Monthly Archives: July 2007

Irony, Thy Name Is Ted Stevens

Talk about bad timing:

There’s never exactly a convenient time to have one’s house raided by federal agents. But for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) the impolitic timing Tuesday was exquisite: One day after the feds rummaged through his property on a corruption probe, he threatened to try to kill an ethics reform package.

Cracking down on private gifts to lawmakers, Stevens warned colleagues, would make it more expensive for him to travel the vast interior of Alaska on private jets.

No, seriously, he really said that. The day after his house was raided in a corruption probe.

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Why Ron Paul Cannot Be President

John Derbyshire who is, admittedly, a conservative, has a mostly positive piece about the Paul phenomenon at National Review Online where he tries to figure out why more conservatives aren’t supporting Ron Paul. In the process, he comes up with the reason that Ron Paul cannot be President:

If Washington, D.C. were the drowsy southern town that Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge rode into, Ron Paul would have a chance. Washington’s not like that nowadays, though. It is a vast megalopolis, every nook and cranny stuffed with lobbyists, lawyers, and a hundred thousand species of tax-eater. The sleepy old boulevards of the 1920s are now shadowed between great glittering ziggurats of glass and marble, where millions of administrative assistants to the Department of Administrative Assistance toil away at sending memos to each other.

Few of these laborers in the vineyards of government do anything useful. (In my experience — I used to have to deal with them — few do anything much at all.) Some of what they do is actually harmful to the nation. On the whole, though, we have settled in with this system. We are used to it. It’s not going away, absent a revolution; and conservatives are — duh! — not, by temperament, revolutionaries.

Imagine, for example, President Ron II trying to push his bill to abolish the IRS through Congress. Congress! — whose members eat, drink, breathe and live for the wrinkles they can add to the tax code on behalf of their favored interest groups! Or imagine him trying to kick the U.N. parasites out of our country. Think of the howls of outrage on behalf of suffering humanity from all the lefty academics, MSM bleeding hearts, love-the-world flower children, Eleanor Roosevelt worshippers, and bureaucratic globalizers!

Ain’t gonna happen. It was, after all, a conservative who said that politics is the art of the possible. Ron Paul is not possible. His candidacy belongs to the realm of dreams, not practical politics. But, oh, what sweet dreams!

Unfortunately, I think that Derbyshire’s analysis of what American politics and government have become is spot on. If Thomas Jefferson were to suddenly appear in the middle of K Street today, does anyone really think that he’d be pleased with how things have turned out, or that he’d be greeted by the political classes once he starts talking about pesky little things like freedom ?

No, I don’t either.

And, that, in the end, is why I don’t think Ron Paul has a chance. It’s not because there’s anything wrong with him. It’s because there is too much wrong with the system.

Iraqi Parliament Adjourns, American Soldiers Continue To Die

Apparently content with the fact that their security is being guaranteed by guys from Topeka, Dubuque, and Oklahoma City, the Iraqi Parliament has decided to take the summer off:

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s parliament on Monday shrugged off U.S. criticism and adjourned for a month, as key lawmakers declared there was no point waiting any longer for the prime minister to deliver Washington-demanded benchmark legislation for their vote.

Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani closed the final three-hour session without a quorum present and declared lawmakers would not reconvene until Sept. 4. That date is just 11 days before the top U.S. military and political officials in Iraq must report to Congress on American progress in taming violence and organizing conditions for sectarian reconciliation.

The recess, coupled with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s failure to get the key draft laws before legislators, may nourish growing opposition to the war among U.S. lawmakers, who could refuse to fund it.

Critics have questioned how Iraqi legislators could take a summer break while U.S. forces are fighting and dying to create conditions under which important laws could be passed in the service of ending sectarian political divisions and bloodshed.

But in leaving parliament, many lawmakers blamed al-Maliki.

“Even if we sit next month, there’s no guarantee that important business will be done,” said Mahmoud Othman, a prominent Kurdish legislator. The parliament had already extended its session by a month, having initially planned a recess for July and August.

“There are Iraqi-Iraqi and Iraqi-American differences that have not been resolved,” Othman said of the benchmark legislation. “The government throws the ball in our court, but we say that it is in the government’s court and that of the politicians. They sent us nothing (to debate or vote).”

The September reports by Ambassador Ryan Crocker and U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus were to assess progress by the Iraqi government and its security forces on 18 political and security benchmarks.

