who heads the U.S. Central Command. (CENTCOM). Then there’s General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) who reports to Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) who in turn was appointed by George W. Bush, President of the United States (POTUS)

I don’t really understand where Lute fits into that command structure, except perhaps to add another layer of bureaucracy. More importantly, though, why do we need a “war czar” when we have a person whose job responsibilities are pretty clearly defined:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

Andrew Sullivan asserts that Bush has essentially appointed someone else to be President, and I’m afraid he’s not that far from the mark.

Ron Paul And The Future Of The Republican Party

There is one candidate running for the Republican nomination for President who not only speaks the rhetoric of individual liberty, limited government, and the idea that the Constitution means what it says and should be respected by all branches of government, he also actually believes what he says and has voted that way all his career.

His name is Ron Paul and he has almost no chance of winning the nomination or even a single primary.

If that isn’t a testament to the proposition that the libertarian wing of the GOP is dead, I don’t know what is.

An Interesting Twist On The Warrantless Wiretaps Story

Congressional Quarterly has this interesting item about a near meltdown in the Bush Administration over the President’s warrantless wiretap program:

Former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee today that he, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, their top aides and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III nearly resigned in early 2004 after the administration went ahead with a classified program without Justice Department approval.

Comey recounted a dramatic March 2004 showdown between top White House and Justice Department officials, including then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, that was only resolved after President Bush intervened.

The White House, it seems wanted to reauthorize the program, and the Justice Department, including Comey, Ashcroft, and others, was opposing the reauthorization to the point that they nearly all resigned:

Comey said he prepared a resignation letter after the administration decided to go ahead with the classified program without his approval. He said that he believed his chief of staff, Ashcroft, Mueller and Ashcroft’s chief of staff would have resigned as well.

After Bush intervened, the Justice Department was able to “put this matter on a footing” that he felt he could accept, Comey said.

Frankly, it’s too bad that Comey and the others didn’t have the courage to stand up to the President on this one. That is precisely the problem that has faced the Bush Administration in its zeal to set aside civil liberties in the name of the War on Terror. Perhaps if someone had said no and gone public, people would have started questioning what they were doing a long time ago.

The Washington Post makes this point:

Mr. Comey’s vivid depiction, worthy of a Hollywood script, showed the lengths to which the administration and the man who is now attorney general were willing to go to pursue the surveillance program. First, they tried to coerce a man in intensive care — a man so sick he had transferred the reins of power to Mr. Comey — to grant them legal approval. Having failed, they were willing to defy the conclusions of the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and pursue the surveillance without Justice’s authorization. Only in the face of the prospect of mass resignations — Mr. Comey, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and most likely Mr. Ashcroft himself — did the president back down.


The dramatic details should not obscure the bottom line: the administration’s alarming willingness, championed by, among others, Vice President Cheney and his counsel, David Addington, to ignore its own lawyers. Remember, this was a Justice Department that had embraced an expansive view of the president’s inherent constitutional powers, allowing the administration to dispense with following the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Justice’s conclusions are supposed to be the final word in the executive branch about what is lawful or not, and the administration has emphasized since the warrantless wiretapping story broke that it was being done under the department’s supervision.

But. as we’ve already learned, the law means little to the Bush Administration

Fred Thompson Responds to the Fat Ass from Flint

Fox News:

WASHINGTON — TV star and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson declined Tuesday to meet with Michael Moore, suggesting the filmmaker instead might want to check himself into a mental hospital after Moore challenged Thompson to a one-on-one debate on health care.

I’m really disappointed that Fred Thompson couldn’t schedule a debate (I wonder why his schedule is so busy? Maybe he is close to announcing his candidacy for President) with the Fat Ass from Flint. I would have loved to see Michael Moore pummeled by someone much more intelligent than he is*. Still, I think Thompson made an excellent point in under 40 seconds.

The response follows a letter by Moore in which he scolded the Law & Order actor. Noting Thompson’s fondness for Cuban cigars, Moore wrote that Thompson is in no position to criticize Moore for traveling to Cuba with several ailing Sept. 11 emergency responders to make the argument that Cuba’s health care system is superior to the United States’.

