Monthly Archives: June 2007

Spending cuts proposed

There were attempts to cut spending in the House of Representatives by up to four percent. I’m sure you can guess the outcome:

All of these votes were held this week on various appropriations bills. Notice a pattern? Notice the similarities in the vote tallies?

The House failed, 177-231, to pass an amendment that would cut a spending bill by 4% across the board.

The House failed, 168-252, to pass an amendment that would cut a spending bill by 1% across the board.

The House failed, 179-241, to pass an amendment that would cut a spending bill by 0.5% across the board.

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Dick Cheney Rewrites The Constitution

Vice-President Cheney’s office is asserting that the Vice-President is not part of the Executive Branch:

For four years, Vice President Dick Cheney has resisted routine oversight of his office’s handling of classified information, and when the National Archives unit that monitors classification in the executive branch objected, the vice president’s office suggested abolishing the oversight unit, according to documents released yesterday by a Democratic congressman.

(….)

[O]fficials familiar with Mr. Cheney’s view said that he and his legal adviser, David S. Addington, did not believe that the executive order applied to the vice president’s office because it had a legislative as well as an executive status in the Constitution. Other White House offices, including the National Security Council, routinely comply with the oversight requirements, according to Mr. Waxman’s office and outside experts.

(…)

Mr. Addington stated in conversations that the vice president’s office was not an “entity within the executive branch” because, under the Constitution, the vice president also plays a role in the legislative branch, as president of the Senate, able to cast a vote in the event of a tie.

Last time I checked, the Vice-Presidency was created under Article II of the Constitution, just like the Presidency. That, notwithstanding the fact that the Vice-President does sit as President of the Senate, would seem to clearly make it part of the Executive Branch. Unless you agree with Dick Cheney, in which case it’s part of the Super-Secret Branch.

Gitmo To Close

According to an AP story linked by Matt Drudge, the United States on the verge of closing the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba:

WASHINGTON – The Bush administration is nearing a decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detainee facility and move the terror suspects there to military prisons elsewhere, The Associated Press has learned.

President Bush’s national security and legal advisers are expected to discuss the move at the White House on Friday and, for the first time, it appears a consensus is developing, senior administration officials said Thursday.

The advisers will consider a proposal to shut the center and transfer detainees to one or more Defense Department facilities, including the maximum security military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where they could face trial, said the officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal deliberations.

(…)

[Vice-President Dick] Cheney’s office and the Justice Department have been dead set against the step, arguing that moving “unlawful” enemy combatant suspects to the U.S. would give them undeserved legal rights.

Yea, God forbid we’d actually respect the rule of law and stuff like that.

Immigration Is Good For The Economy

Contrary to the argument made by most immigration opponents, it seems that immigration actually raises wages for workers as a whole:

Immigration has a positive impact on the U.S. economy and boosts wages for the vast majority of native workers, though there are “small negative effects” on the earnings of the least-skilled Americans, according to a report the White House issued yesterday.

The report, a review of economic research prepared by the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, concludes that foreign-born workers have accounted for about half of labor force growth in the past decade, fueling overall economic output, creating jobs and increasing earnings for native-born workers by as much as $80 billion a year.

Immigrants and their children also have a “modest positive influence” on government spending, the report says, contributing about $80,000 more per person in tax dollars over the long run than they claim in government benefits and services.

The report directly challenges attacks on President Bush‘s proposal to overhaul immigration laws. His measure would link beefed-up border security and a crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants to provisions granting legal status to the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country. It would also create a guest-worker program sought by business and shift the emphasis of immigration policy from family ties to job skills and education.

(….)

Foreign-born workers make up 15 percent of the U.S. labor force, with large concentrations at the top and bottom of the education scale, the report says. For example, immigrants make up 36 percent of workers who lack a high-school diploma and 41 percent of scientists with doctoral degrees.

As a group, immigrants earn 77 cents on the dollar compared with native workers, though that gap largely disappears among college graduates.

More than 90 percent of native workers benefit from the influx of low-wage labor because immigrants take jobs that complement higher-paid native workers rather than competing with them, according to the report. For example, [Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Edwin P.] Lazear said, immigrant roofers lower costs for contractors and home-builders, creating jobs for plumbers and electricians and lowering the price of houses for consumers.

That’s the side of the immigration debate that the nativists don’t want you to think about. Kick out all that cheap foreign labor and the cost of everything from your new house to the lettuce at the grocery store goes up. Not to mention the revenue lost to businesses who benefit from the wages that immigrants earn.

But this shouldn’t be surprising. It’s the same thing that happened in the late 1800’s when Eastern Europeans started coming in large numbers. People complained they were taking away jobs from “real Americans” and, you know, they dressed weird and spoke in those funny foreign languages. And it’s the same thing that happened when the Irish arrived here, and the Italians. The only difference this time is that the immigrants are closer and they don’t need to get on a ship to get here.

And, oh yeah, they dress weird and speak a funny language.