Something tells me that the September report card will be less than satisfactory, but, then again, that’s less than surprising when the Iraqi government basically decides to take the month of August off and let Uncle Sam fight it’s battles.

Tell me again why we’re fighting for these people ?

Government — More Greed Than Compassion

We all know the story of Prohibition. As H.L. Mencken said:

Five years of Prohibition have had, at least, this one benign effect: they have completely disposed of all the favorite arguments of the Prohibitionists. None of the great boons and usufructs that were to follow the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment has come to pass. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more. There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.

The usual narrative is that our government realized the error of their ways, and chose to end Prohibition because it was more damaging than the alcohol itself. As a proponent of the end of drug prohibition, I had hoped that educating people about the fact that drug prohibition is a cure worse than the disease would be a way to someday end the War on Drugs.

But there’s another narrative, and it tugs at all the cynical bits of my brain:

But contrary to popular belief, the 1920s witnessed virtually no sympathy for ending Prohibition. Neither citizens nor politicians concluded from the obvious failure of Prohibition that it should end.

As historian Norman Clark reports:

“Before 1930 few people called for outright repeal of the (18th) Amendment. No amendment had ever been repealed, and it was clear that few Americans were moved to political action yet by the partial successes or failures of the Eighteenth. … The repeal movement, which since the early 1920s had been a sullen and hopeless expression of minority discontent, astounded even its most dedicated supporters when it suddenly gained political momentum.”

What happened in 1930 that suddenly gave the repeal movement political muscle? The answer is the Great Depression and the ravages that it inflicted on federal income-tax revenues.

Prior to the creation in 1913 of the national income tax, about a third of Uncle Sam’s annual revenue came from liquor taxes. (The bulk of Uncle Sam’s revenues came from customs duties.) Not so after 1913. Especially after the income tax surprised politicians during World War I with its incredible ability to rake in tax revenue, the importance of liquor taxation fell precipitously.

Despite pleas throughout the 1920s by journalist H.L. Mencken and a tiny handful of other sensible people to end Prohibition, Congress gave no hint that it would repeal this folly. Prohibition appeared to be here to stay — until income-tax revenues nose-dived in the early 1930s.

From 1930 to 1931, income-tax revenues fell by 15 percent.

In 1932 they fell another 37 percent; 1932 income-tax revenues were 46 percent lower than just two years earlier. And by 1933 they were fully 60 percent lower than in 1930.

With no end of the Depression in sight, Washington got anxious for a substitute source of revenue.

That source was liquor sales.

Jouett Shouse, president of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, was a powerful figure in the Democratic Party that had just nominated Franklin Roosevelt as its candidate for the White House. Shouse emphasized that ending Prohibition would boost government revenue.

The income tax created Prohibition, and falling income tax revenues due to the Great Depression ended it.

It’s a reminder that for the government, it’s all about money and control. The drug war currently gives them both. Sadly, the coming fiscal disaster in our entitlement spending might be the only way to end the war on drugs. The government needs the money, and with the War on Terror, they’ve already got a great excuse to continue the control.

Hat Tip: Radley Balko

Adequately Explained

Never ascribe to malice, that which can be adequately explained by incompetence –Napoleon Bonaparte

So, it’s been making the rounds on the far lefty loony blogs and forums (and amazingly not a few libertarian sites as well) for some time now that Bush and company are going to stage a terrorist attack and use it as justification to suspend the elections etc… etc…

This is generally followed by a litany of supposed “crimes and abuses” by the Bush administration, some of which are legitimate, some are blown out of proportion and context, and some of which are just plain lunacy.

Then of course comes the requisite rant about how the “right wing idiot sheeple will just swallow whatever lies they are told and give up all our essentials freedoms because they believe Bush is getting messages from god about the rapture” or some other such nonsense.

Bull. Utter and complete, unmitigated bull.

I won’t even attempt to refute the base assertion her;e that Bush and company would attempt some kind of coup, or false flag operation etc… To do so would be a pointless waste of time; one does not argue with the insane, one treats them medically.

But, I’d like to address that other assertion; that those of us not on the “enlightened progressive left” would blindly follow the orders of such a man as would attempt such a thing; for any reason, never mind a religious one.