“Putting aside the fact that you, like the Bush administration, seem far more concerned about the trip to Cuba than the health care of these 9/11 heroes, I was struck by the fact that your concerns (including comments about Castro’s reported financial worth) apparently do not extend to your own conduct,” Moore wrote in a letter sent to Thompson dated Tuesday.

“In light of your comments regarding Cuba and Castro, do you think the ‘box upon box of cigars — Montecristos from Havana’ that you have in your office have contributed to Castro’s reported wealth?” reads the letter, which also points out that Thompson earned “hundreds of thousands” in campaign contributions from the health care industry and worked as an industry lobbyist.

As much as I hate to admit it, the Fat Ass makes a good point here. The embargo against Cuba is enforced somewhat selectively. The embargo is quite hypocritical considering that America’s chief trading partner is Communist China. However, Moore knows damn well that had anyone else made an unapproved trip to Cuba, that person would also be under investigation and possibly face charges. He would have us to believe that this is nothing more than the Bush administration harassing him because he is such a vocal critic. His crockumentary Sicko will be premiering soon at the Cannes Film festival. Coincidence?

Of course the media and Hollywood elites will have nothing but admiration for this latest propaganda film. I doubt anyone in the media will raise the real questions surrounding Cuba’s healthcare system. Questions like “If Cuba’s healthcare system is so wonderful, why do so many Cubans put their families in rafts to make a 90+ mile trip to Florida in hopes to step onto dry ground in America?” How many Cubans die trying to make this trip? I doubt they would come here if America’s healthcare was so inferior.

It probably won’t occur to anyone in the MSM that perhaps Castro would want Moore’s propaganda to cover up the failings of his government. Moore is doing Castro a great service by acting as his propaganda minister. Does anyone for a second believe that Castro would allow Moore to show these 9/11 heroes being treated as the average Cuban?

Cuba’s socialist healthcare system is superior to that of the United States? I think we know who the real “sicko” is here and as Fred Thompson mentioned, Moore can voluntarily get all the help he needs in an American mental institution of his choice.

*If Moore is really interested in debating someone, Larry Elder extended an offer to debate him on his radio show 1,679 days, 20 hours, and 28 minutes ago as I write this. I’ll bet the Sage would give him the whole show.

Ron Paul Media Alert

Ron Paul will be on Glenn Beck’s program on CNN Headline News tonight:

Glenn Beck just announced that he will be talking tonight “one on one” with Ron Paul on CNN. Rudy Giuliani did Ron Paul’s campaign a big favor by singling him out. Courtesy of Rudy, Paul is finally getting coverage and many more opportunities to explain his views at length.

In his comments, Beck also claimed that Paul “blamed America for 9-11.” Of course, Paul did nothing of the sort. He simply stated that past American policies had created conditions which made an attack more likely.

Beck’s show airs at 7pm Eastern time, with replays at 9pm and Midnight

Update: Lew Rockwell is reporting that Paul will also be on Wolf Blitzer’s CNN show at 5pm today.

Targeting Ron Paul

Oh this is rich:

I am this morning, declaring my candidacy for Congress in the GOP primaries against Ron Paul. If he does not resign his seat, and if another Republican candidate does not declare against him, I will run a balls-to-the-wall campaign for Congress in Texas CD 14.

I am the guy that got Ron Paul elected to Congress in 1996. I can and will defeat him in 2008.

Eric Dondero, Fmr. Senior Aide
US Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX)

I’m with David Weigel on this one:

Prediction: The overlap between people who thought the Democrats were wrong to purge Joe Lieberman and people who think the GOP would be right to purge Ron Paul will be around 100 percent.


Rudy Giuliani Distorts Ron Paul’s Comments On Iraq

I’m not necessarily a supporter of Ron Paul’s views on foreign policy, and I didn’t watch last night’s debate, but I think it’s clear that Rudy Giuliani distorted Ron Paul’s comments about Iraq during last night’s debate:

On Iraq, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the Libertarian candidate for president in 1988, stood alone in railing against the decision to go to war, comparing it to a quagmire he said engulfed U.S. troops in Vietnam a generation ago. “We don’t go to war like we did in Vietnam and Korea, because the wars never end,” he said.

When Paul later suggested that terrorists attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, because of what he described as America’s 10-year campaign of bombing in Iraq, an angry Giuliani demanded that he retract the statement.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11,” Giuliani said.