The Privacy Of Email

A Federal Appeals Court in Ohio has issued a ruling that broadly expands the privacy protections given to electronic mail stored on internet servers:

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) — A U.S. appeals court in Ohio has ruled that e-mail messages stored on Internet servers are protected by the Constitution as are telephone conversations and that a federal law permitting warrantless secret searches of e-mail violates the Fourth Amendment.

(…)

An Ohio man whose e-mail was searched after his Internet service provider was ordered to turn it over to federal investigators and not tell him about it sought and won an injunction against the government last year in U.S. District Court. On Monday, that injunction was upheld by the 6th Circuit Appeals Court.

‘The District Court correctly determined that e-mail users maintain a reasonable expectation of privacy in the content of their e-mails,’ ruled the three-judge panel.

They held that the 1986 Stored Communications Act, which allows the government to obtain an ex-parte order requiring ISPs to turn over e-mail stored on their servers, violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable search and seizures.

Ex-parte orders are those issued by the courts at the government`s request without any opportunity for the subject of the order to contest them.

The court ruled that there was a difference between the so-called meta-data stored by the ISP about each e-mail — the addressee, time of transmission and so forth — and the content of the e-mail message itself.

The distinction, the court held, was analogous to that between the so-called pen register information about phone calls like the number dialed, or the time and length of the call, and the actual phone conversation itself

What this means if the Court’s decision stands is that the Government can no longer simply gain access to stored email without having to  show that there is probable cause to believe that the information sought contains evidence of a crime and without giving the subject of the search the right to challenge the validity of the search.

All in all, a good ruling.

Counterpoint: Sometimes Intervention is Necessary

(Responding to Brad Warbiany’s post here)

After reading Brad’s arguments opposed to interventionism, I found many more areas of agreement than I expected. Brad makes the point that he does not favor isolationism or pacifism and points out that force is sometimes justified, though he does not explain the circumstances where he believes force or “intervention” is justified. I believe that the real question Brad, myself, and many others are grappling with is this very question, not so much if the U.S. should adopt either an interventionist or non-interventionist foreign policy. To offer these as the only two choices is to fall prey to an either/or fallacy. Rather than generally arguing in favor of intervention, I will instead argue for intervention under very limited and specific circumstances.

Under most circumstances the U.S. should neither intervene militarily nor otherwise be involved in the internal affairs of other sovereign states. It is probably safe to say that the U.S. has significant policy differences with every other country on the planet but very few of these differences require any kind of military action or other intervention. If I were to hazard a guess, I would guess that in 95% of these cases, the U.S. should not use military force. But what should be done about the other 5%? At what point should the U.S. use military force against Iran, North Korea, or other states which harbor terrorists who are credible threats to our national security?

Brad is mostly correct in his assessment that America’s intervention in other countries over the past 60 years has been an abject failure. Misadventures in Cuba, Vietnam, South America, Africa, and the Middle East come to mind as being among some of the most obvious examples of failed and/or unjustifiable interventions. Indeed we are now dealing with the consequences of the U.S. support of the Taliban in the Afghan War and Saddam Hussein during the Iraq/Iran war and we will continue to deal with the consequences for the foreseeable future. But is it really fair to say that every intervention has been a failure or has not yielded some positive results for the U.S. and the world?

Consider that over this same span of time that we witnessed the fall of the Soviet Union and successfully drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Both of these required intervention on the part of the U.S. and the world is better off for it.

I would further argue that interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have also delivered some positive results which have been downplayed by the MSM and those who oppose these interventions. In the case of Afghanistan, the Taliban was driven out of power and has given the Afghanis their best opportunity to pursue freedom. Roughly 1/3 of the Afghan people and 40% of eligible women participated in the 2004 elections with minimal violence.

In Iraq the U.S. deposed a dictator and his heirs. Since that time Iraq has had several elections (with much greater participation than we could expect in our own elections) and wrote a constitution supported by 79% of the Iraqis (however imperfect). More recently, even the Sunnis who have been part of the insurgency have begun to join forces with the coalition to fight al Qaeda elements in Iraq. Even the bipartisan Iraq Study Group Report , which on balance paints a grim picture, admits that only 4 of Iraq’s 18 provinces (home to 40% of the Iraqi population) are considered “highly insecure.” The report also cites “encouraging signs” of improvement in the Iraqi economy, especially in regard to its currency reserves, consumer imports (especially computers, cell phones, and appliances), and opening of new businesses (especially in more secure areas).