Believe me on this one, real conservatives and libertarians dislike the abridgment of our fundamental rights FAR MORE than those on the left do. Leftists are almost always willing to accept a tyrant, or tyrannical abuses of power, if they believe it’s “all in a good cause”. Libertarians and real conservatives are substantially defined by the fact that they are most definitely not.

Even if you LIKE what the president is doing with the power he has arrogated to himself (and in some cases I think real good is being done; though mostly it’s just a stunning example of incompetents given too much power and authority), you don’t want them to HAVE that power, because the next guy could be a deranged madwoman.

Oh and for those of you who harp constantly on the “unprecedented disrespect for the American people and our civil rights, displayed by the Bush administration”, you obviously weren’t paying attention from January 20th 1993 through January 20th 2001.

As an Air Force officer, I saw a lot of “interesting” data during the Clinton administration. Believe me, it was every bit as bad as you imagine Bush to be; they were just a lot better at sugarcoating it and/or hiding it. If you don’t believe me talk to anyone who did any intel analysis during those years; they’ll have a similar story to tell. The Clinton administration lived by the dictum: “Power Corrupts, Absolute Power is really kinda cool”.

What is striking isn’t how much this administration abuses the power of the executive office; Clinton, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Wilson, and both Roosevelts did FAR worse. What’s striking is how utterly incompetent they have been at doing so.

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

Is One Of The Senate’s Pork Kings In Trouble ?

Senator Ted Stevens’ home was raided by FBI and IRS agents executing a search warrant

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Agents from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service on Monday searched the home of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, an official said.

Investigators arrived at the Republican senator’s home in Girdwood shortly before 2:30 p.m. Alaska time, said Dave Heller, FBI assistant special agent.

Heller said he could not comment on the nature of the investigation.

The Justice Department has been looking into the seven-term senator’s relationship with a wealthy contractor as part of a public corruption investigation.

This could get interesting…..

Single-Payer Health Care Doesn’t Work, And Michael Moore Is Wrong

Another Canadian speaks out against the simplistic conclusions made by Michael Moore in his new movie Sicko:

In his new movie “Sicko,” Michael Moore uses a clip of my appearance earlier this year on “The O’Reilly Factor” to introduce a segment on the glories of Canadian health care. Moore adores the Canadian system. I do not.

I am a new American, but I grew up and worked for many years in Canada. And I know the health-care system of my native country much more intimately than Moore. There’s a good reason why my former countrymen with the money to do so either use the services of a booming industry of illegal private clinics, or come to America to take advantage of the health care that Moore denounces.

Government-run health care in Canada inevitably devolves into a dehumanizing system of triage, where the weak and the elderly are hastened to their fates by actuarial calculation. Having fought the Canadian health-care bureaucracy on behalf of my ailing mother just two years ago — she was too old, and too sick, to merit the highest-quality care in the government’s eyes — I can honestly say that Moore’s preferred health-care system is something I wouldn’t wish on him.

In 1999, my uncle was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If he’d lived in America, the miracle drug Rituxan might have saved him. But Rituxan wasn’t approved for use in Canada, and he lost his battle with cancer.

But don’t take my word for it: Even the Toronto Star agrees that Moore’s endorsement of Canadian health care is overwrought and factually challenged. And the Star is considered a left-wing newspaper, even by Canadian standards.

Just last month, the Star’s Peter Howell reported from the Cannes Film Festival that Moore became irate when Canadian reporters challenged his portrayal of their national health-care system. “You Canadians! You used to be so funny!” exclaimed an exasperated Moore. “You gave us all our best comedians. When did you turn so dark?”

Moore further claimed that the infamously long waiting lists in Canada are merely a reflection of the fact that Canadians have a longer life expectancy than Americans, and that the sterling system is swamped by too many Canadians who live too long.

Canada’s media know better. In 2006, the average wait time from seeing a primary-care doctor to getting treatment by a specialist was over four months. Out of a population of 32 million, there are about 3.2 million Canadians trying to get a primary-care doctor. Today, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Canada ranks 24th out of 28 countries in doctors per thousand people.

So when do you think the American media will start pointing out that even people in Canada recognize that their health care system is broken beyond repair ?