As Jesse Walker points out, Giuliani’s comment that he’d never heard the blowback argument before is either an indication that he knows little about foreign policy, or that he just doesn’t pay attention to it. In either case, whether you agree with it or not, the fact remains that the presence of American troops in the Middle East, and specifically in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was cited by Osama bin Laden as one of the grievances against the United States. And it’s also true that America’s history of intervention in the Middle East — whether in Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — has, more often than not, been fraught with mis-steps that have led to the loss of American lives.

Did Paul really say that American foreign policy was to blame for 9/11 ? Personally, I don’t think so. What he said was that American foreign policy was a contributing factor to the formation of the forces that now seek to destroy us.

And Andrew Sullivan contends that Giuliani openly lied about what Paul said:

Giuliani, interestingly, openly lied about Ron Paul’s position on 9/11. Paul specifically did not make a statement, as Giuliani immediately claimed, that the U.S. invited 9/11. I rewound to double-check. It was the Fox questioner who ratcheted up the stakes on that question, not Paul. Paul demurred on a specific answer and switched the question to the general issue of blowback. As to who’s right, the answer is both. Bin Laden – still at large and operating within the territory of Pakistan, an alleged ally which Cheney recently visited – both justified the 9/11 attack on those grounds but has a theology that doesn’t require such a casus belli. But now he doesn’t even need the theology. We have, alas, made more terrorists by our bungling in Iraq than Bin Laden could have dreamed of just six years ago.

That, I think, is the point that Congressman Paul, somewhat inarticulately, was making last night. American intervention and adventure-ism in the Middle East, which has been marked mostly by a history of bungling and backing the wrong guy 9 times out of 10, has helped guys like bin Laden recruit from among the Arab masses.

Would al Qaeda still exist if we had acted differently ? Probably. bin Laden his ilk don’t need a justification for their murderous philosophy. But, because we’ve handed them one on a silver platter (and also because we’ve backed and propped up governments that have paid little respect to individual rights), it’s made it much easier for them to recruit followers from the Arab street.

But watch the video and judge for yourself:

GOP Debate Liveblogging and Instant Commentary (5/15/2007)

7:57 PM Central, the candidates have taken the stage. Carl Cameron of Fox News says that the candidates might be allowed to be take on each other directly. This debate maybe better than the last one.

8:01 PM: Debate is being simulcast on South Carolina GOP chairman is giving an introduction. Nobody cares.

8:02 PM: Candidates being introduced. The only candidate with weaker applause than the rest was John McCain from the audience.

8:04 PM: Rules being gone over.

8:05 PM: No Falwell mentions allowed.

8:05 PM: McCain asked why Americans should continue to support the failed Iraqi government. Says Al-Qaeda will do nasty things if we leave Iraq. Supports the current strategy. Says Iraqi victory is in national interest.

8:06 PM: Tommy Thompson asked how he’s going to force the “freely elected” Iraqi government to vote whether or not Americans will stay and/or a partition. He defends his Iraq plan, which is actually a good one.

8:08 PM: Mitt Romney won’t project failure in Iraq. Explains the Islamofascist threat. Still has no plan for Iraq.

8:09 PM: Sam Brownback asked is consensus the way to win in Iraq. He supports consensus here at home, by attacking Democrats. Pushes the Jimmy Carter/Bill Clinton political solution for Iraq.

8:11 PM: Rudy Giuliani complains about being misquoted about Iraq and the Republicans. Asked whether or not he supports an open ended commitment for Iraq, dodges the question by talking about Fort Dix.

8:12 PM: Tom Tancredo supports November withdrawal of combat troops. Wants Iraqis to take the lead in Iraq, says Bush has set the November benchmark.

8:13 PM: Ron Paul asked whether or not he’s in touch with Republican voters with his withdrawal stances. He retorts by pointing out opinion polls of all the American people. Wants a declared war. Makes first Reagan reference by pointing out his withdrawal from Lebanon.

8:15 PM: Duncan Hunter asked whether or not Iraqis will actually fight. He says they will. Fighting whom is the question.

8:16 PM: Mike Huckabee asked how much he would listen to his generals. Basically, he’ll take everyone’s advice. Question is, would he fire General McClellan?

8:17 PM: Jim Gilmore asked if he would bomb Iran if they were close to a nuke. He wants serious, tough, UN sanctions and a discussion about Iran’s nukes here at home.