This isn’t to suggest all is well in these two crucial fronts in the war against Islamofascism—far from it. But if the troops were to leave now, most if not all of the progress would be lost and our brave men and women who have died in these missions would have died in vain. To make matters worse, the Islamofascist terrorists would become emboldened and focus their energies on U.S. soil.*

Many on my side of the debate have made the mistake of responding to the other side by falsely suggesting that hindsight is 20/20. Hindsight is no closer to 20/20 than foresight. To say that hindsight is 20/20 in regard to were we are in the war against Islamofascism is to suggest that we know for certain what would have happened had the president and the congress opted not to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the same way we do not know what would have happened had the U.S. stayed out of World War I, limited U.S. involvement in World War II to Japan, or opted not to drop the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we have no way of knowing what would have happened if the U.S. kept Saddam Hussein in power. For all we know, Europe could have emerged from the first World War more peacefully (and thereby avoid the second World War), Nazi Germany may have been defeated without the help of the U.S., the Japanese may have surrendered after a few more U.S. victories, and Saddam Hussein may have decided not to reconstitute his WMD program and limit his rein of terror to his own people. It is also possible that Europe would have remained at a perpetual state of war, that Hitler would have taken over Europe and eventually the world, that the U.S. may have suffered up to 500,000 casualties (at least by some estimates) in taking Japan’s mainland, and that Saddam Hussein would have reconstituted his WMD program to destabilize the Middle East even further. The possibilities of what might have happened in any of these cases are almost infinite.

Those who argue in favor of non-intervention in the Middle East or elsewhere fail to realize that there are potential negative consequences for non-intervention as well as there are for intervention. Ron Paul seems to believe that had the U.S. never intervened in any capacity in the Middle East, we would not be targets of the Islamofascists. Rudolph Giuliani believes the Islamofascists simply hate us for our freedoms. Paul and Giuliani are both right and wrong. I believe Paul is right in terms of the ways the Islamofascists have used past interventions in the Middle East to stoke the flames of hatred of Western culture; Paul is wrong to suggest that such flames of hatred did not already exist toward Western culture prior to U.S. interventions. Giuliani is right to suggest that the Islamofascists hate us because of our freedoms but is wrong when he suggests that the U.S. has never interjected itself in the Middle East (whether justified or not) to the detriment of ordinary people in these countries.

The reason why we have this “reverse King Midas” phenomenon is due to the politicians running the war instead of the generals. Our government is composed of what Thomas Paine referred to as “sunshine patriots and winter soldiers” (meaning individuals who are gung ho about fighting for a cause when things are going well but defeatist when things are going poorly). Politicians (arm chair generals) have further placed the troops in impossible situation of acting as police officers rather than soldiers (cops Mirandize, soldiers vaporize). Overly burdensome rules of engagement (i.e. no attacking “holy sites” even when these sites are used as fortresses by the enemy), a failure of President Bush to better manage the expectations of the American people (he should have stuck to his “long, hard, slog” line and should have continued to warn everyone that this war would likely last decades rather than his two terms in office) and a lack of clarity of the mission have contributed greatly to the challenge of defeating Islamofascism. Things were not always this way. American interventionism helped beat back the forces of Nazism, Fascism, and Communism to make the world much more like the world we “wished it to be” (to borrow a phrase). Clearly, something has changed since that time, but there is no reason why we cannot relearn how to make the world safer for America and the world.

To end on yet another point of agreement with Brad, I also believe that we should be looking for ways to decrease foreign intervention whenever possible. Intervention, especially military intervention, should always be a last resort. But intervention should never be taken off the table entirely.

*I concede Brad’s point about the argument myself and others have made: “either we fight them over here or we fight them over there.” This too is an either/or fallacy and I should take this moment to clarify my point. My point is we have to be vigilant on both fronts. If we abandon the fight “over there,” then it stands to reason that the terrorists will concentrate their activities “over here.”

Point: The Case For Non-Interventionism

Time for the inaugural Point/Counterpoint. The topic will be a debate between the philosophy of a non-interventionist foreign policy versus the policy of fighting the war on terror through an offensive military war to expand freedom in the Middle East. It’s been suggested that the case for non-interventionism should be the opening case, which I disagree with (I think non-interventionism is the more doctrinaire Libertarian position), but I’ll be arguing the point. I would immediately point out, though, that I am not arguing isolationism or pacifism. There are times in life, whether on a personal or national level, where force is justified. My argument is against the attempt to stick our nose into the internal business of other nations through military means or threats. Stephen Littau’s response is here.

————————————————————

My journey towards libertarianism, like many others, came from a pro-defense Republican standpoint. Thus, the idea that I’ve taken the charge to cover the non-interventionist point was almost a surprise to me. But for the life of me, it seems that the pro-interventionist Libertarians are falling victim to a fatal conceit: that man can shape the world around him according to his wishes.

Now, it all sounds wonderful. I’d like to believe that our government is capable of utilizing force in a fair and just manner to drain the swamps in Middle Eastern countries, put those countries on a path to democracy, and eventually transform our world into a much more peaceful place. Unfortunately, we’re talking about government, and I can’t say their track record of meeting their goals is quite exemplary.

The governance of most of the Middle East and Arab-Islamic world is desperately in need of a Reformation. It is a land dominated by secular and religious dictatorships, Sharia law, and all sorts of monstrosities unimaginable to those of us in the west. I used the term “swamp” earlier with a purpose. Nobody wants to live in a swamp. It’s miserable, and the people in that swamp might be a little upset about living in a swamp simply seeing people in the West basking in opulence that they cannot attain in a world without solid capitalism or private property rights.