The Coming Welfare State Collapse

Newsweek’s Robert Samuelson talks about the issue none of the Presidential frontrunners in either party are willing to each discuss:

Aug. 6, 2007 issue – If you haven’t noticed, the major presidential candidates—Republican and Democratic—are dodging one of the thorniest problems they’d face if elected: the huge budget costs of aging baby boomers. In last week’s CNN/YouTube debate, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson cleverly deflected the issue. “The best solution,” he said, “is a bipartisan effort to fix it.” Brilliant. There’s already a bipartisan consensus: do nothing. No one plugs cutting retirement benefits or raising taxes, the obvious choices.

Here’s a clue for those of you out there. Whenever you hear any politician, Republican or Democratic, respond to a question about an issue by talking about developing a “bipartisan consensus,” it means one of two things. Either they don’t have any idea how to address the problem to begin with, or they know how serious it is and what it’s going to take to fix it, but don’t have the courage to tell the American people the truth.

The aging of America is not just a population change or, as a budget problem, an accounting exercise. It involves a profound transformation of the nature of government: commitments to the older population are slowly overwhelming other public goals; the national government is becoming mainly an income-transfer mechanism from younger workers to older retirees.

Consider the outlook. From 2005 to 2030, the 65-and-over population will nearly double to 71 million; its share of the population will rise to 20 percent from 12 percent. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—programs that serve older people—already exceed 40 percent of the $2.7 trillion federal budget. By 2030, their share could hit 75 percent of the present budget, projects the Congressional Budget Office. The result: a political impasse.

The 2030 projections are daunting. To keep federal spending stable as a share of the economy would mean eliminating all defense spending and most other domestic programs (for research, homeland security, the environment, etc.). To balance the budget with existing programs at their present economic shares would require, depending on assumptions, tax increases of 30 percent to 50 percent—or budget deficits could quadruple. A final possibility: cut retirement benefits by increasing eligibility ages, being less generous to wealthier retirees or trimming all payments.

Some who have written about this issue in the past have raised the spectre of generational political warfare pitting the old benefit recipients against the young who are forced to spend more and more of their tax dollars to support those people. And it may come to that if we don’t do something now.

And by “do something” I’m not talking about another band-aid affixed to Social Security and Medicare that pushes the day of reckoning out another 20 years or so. I’m talking about a permanent solution that, quite honestly, brings to an eventual end a welfare/retirement state that never should have existed in the first place.

Do I think there’s any likelihood of that happening before the crisis actually happens ?

Not at all.

H/T: Jason Pye

Monday Open Thread: Socialist Atrocity News Day

Hey guys… I always manage to stir it up whenever I talk about Venezuela and the fact that Chavez is slowly destroying the underpinnings of a free society in his bid for dictatorial control.

But with work, and a baby on the way, and dreams of opening a brewery dancing through my head, I don’t have much time for “research”.

So what do you guys have? Any links of any stupid anti-freedom policies by socialists? What’s going on in the world that readers of this blog need to know about?

This can be about any socialist country, Venezuela, Cuba, Zimbabwe, even Ecuador (still in early stages), France, etc. Even some American politicians may be worth including in this.

People Want Big Brother To Watch Them

At least that’s what a recent ABC News poll seems to suggest:

Crime-fighting beats privacy in public places: Americans, by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, support the increased use of surveillance cameras — a measure decried by some civil libertarians, but credited in London with helping to catch a variety of perpetrators since the early 1990s.

Given the chief arguments, pro and con — a way to help solve crimes vs. too much of a government intrusion on privacy — it isn’t close: 71 percent of Americans favor the increased use of surveillance cameras, while 25 percent oppose it.

London’s surveillance network, known as the “Ring of Steel,” is said to have aided in the capture of suspects, including those accused of a pair of attempted car bombings in June.

A similar system is coming to New York City, which plans 100 new surveillance cameras in downtown Manhattan by year’s end and 3,000 — public and private — by 2010. Chicago and Baltimore plan expanded surveillance systems as well.

And, apparently, to a city near you soon after that.

Single-Payer Health Care: A View From The Inside

A Canadian Doctor provides a fascinating, and for anyone who cares about freedom, troubling, inside view of the kind of medical system that Hillary, Barack, and Michael Moore would like to bring to America:

I was once a believer in socialized medicine. As a Canadian, I had soaked up the belief that government-run health care was truly compassionate. What I knew about American health care was unappealing: high expenses and lots of uninsured people.

My health care prejudices crumbled on the way to a medical school class. On a subzero Winnipeg morning in 1997, I cut across the hospital emergency room to shave a few minutes off my frigid commute.