8:18 PM: Romney asked about flip-flopping on the no new taxes pledge, touts that he didn’t raise taxes in Massachusetts, but he did raise fees. Dodges the question overall.

8:20 PM: McCain asked about tax increases, support tax cuts and reigning in spending. Spending was the reason why Republicans lost the election.

8:21 PM: Huckabee supports the FairTax. Makes John Edwards joke about him spending money at a beauty shop.

8:23 PM: Giuliani asked where is his fiscal conservative credentials. He touts a Club for Growth report.

8:24 PM: Brownback asked about gas prices. He likes the ethanol scam in Kansas and Iowa and drilling in Alaska. He likes conservation also.

8:25 PM: Tommy Thompson asked which three programs he would eliminate. Says HHS stockpile needs to be eliminated.

8:27 PM: Ron Paul does much better. Wants to eliminate Education, HHS, and Homeland Security departments. Calls FEMA inefficient. Attacks Iraq War, welfare state, and entitlements. Condemns borrowing. Spent $40 billion before 9/11 and it failed. Past system was inefficient.

8:29 PM: Gilmore asked about Social Security reform wants to talk about it. Gilmore says he is the conservative.

8:31 PM: Duncan Hunter wants to stop the Chinese from stealing American jobs. Eliminate taxes on manufacturers.

8:32 PM: Tom Tancredo says Republicans have no fiscal discipline. Outlines the crimes of the Republican party. He wants to follow the Constitution.

8:33 PM: Commercial Break.

8:37 PM: Gilmore slams Romney, Giuliani, McCain, Huckabee. Gilmore has come alive.

8:38 PM: Giuliani attacks Hillary and calls her a socialist. Well, duh; but that wasn’t the question. The question is, are you a conservative? Chris Wallace gives him another try to answer the question. Giuliani gives the Eric Dondero response, “somebody said I’m conservative therefore I’m conservative”.

8:40 PM: McCain asked about his liberalism. Defends McCain-Feingold as bi-partisanship and working for the common good.

8:42 PM: Huckabee was attacking for raising taxes. Jokes about not being part of Rudy McRomney. Huckabee points out that gasoline tax was supported by 80% of Arkansas residents. Claims he was forced to raise education spending.

8:43 PM: Romney asked about his flip-flops. Still supports an assualt weapons ban. Likes the gays but opposes gay marriage. Claims he stood up for life, marriage, death penalty, abstinence education, and other conservative values. He’s still a flip-flopper.

8:44 PM: Brownback asked about amnesty and Iraq and Reagan. Says Reagan was a great compromiser.

8:46 PM: Tommy Thompson supports embryonic stem cell research.

8:47 PM: Rudy Giuliani asked about abortion, he says he wants to reduce abortion.

8:49 PM: Huckabee not liking Giuliani’s position, but he respects it because he’s honest. (Dig at Romney and Gilmore).

8:50 PM: Brownback asked about opposition to abortion even as a result of rape. One of the best answers to this difficult question I’ve heard.

8:51 PM: Romney asked about people who die during back alley abortions. Romney looked at the issue “long and hard”. Cloning pushed him toward the pro-life stance. I think it was probably polling, not cloning.

8:53 PM: Tancredo asked about immigration. He says McCain is soft on immigration. Slams candidates for “conversions” on the issues on the road to Des Moines.

8:54 PM: McCain opposes amnesty. Points out his bill is supported by President Bush. Says expired visas are bigger problem than border jumpers. He’s right. Chris Wallace asks McCain about the perception of him running away from his own bill. McCain says this is not the case.

8:56 PM: Romney asked about immigration flip-flops. Opposes amnesty, but also supports amnesty as well. Draws applause after attack on McCain-Feingold.

8:58 PM: McCain attacks Romney as a flip-flopper. Draws applause.

8:58 PM: Giuliani tries attempt at humor by thanking Tancredo for calling him soft. Asked about his flip-flopping on immigration. Dodges the question by saying he’s now tough on immigration.

9:00 PM: Hunter asked about how immigrants will be stopped from getting social services. He built San Diego fence. Attacks Bush on immigration. Border is biggest security threat. Dodges the question. Draws applause.