But American foreign policy is not about trying to trade with the people of that swamp and raise their standard of living. It’s not about trying to create a rising tide to lift boats that even their own dictators are trying to sink. America’s foreign policy, at least over the last 60 years, has been a combination of propping up those dictators and dropping bombs on the swamp. For 60 years, we have been pursuing an interventionist foreign policy, and for 60 years we’ve watched as we haven’t seen any positive results in that part of the world. In fact, I think it’s clear that our interventionism has painted a big target on our backs, and yet hasn’t come close to improving our security among the nations of that part of the world.

Now, we’re being told that our way out of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into is to throw more interventionism after failed interventionism. It’s couched in terms such as “spreading democracy”, by a President who doesn’t understand that allowing people who we’ve trained to hate us to vote will result in them voting for leaders who hate us. It involves putting our own citizens in the armed forces in harms way, trying to mediate an internal power struggle, smoldering and waiting to blaze into a true civil war. All through this, our leaders are telling us that we need to give up our liberties to remain safe from terrorism, when the best rationale that they can offer for this war in Iraq is that it will attract all the terrorists to Iraq to fight us “over there” instead of on our own shores. Yet at the same time they crow about all the terror plots they’ve foiled at home, suggesting the terrorists’ actions aren’t limited to “over there”.

My criticism of foreign interventionism is simple. Interventionism, when pursued by the government, is like any other government program: it’s going to cost more than advertised, it’s not going to achieve the stated objectives, and it’s going to be filled with mountainous unintended consequences that will make the original problem look like an anthill. And like any other government program, when it fails our politicians will tell us the only solution is more government. I’m not arguing against the goals of interventionism, because I see that the people in the swamp need help to drain the swamp. I just don’t see any reason to believe that government and military are capable of the task.

I say it’s time to stop. Extricating ourself from the situation we’ve created abroad is not going to be easy, but I believe we need to be looking for solutions which decrease our interventionism abroad, not increase it. There are problems all over the world, but when the US government can’t solve a single problem it tries to solve at home, why would we believe that we can solve the problems of other cultures, on the other side of the world, by sending men with guns?

Hayek used the term “fatal conceit” to describe socialists who believed they could remake society in order to how they believed it “should” operate. I fear that pro-interventionist libertarians have the same fatal conceit. Despite all evidence to the contrary on a wide host of issues, they believe that government will do what it promises when it comes to foreign interventionism. Government, though, is the reverse of King Midas: everything the government touches turns to shit. I think the burden of proof is on the pro-interventionists to explain why it will be different this time.

California Drivers — Treated Like Children, Act Like Children

This morning, driving in to work, I was treated to a royal charlie-foxtrot unlike I’ve seen in a while. In Orange County (for those of you familiar with the area), the traffic signal at the corner of Moulton & El Toro malfunctioned. This is a big intersection, 3 lanes of traffic in all 4 directions, but you’d think that rational adults, entrusted with the responsibility of piloting multi-ton vehicles, would be able to navigate a situation like this.

But not really. It was bedlam. Cars determining which when and how to proceed based more on gut instinct than any sense of order. Nobody having any idea when it was even correct for them to proceed, so the tentative drivers crawling across an intersection and slowing everyone down. The whole process was completely unorganized, and ended up taking us far more time than it should.

Now, some of you would suggest that this scene is an indictment of anarchy or small government. After all, without the order imposed by traffic signals, wouldn’t this be occurring every day?

But the answer is no. I’ve seen other parts of the country where traffic signals aren’t as reliable, where there are more stop signs in general, and where things like a protected left-turn-lane don’t all have their own individual signals. Basically, these are places where drivers are not only trusted with the responsibility of piloting a vehicle, but they are given some additional ability to choose when it is and is not safe to proceed at a light.

Order doesn’t have to be imposed by a traffic light. Order can emerge from patterns of behavior, and eventually become so ingrained that if someone proceeds at a 4-way stop at the “wrong” time, people wonder why he’s such an idiot. In fact, most of society works this way, not as a result of top-down government-imposed order. However, when you have hand-held your citizens through every intersection in the metro area, and suddenly that order breaks down, they haven’t built up their own order and their own patterns of behavior, so it becomes every man for himself. You treat drivers like children, and then wonder why they fall over when the training wheels break.

This is a microcosm of what we see in society. When an area without much government interference undergoes a natural disaster, people step up and step in to help each other. People are used to having societal systems in parallel to those provided by the government, so when a disaster comes that is beyond the scope of the government to handle, they don’t fall apart. Yet when you look at a place with heavy-handed government interference (such as New Orleans), the failure of government and the evacuation of people who might otherwise step in to help cause society itself to break down.

Yet people use the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in order to argue for more government and against anarchy. They’re arguing that adult-age children, kept in dependence by the government, should suddenly start acting like responsible adults when government breaks down. It just doesn’t work that way. The problem with government today is that it encourages dependence from cradle to grave. That might be fine, if the government were able to deliver on their promises. But government is unreliable, and when you encourage dependence, you shouldn’t act surprised when your subjects can’t act independently.