Swinging open the door, I stepped into a nightmare: the ER overflowed with elderly people on stretchers, waiting for admission. Some, it turned out, had waited five days. The air stank with sweat and urine. Right then, I began to reconsider everything that I thought I knew about Canadian health care.

But that’s just the beginning, consider this:

Government researchers now note that more than 1.5 million Ontarians (or 12% of that province’s population) can’t find family physicians. Health officials in one Nova Scotia community actually resorted to a lottery to determine who’d get a doctor’s appointment.

These problems are not unique to Canada — they characterize all government-run health care systems.

Consider the recent British controversy over a cancer patient who tried to get an appointment with a specialist, only to have it canceled — 48 times. More than 1 million Britons must wait for some type of care, with 200,000 in line for longer than six months. In France, the supply of doctors is so limited that during an August 2003 heat wave — when many doctors were on vacation and hospitals were stretched beyond capacity — 15,000 elderly citizens died. Across Europe, state-of-the-art drugs aren’t available. And so on.

And yet, here in the United States, we are being told by the elites that it is the Canadian, and British, and European, health care systems that we need to emulate.

I don’t know about you, but if the cost of government run health care is having to wait for necessary surgery and people dying because there aren’t enough hospital beds, something you never hear of happening in the United States by the way, then I, for one, am not willing to pay the price.

Unfortunately, the media, aided and abetted by the Democratic candidates for President and propagandists like Michael Moore, never tell you about the costs of government run health care. And, they also never tell you about just how good we have it here:

One often-heard argument, voiced by the New York Times’ Paul Krugman and others, is that America lags behind other countries in crude health outcomes. But such outcomes reflect a mosaic of factors, such as diet, lifestyle, drug use and cultural values. It pains me as a doctor to say this, but health care is just one factor in health.

Americans live 75.3 years on average, fewer than Canadians (77.3) or the French (76.6) or the citizens of any Western European nation save Portugal. Health care influences life expectancy, of course. But a life can end because of a murder, a fall or a car accident. Such factors aren’t academic — homicide rates in the U.S. are much higher than in other countries.

In The Business of Health, Robert Ohsfeldt and John Schneider factor out intentional and unintentional injuries from life-expectancy statistics and find that Americans who don’t die in car crashes or homicides outlive people in any other Western country.

And if we measure a health care system by how well it serves its sick citizens, American medicine excels. Five-year cancer survival rates bear this out. For leukemia, the American survival rate is almost 50%; the European rate is just 35%. Esophageal carcinoma: 12% in the U.S., 6% in Europe. The survival rate for prostate cancer is 81.2% here, yet 61.7% in France and down to 44.3% in England — a striking variation.

Yes, there are plenty of things wrong with health care in America. Most of them, I would submit, are attributable to unnecessary government regulation and the existence of a health-care insurance system, encouraged by tax subsidies, which hides the true cost of much routine health care from consumers. In other words, while America is thankfully far from the socialized mess of Canada, Britain, and Europe, there still isn’t a truly free market in health care in this country.

Until that happens, things will continue to be screwed up.

Cities Sue Gangs To Keep Them From Congregating

You know, I read this headline:

Cities sue gangs in bid to stop violence

And I immediately thought “wow, civil suits against gangs would be a novel concept, and an interesting test of anarcho-capitalist theory!” Instead of trying to meet the standard of evidence to put them in jail, which is typically a very difficult thing, suing them monetarily due to the harm they inflict on the community might actually make a difference. Of course, it wouldn’t do nearly as much to end their damage as ending drug prohibition, but I can guarantee that suing them for their drug profits would be a lot less of a “rite of passage” as the first time a gang member gets sent up the river. Plus, it would be much more honest theft than the taxes they extract from us.

Nope, it’s just the equivalent of suing them to create a restraining order to keep them apart from one another:

Fed up with deadly drive-by shootings, incessant drug dealing and graffiti, cities nationwide are trying a different tactic to combat gangs: They’re suing them.

Fort Worth and San Francisco are among the latest to file lawsuits against gang members, asking courts for injunctions barring them from hanging out together on street corners, in cars or anywhere else in certain areas.

The injunctions are aimed at disrupting gang activity before it can escalate. They also give police legal reasons to stop and question gang members, who often are found with drugs or weapons, authorities said. In some cases, they don’t allow gang members to even talk to people passing in cars or to carry spray paint.