9:01 PM: Paul takes another question about being out of step with the party on Iraq. Points out Republican’s traditional isolationism. Republicans ended Korean War and Vietnam War. Republicans have been traditionally non-interventionist. Asked if non-intervention ended on 9/11. Paul says 9/11 was caused by interventionism. Paul says we should listen to Al-Qaeda.

9:04 PM: Giuliani was personally offended. Attacks Paul on 9/11 response. Draws loud applause. Asks Paul to withdraw his comment.

9:05 PM: Paul talks about blowback. Points out Iran example (a bad example).

9:05 PM: Wendell Goler asks McCain about Confederate flag. McCain says he was wrong in 2000 when he said flag should stay on state capital. He supports current agreement where it flies at a Confederate monument. Wants to move on. Very loud applause.

9:07 PM: Huckabee asked about controversial parole of a rapist. Huckabee denied him clemency.

9:08 PM: Tancredo asked about global warming. Doesn’t believe in man made global warming. Wants to reduce petroleum dependence for national security reasons. Muslims cause terrorism.

9:10 PM: Commercial break.

9:14 PM: McCain asked about interrogation at Gitmo. McCain opposes torture in all circumstances. Hurts us more than them. Tortured lies to stop torture. Best anti-torture response I’ve heard.

9:16 PM: Giuliani asked about waterboarding. Giuliani would allow torture, but he won’t call it torture. Loud applause.

9:17 PM: Romney wants to prevent terrorist attack. Romney wants Gitmo detainees at Gitmo, draws loud applause. Romney supports torture in all but name.

9:18 PM: Thompson would verify if fictional anti-American country is supporting terrorist attacks against America, then he would attack them.

9:19 PM: Brownback asked about going to UN. Would put American lives over UN opinion.

9:20 PM: Hunter would torture then bomb the country.

9:21 PM: McCain gives another good opposition to torture. Says Americans will be tortured if captured. Draws applause.

9:22 PM: Gilmore says we need share information.

9:23 PM: Huckabee wants to go after terrorists, calling them murderers. He wants Americans to sacrifice. About damn time a leader called on Americans to sacrifice.

9:24 PM: Paul asked about economic policies post attack. He wants to cut spending. Paul calls Enhanced Interrogation what it is, torture. Rambling about Pakistan, Osama, giving money…spouting the talking points.

9:26 PM: Tancredo says waterboarding is not a bad thing after a nuclear attacks, makes a reference to Jack Bauer. All rules out of the window in the fight for Western Civilization. Wants to terrorize the terrorists.

9:27 PM: Gilmore asked about no minority or women Republican candidates. Says how he’s not a racist and he’s built the tent. Wallace wants him to answer the question about minority candidates in the Republican party. Gilmore says they’re coming. Gilmore says we need to look at records.

9:28 PM: Romney asked if he’s grown against the party grassroots. Romney likes the Department of Education. Calls education the civil rights issue.

9:30 PM: Duncan Hunter plays the China threat card again.

9:31 PM: Debate ends

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

What Tonight’s Republican Candidates Need To Do

Tonight, the Republicans presidential candidates will gather in Columbia, South Carolina for their latest debate. They’ll be fresh off their performance at the Reagan library. The candidates have different goals they need to accomplish tonight:

Rudy Giuliani:

-He needs to address abortion questions without flip-flopping.
-He needs to come off as less authoritarian.
-He needs to show differences with Bush.

John McCain:

-He needs to build on his performance from last time.
-He needs to show more energy however from last time.

Mitt Romney:

-He needs to build on his performance, as well, from last time.
-He needs to be more sincere.

Sam Brownback:

-He needs to give a stance on something other than abortion and how much he hates the gays.

Mike Huckabee:

-Continue building on his fiscal credentials.

Jim Gilmore:

-Demonstrate that he stands for something.

Tommy Thompson:

-Show a little charisma.

Ron Paul

-He needs to show that he’s more than a single issue “out of Iraq now” candidate.
-He needs to come off as less angry, while maintaining his passion for his issues.
-He needs to try and touch on issues the Republican base cares about.

Tom Tancredo

-Continue to demonstrate that he believes in more than deporting illegal aliens
-Needs to demonstrate more confidence on stage.

Duncan Hunter

-He needs something for Republican voters to remember him by

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