George W. Bush: A President Above The Law

Much has been written about the Bush Administration’s use of so-called Presidential “signing statements”, which are typically comments appended by the White House to Bills submitted by Congress which purport to constitute the Executive Branch’s understand of how it will comply with the law that Congress has just passed.  From a Constitutional perspective, these “signing statements” would appear to be nothing more than mere meaningless political blather but a new Congressional study has shown that the situation is just a little more serious:

President Bush has asserted that he is not necessarily bound by the bills he signs into law, and yesterday a congressional study found multiple examples in which the administration has not complied with the requirements of the new statutes.

Bush has been criticized for his use of “signing statements,” in which he invokes presidential authority to challenge provisions of legislation passed by Congress. The president has challenged a federal ban on torture, a request for data on the administration of the USA Patriot Act and numerous other assertions of congressional power. As recently as December, Bush asserted the authority to open U.S. mail without judicial warrants in a signing statement attached to a postal reform bill.

For the first time, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office — Congress’s investigative arm — tried to ascertain whether the administration has made good on such declarations of presidential power. In appropriations acts for fiscal 2006, GAO investigators found 160 separate provisions that Bush had objected to in signing statements. They then chose 19 to follow.

Of those 19 provisions, six — nearly a third — were not carried out according to law. Ten were executed by the executive branch. On three others, conditions did not require an executive branch response.

Admittedly, many of the examples cited in the article were trivial. However, that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a real issue:

[T]he GAO’s findings are legally significant, said Bruce Fein, a conservative constitutional lawyer who served on an American Bar Association task force that excoriated the president’s use of signing statements in a report last year. White House officials have dismissed such concerns as overblown, suggesting that the statements were staking out legal positions, not broadcasting the administration’s intentions.

But the GAO report suggests that the dispute over signing statements is not an academic one, Fein said, adding that Congress could use the report to take collective legal action against the White House.

“At least it makes clear the signing statements aren’t solely for staking out a legal position, with the president just saying, ‘I don’t have to do these things, but I will,’ ” Fein said. “In fact they are not doing some of these things. You can’t just vaporize it as an academic question.”

It all comes down to the question of whether the Presidency is an institution onto itself, which would seem to be what the Bush Administration’s position would suggest, or whether the Executive Branch is a co-equal part of the Federal Government, which is what the Founders seemed to have intended.

Bad News For Ron Paul

Notwithstanding weeks of media attention he otherwise would not have gotten and an undeniable base of support online, it doesn’t appear that Ron Paul is moving forward in the race for the Republican nomination.

Here’s the summary. Fred Thompson, who hasn’t even declared his candidacy, leads Rudy Giuliani 28% to 27%. Romney and McCain are tied at 10%. Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback get 2% each.

As for the rest:

The combined total for five other candidates in the race is just under 3%. Those candidates are Congressman Ron Paul, Congressman Tom Tancredo, former Governor Tommy Thompson, Congressman Duncan Hunter, and former Governor Jim Gilmore. Eighteen percent (18%) say they’re not sure how they will vote.

And, as for the statistical accuracy of the poll itself:

The current survey is based upon national telephone interviews with 618 Likely Republican Primary Voters conducted June 11-14, 2007. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. The Rasmussen Reports sample includes not only Republicans, but also independents who say they are likely to vote in a Republican Primary.

In other words, it’s bad news all around.

She Even Says Hot Things

Predictably, Jessica Alba is under fire for saying she doesn’t consider herself a latina:

Alba is my last name and I’m proud of that. But that’s it. My grandparents were born in California, the same as my parents, and though I may be proud of my last name, I’m American…I had a very American upbringing, I feel American, and I don’t speak Spanish. So, to say that I’m a Latin actress, OK, but it’s not fitting; it would be insincere.

I fail to see what’s wrong with that. Personally, I’m darned proud of my heritage. But I had a very American upbringing. I consider myself at least as much American as I am Indian, but if one day I’m famous enough to be in countless news articles and press releases, I hope they don’t preface my name with ‘Indian’ like they seem to do all too often with her. But it sounds like she wasn’t raised in hispanic culture, as I was raised Indian. So why should she identify as a latina?

As Mary Katherine Ham detailed:

One blog post on the comments remarks, “Guess sell-outs come in all races and sizes.” Another calls it a “disturbing hoard of quotes.” Another claims she “hates Mexicans.”

Comments about Alba’s comments include, “F**K YOU THEN, JESSICA…VIVA LA RAZA!!!,” “She should just change her last name to White, then,” and “I thought she could be a good role model for Latinas, but she is a fake, tryin’ to be white.”

Personally I would’ve called her a sellout if, given her generic American upbringing and lack of facility in Spanish, she insisted on calling herself latina. She would’ve been fake if she wore the latina badge with pride, given that as she says herself it says nothing about her but her genetic origins…

But maybe I’m just crazy.