“It is another tool,” said Kevin Rousseau, a Tarrant County assistant prosecutor in Fort Worth, which recently filed its first civil injunction against a gang. “This is more of a proactive approach.”

The injunctions prohibit gang members from associating with each other, carrying weapons, possessing drugs, committing crimes and displaying gang symbols in a safety zone — neighborhoods where suspected gang members live and are most active. Some injunctions set curfews for members and ban them from possessing alcohol in public areas — even if they’re of legal drinking age.

So government declares you to be a “gang member” or a “suspected gang member”, and slap a laundry list of restrictions on you. Ahh well, at least they’re not being sent to Gitmo, right?

Doesn’t anyone wonder that we’re treating the symptom, not the disease? What gives gangs their power? It’s very simple, when you have a black market, you actually help those who are willing to illegally supply that market. The drug war hasn’t stopped drugs, and it’s actually created gangs. And now, the government is fighting an unwinnable, ridiculously expensive two-front war against the pair.

Fred Thompson — Federalist?

I’m pulling for Ron Paul, but I have to have a question in the back of my mind. If Ron Paul doesn’t get the nomination, should I vote Republican or Libertarian in 2008? The question comes down to this: “Is there anyone other than Ron Paul in the Republican field that I want to vote for, instead of just voting against Democrats?”

Since I live in California, the question is largely academic. California isn’t in danger of being a close state in the general election, so I have to vote for principle. I’ve already ruled out Giuliani, McCain, and I’m already leaning against Romney. But I know very little about Fred Thompson.

I received an email from Jon Henke, one of the bloggers from QandO, who is a Fred Thompson supporter. The email contained the last two paragraphs of this post, making me think that perhaps Fred Thompson believed in the same strain of federalism that I do:

A good first step would be to codify the Executive Order on Federalism first signed by President Ronald Reagan. That Executive Order, first revoked by President Clinton, then modified to the point of uselessness, required agencies to respect the principle of the Tenth Amendment when formulating policies and implementing the laws passed by Congress. It preserved the division of responsibilities between the states and the federal government envisioned by the Framers of the Constitution. It was a fine idea that should never have been revoked. The next president should put it right back in effect, and see to it that the rightful authority of state and local governments is respected.

It is not enough to say that we are “for” federalism, because in today’s world it is not always clear what that means. What we are “for” is liberty for our citizens. Federalism divides power between the states and government in Washington. It is a tool to promote freedom. How we draw the line between federal and state roles in this century, and how we stay true to the principles of federalism for the purpose of protecting economic and individual freedom are questions we must answer. Our challenge – meaning the federal government, the states, our communities and constituents – is to answer these questions together.

Sounds pretty good, no? But when I read the whole think, I started to backtrack on that…

First, he points out that federalism creates 50 little “laboratories” across America, where different ideas can be tested out. Unfortunately, he first points out how wonderful it was that we could take those different ideas and start standardizing them across our entire nation:

A good example of this early in my Senate service was welfare reform. We were warned that terrible things would happen if we went forward with a bill – a fundamental commitment would be abandoned and, among state governments, a “race to the bottom” would begin.

But key to our approach were elements of welfare reform that had proved successful in various states, such as Colorado, Michigan and Wisconsin. The result was a law that allowed us to better meet our commitments to our fellow citizens. It was one of the great political successes of the 1990’s, because Washington – for once – had the good sense to learn from state and local authorities and empower them in return.

I’ll give him half a pass on this one. After all, one can make the argument that the welfare reform bill was an improvement over what existed, and federalism did assist to make that more efficient. However, Thompson doesn’t make the argument that welfare should be a state matter from the beginning, he argues that the federal government learned from federalism. Allowing states to compete ensures continually improving efficiency of future programs, codifying the results of past competition and keeping power in federal hands doesn’t prepare for the future.

But another point is just inexcusable. He again suggests that federalism might help efficiency of the federal government, but then states that the funding must remain in Washington’s hands. How does the guy who fondly references Ronald Reagan’s executive order leave out the fact that Reagan campaigned on the promise to abolish the federal Department of Education, and then suggest that the feds have a responsibility to fund education?

Perhaps the clearest example of federal over-involvement in state and local responsibilities is public education. It’s the classic case of how the federal government buys authority over state and local matters with tax-payer money and ends up squandering both the authority and the money while imposing additional burdens on states.