I’ve said since high school that the bigger deal you make about race, the bigger deal it becomes. It doesn’t matter if its white people making a big deal about black people or if its hispanics making a big deal about themselves. Either way, you make race a larger part of your external identity than it need be.

What this whole ruckus demonstrates is the continued and distressing trend of American minorities to define themselves in terms of their skin color and distant geographic origin. And more importantly to see people of other ethnicities as outsiders.

It seems obvious that you can’t create a colorblind society if you keep making a big deal about your own color, but I probably lack the ‘nuance’ and ‘erudition’ that allow progressives to see things otherwise.

Ms. Alba, if you’re reading this I want you to know that when I look at you I don’t see a Latina. I just see a really hot chick.

Tax Reform Group And Christian Group Snubbing Ron Paul?

For a guy who wants to do away with the IRS, and is pro-life, this just makes no sense:

Iowans for Tax Relief and Iowa Christian Alliance will host a presidential candidates forum on Saturday, June 30th in Des Moines. Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Sam Brownback, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Tommy Thompson, and Tom Tancredo will participate.

Ron Paul, however, will not participate. Why? Because he wasn’t invited.

We heard about this forum from numerous supporters in Iowa who asked why Dr. Paul was not going to participate. Those supporters assumed that Dr. Paul was invited.

The campaign office had not received an invitation so we called this morning; thinking we might have misplaced the invitation or simply overlooked it. Lew Moore, our campaign manager, called Mr. Edward Failor, an officer of Iowans for Tax Relief, to ask about it. To our shock, Mr. Failor told us Dr. Paul was not invited; he was not going to be invited; and he would not be allowed to participate. And when asked why, Mr. Failor refused to explain. The call ended.

Lew then called Mr. Steve Sheffler, president of the Iowa Christian Alliance, to talk with him. Mr. Sheffler did not answer so Lew left a message. He has yet to respond.

They’ve got guys like Gilmore and Tommy Thompson in there, but no Ron Paul? Huckabee (FairTax proponent) and Brownback (social conservative) I can understand, but there’s no reason guys like Gilmore & Thompson should be ahead of Paul.

This makes no sense to me. What did Ron Paul do to piss these guys off?

Eroding Rights Through Confusion

Potter, New York isn’t a very large town. 1,800 residents in a small farming community, who want the freedom to head out to the store and buy a six-pack of beer. In fact, they overwhelmingly want that freedom, but due to confusing state ABC laws and confusing ballot questions, they voted that freedom away:

Before the mix-up, people here could buy beer in two places, the Federal Hollow and the Hitchin’ Rail, a combination convenience store, ice cream stand and restaurant.

Owners of the Hitchin’ Rail, a fixture here for decades, wanted to add wine and beer to the menu at the restaurant, where hearty meat loaf and pot roast entrees top out at $8.95.

It was not as simple as it seemed. state alcoholic beverage control laws require that whenever a town wants to expand the way it sells alcohol, it must ask voters five questions — “stupid questions,” according to the town supervisor, Leonard Lisenbee, a retired federal game warden who has been in office six years and who characterized the state-mandated wording as post-Prohibition-era legalese.

The questions, requiring more than 300 words, ask whether alcohol should be allowed in a variety of settings, including a hotel and, separately, a “summer hotel.” “Shall any person be authorized to sell alcoholic beverages at retail to be consumed on premises licensed pursuant to the provisions of Section 64 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law?” was the relevant one to the Hitchin’ Rail. But there was also “Shall any person be authorized to sell alcoholic beverages at retail, not to be consumed on the premises, where sold in the town of Potter?” which relates to stores like the Federal Hollow.

“I read it and I couldn’t understand it, and I’ve got a college education,” Mr. Lisenbee said. “When voters get confused, they vote no.”

And they did.

The voters said no to all five questions, not only keeping the Hitchin’ Rail’s restaurant from serving beer and wine, but also blocking both stores from selling it, upon the expiration of their current licenses. Which means that on July 1, when the Federal’s license expires, the closest six-pack available for purchase will be in a town 10 miles away.

Voters can’t figure out how to answer a question posed on a ballot. Yet we’re constantly told we live in a democracy, not a Constitutionally-limited representative republic. If we can’t trust the voters of Potter, NY to accurately answer a question related to whether or not they can do something simple like buy beer & wine, how can we expect them to elect leaders who can represent their interests?

Admittedly, the questions are confusing. They’re even confusing to me. I’m an engineer and blogger, but reading more than a paragraph of legalese makes my head spin. I’m not sure I could answer these questions correctly, although being beer-related, I at least would have done my research first!

I’d blame the anti-alcohol forces for this. Or I’d blame big-government types who are trying to be our nannies. But in all reality, this isn’t the fault of any person or group in particular. This is government. This is the system. It’s an incomprehensible mess of arcane rules (5 questions?! Are you smarter than a 5th grader?! WTF?!) and confusing legal jargon, and it’s clear that the laws are being written to be understood by lawyers, not voters. Not to mention that those voters, educated in public schools, aren’t ever taught the tools to understand those laws anyway.

This is government, folks. When they’re trying to screw you, they’ll screw you. When they’re trying to help you, they’ll confuse you so badly that you screw yourself. Either way, you’re screwed.

So Much For Openness And Transparency

Six months into the new Democratic Congress, lawmakers are still keeping their earmark requests secret:

(CNN) — Despite the new Democratic congressional leadership’s promise of “openness and transparency” in the budget process, a CNN survey of the House found it nearly impossible to get information on lawmakers’ pet projects.Staffers for only 31 of the 435 members of the House contacted by CNN between Wednesday and Friday of last week supplied a list of their earmark requests for Fiscal Year 2008, which begins on October 1, or pointed callers to Web sites where those earmark requests were posted.

Of the remainder, 68 declined to provide CNN with a list, and 329 either didn’t respond to requests or said they would get back to us, and didn’t. (Find out how your representative responded)

“As long as we are not required to release them, we’re not going to,” said Dan Turner, an aide to Rep. Jim McCrery, R-Louisiana.

Seven members of the House said they had no earmark requests.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Illinois) released a list of his earmark requests on Monday.

In 2006, Congress approved a record $29 billion in earmarks –those spending requests derided as “pork” that fund everything from road construction and research grants to ski lifts and minor league baseball diamonds. Legislators view these projects as important proof that they are serving their constituents back home.

The 2006 total was 6.2 percent more than 2005’s $27.3 billion.

When Democrats regained control of Congress last fall, they promised to create the most honest, open Congress in history.

“We will bring transparency and openness to the budget process and to the use of earmarks,” Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi said in December 2006, “and we will give the American people the leadership they deserve.”

Oh please, you didn’t really think they meant it, did you  ?

Iraq — Too Early To Call It A “Failed State”?

Apparently not for several peace groups:

Iraq has emerged as the world’s second most unstable country, behind Sudan, more than four years after President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, according to a survey released on Monday.

The 2007 Failed States Index, produced by Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace, said Iraq suffered a third straight year of deterioration in 2006 with diminished results across a range of social, economic, political and military indicators. Iraq ranked fourth last year.

The index said Sudan, the world’s worst failed state, appears to be dragging down its neighbors Central African Republic and Chad, with violence in the Darfur region responsible for at least 200,000 deaths and the displacement of 2 million to 3 million.

Now, I’ve got a couple of issues with their methodology, which I’ll get to in a second. But 4 years after the invasion of Iraq, it’s tough to find a way to classify it as a success. It might be a mixed bag, where some aspects are improved while others have deteriorated. But I don’t think anyone can call it a success.

Perhaps Iraq still has a chance. But indicators are heading towards the idea that a single-state solution in Iraq requires a firm hand to sustain. Saddam Hussein provided that firm hand, and was a monster in the process. Right now we’re attempting to do so, but without the brutality of his regime. After us, it will require a firm hand by the Iraqi government and military. But a state that requires military intervention to avoid widespread bloodshed isn’t a success.

Of course, students of government should have expected this. The entity which can’t be trusted to reliably deliver the mail, has been attempting to fight the wars on drugs and poverty for over 30 years with no success, is hardly to be expected to step into a foreign culture and remake it from the ground up. Especially when their construction tools are fighter/bombers and mechanized infantry. Not to mention their weapon of mass destruction, the U.S. Department of State. If you want to see something fail, get the US government involved. Thus, it’s not a surprise that both Iraq and Afghanistan are high on the list.

As mentioned, though, that brings me to a bit of criticism of the article. The article is written by left-wing peace groups, and the methodology shows that they’re enamored with strong government, a fondness which I do not share:

The authors of the index said one of the leading benchmarks for failed state status is the loss of physical control of territory or a monopoly on the legitimate use of force.

Other attributes include the erosion of legitimate authority, an inability to provide reasonable public services and the inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

Considering that I vacillate between the desire to get rid of 96% percent of the government and to get rid of a full 100% of it, I would like to see a situation where nobody has a “monopoly on the use of force”, and “legitimate authority” is competitive and voluntary.

That being said, the neocon’s goal isn’t to create a lawless state, it’s to create a stable state friendly to our interests. Instead, we have a nation with a latent civil war smoldering beneath the surface, where they have so many terrorists in training that they now export them. By that measure, they have clearly failed.

What’s Next for Michael Nifong?

Over the weekend, Michael Nifong was disbarred from practicing law for committing “intentional prosecutorial misconduct” in his handling of the so-called Duke Lacrosse Rape Case. While this is welcome news, more still needs to be done to right this wrong. The accused players David Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Sieligmann endured a year’s worth of condemnation in the media for a crime they did not commit along with the threat of having their freedom taken away due to this overzealous prosecutor’s actions. As this media spectacle raged on, the families of these young men spent millions on their defense. This begs an important question: does this district attorney or the lying whore who brought the false charges to begin with owe anything to these young men and their families beyond an apology? I contend that Michael Nifong, the City of Durham, the police department, and Crystal Mangum (the afore mentioned lying whore) at the very least owe restitution and punitive compensation to these young men and their families. I would even take it a step further and say that both Nifong and Mangum should do some hard time as well.

The attorneys for the players are in the process of pursuing both criminal and civil action against Nifong. The criminal charge the attorneys want the judge to consider against Nifong is for contempt for lying to the court.

The civil compensation that the players can expect from Nifong will likely not be enough to cover their legal expenses, however. Nifong’s annual salary was $110,000 and reportedly has no other significant investments besides a mutual fund account and retirement account.

Sieligmann’s attorney Jim Cooney was quoted following the Nifong’s disbarment: “I don’t think any of us are done with Mr. Nifong yet.”

I hope Mr. Cooney makes good on this promise and goes after Mangum as well. One thing is for sure, I am not done with Mr. Nifong, the lying whore Crystal Mangum, or this case until justice has been delivered to these young men.

Monday Open Thread: Reading List Edition

Alright folks, I’ve got about a billion things going on, so my reading list hasn’t moved much in the last month… But I’ve got a couple things on tap to read, once I get a chance:

Long Way Round – McGregor/Boorman
1776 – McCulloch
Anarchy, State, and Utopia – Nozick
A Leap In The Dark – Ferling
Free To Choose – Friedman

What have you guys read lately, and what do you have on deck?

Another Botched Police Raid

Via Radley Balko comes news of yet another botched police raid isolated incident:

Law-enforcement officers raided the wrong house and forced a 77-year-old La Plata County woman on oxygen to the ground last week in search of methamphetamine.

The raid occurred about 11 a.m. June 8, as Virginia Herrick was settling in to watch “The Price is Right.” She heard a rustling outside her mobile home in Durango West I and looked out to see several men with gas masks and bulletproof vests, she said.

Herrick went to the back door to have a look.

“I thought there was a gas leak or something,” she said.

But before reaching the door, La Plata County Sheriff’s deputies shouted “search warrant, search warrant” and barged in with guns drawn, she said. They ordered Herrick to the ground and began searching the home.

“They didn’t give me a chance to ask for a search warrant or see a search warrant or anything,” she said in a phone interview Thursday. “I’m not about to argue with those big old guys, especially when they’ve got guns and those big old sledgehammers.”

La Plata County Sheriff Duke Schirard and Southwest Drug Task Force Director Lt. Rick Brown confirmed Herrick’s story.

Some deputies stayed with Herrick as others searched the house. They entered every bedroom and overturned a mattress in her son’s room.

Deputies asked Herrick if she knew a certain man, and she said no. Then they asked what address they were at, and she told them 74 Hidden Lane.

Deputies intended to raid 82 Hidden Lane – the house next door.

While Herrick was on the ground, deputies began placing handcuffs on her. They cuffed one wrist and were preparing to cuff the other.

In other words, they knew, or should’ve known that they were at the wrong house:

Herrick’s son, David Herrick, said investigators surveilled the neighbor’s house before the raid, and it was extremely unprofessional to enter the wrong house.

“There is a big difference between 74 and 82,” he said, referring to the house numbers.

What’s more, Herrick doesn’t understand why his 77-year-old mother was handcuffed.

“Why they thought it was necessary to handcuff her and put her on the floor I don’t know,” he said. “And then they had to ask her what the address was.”

Brown said it is common practice to make all occupants lie on the ground handcuffed in case gunfire erupts.

“It’s just safe for everybody if they’re controlled on the ground,” he said.

David Herrick said he has contacted lawyers about a possible lawsuit.

“It’s pretty upsetting that they do that to a 77-year-old,” he said. “A little common sense, I think, would have helped out on the problem a lot.”

Virginia Herrick said she is glad her meth-dealing neighbors are gone, but also said: “I’m still angry at the whole situation. For them to raid the wrong trailer was not very smart.”

Because, of course, she just looks like a drug runner

Pot Calls Kettle Black

Or in this case, George W. Bush denounces the Democrats in Congress for fiscal irresponsibility:

CRAWFORD, Tex., June 16 — Even while trying to reach out to Democrats to fashion a new immigration bill, President Bush lashed out at the opposition party Saturday for its budget policies and served notice once again that he plans to veto bills with “excessive spending.”

In his weekly radio address, Bush said the Democrats’ “tax and spend” approach is endangering economic growth and budget-balancing efforts. “They’ve passed a budget that would mean higher taxes for American families and job creators, ignore the need for entitlement reform, and pile on hundreds of billions of dollars in new government spending over the next five years,” Bush said.

Excuse me, Mr. President, where were you the past six years ?

Consider this:

[D]uring his first 4 years as President, Bush has presided over budgets that have increased discretionary spending an astounding 8% annualized in real terms, nearly twice as much as the rate of increase under LBJ. Second, under Bush, total federal spending has increased at an annualized rate of 5.6%, second only to LBJ who presided over annualized increases of 5.7% during his 5 years in office, and Bush will be around for another 4 years

George Bush lecturing Congress on fiscal responsibility is sort of like Bill Clinton giving a talk on the importance of monogamy.

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