It is appropriate for the federal government to provide funding and set goals for the state to meet in exchange for that funding. However, it is not a good idea for the federal government to specifically set forth the means to be used in order to reach those goals. Adherence to this principle would make for fewer bureaucracies, fewer regulations, and less expense, while promoting educational achievement. There are bills pending in Congress that would move us in this direction, and I hope Congress gives them the attention they deserve.

It is appropriate for the feds to provide funding? I thought he was a federalist, and a Constitutionalist. Sure, Thompson can read the Tenth Amendment, but apparently he’s reading between the lines of Article I, Section 8 if he believes that the federal government has a role in local education, whether funding or control. I would remind him that with funding comes control, and that’s one of the biggest reason to sever the funding link, not try to ignore the fact that one follows the other.

Fred Thompson appears to be a federalist in the same way that George W. Bush appears to be a conservative: when it’s politically expedient.

Not A Suicide Pact: A Book Review

Federal Appeals Court Judge Richard A. Posner is known for being both prolific and controversial. In addition to authoring one of the most important academic treatises in the field of law and economics, he is also known for writing on more controversial topics ranging from the 2000 Presidential election to sex. And it’s when he writes on these topics, covering areas that are both controversial and likely to be the subject of high-profile Constitutional case law, that he’s often at his most interesting, even when you don’t agree with him.

In Not A Suicide Pact: The Constitution In A Time Of National Emergency, Posner examines the questions and conflicts that have arisen between national security and individual liberty in the wake of the War on Terror and asks the question of just how far Courts should go in either protecting liberty or granting leeway to the state to deal with a perceived emergency.

Posner’s entire thesis with respect to the roles that liberty and safety should play in Constitutional jurisprudence can be summed up in the paragraph that opens the conclusion to the book:

Constitutional rights are largely created by the Supreme Court, by loose interpretation of the constitutional text. Created as they are in response to the felt needs and conditions of the time, they can be and frequently are modified by the Court in response to changes in those needs and conditions. A constitutional right should be modified when changed circumstances indicate that the right no loner strikes a sensible balance between competing constitutional values, such as personal liberty and public safety. A national emergency, such as a war, creates a disequilibrium in the existing system of constitutional rights. Concerns for public safety now weigh more heavily than liberties in recognition that the relative weights of the competing interests have changed in favor of safety. That is the pragmatic response, and pragmatism is a dominant feature not only of American culture at large but also of the American judicial culture.

If you’re someone like myself who views individual liberty and the protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights as immutable, a paragraph like that is bound to make your blood boil. And, I will admit that there were several times when I found myself wanting to argue with Posner over one obscure point or another (which I imagine would be a fascinating intellectual experience in itself).

Posner’s approach, however, is entirely understandable for two reasons. First, it is entirely consistent with his broader adherence to law and economics, which is all about balancing, and pragmatism, and finding efficient outcomes, as a legal philosophy. Second, he’s a Federal Judge and, with rare exceptions, the approach that he suggests in this book is entirely consistent with the way that most Federal Judges seem to view questions of the proper line to draw between individual liberty and public safety.

That doesn’t mean that Posner is correct, though.

First, there’s his view of individual/constitutional rights as something that are strictly judge made, rather than something that exist independent of the whim of the judiciary. Because of what Posner contends to be the inherent vaguenesss of the Constitutional text, it is up to Judges to determine the boundaries of constitutional liberty. The problems with this approach are replete and exist throughout the 200+ years that the Supreme Court has existed. All too frequently, judges have interpreted portions of the Constitution too narrowly, or too broadly, or just ignored it entirely and ruled based on how that though the case should be decided. Leaving the definition of civil liberties strictly and exclusively in the hands of an unelected judiciary is, in the end, a recipe for disaster.

Given Posner’s views on the malleability of constitutional rights, it isn’t entirely surprising where he comes down on the debate over when and how much individual liberty should be sacrificed in the name of public safety at a time of supposed national emergency, such as that represented by the War on Terror. With very few, though very interesting exceptions, Posner would give more power to the state to fight the threat posed by terrorism — notwithstanding the fact that, except for September 11th, there hasn’t been evidence of a single foreign terrorist plot on American soil in over five years — at the expense of individual liberty and privacy.

Another area which Posner brushes over is the fact that national emergencies have, in the past, served as the justification for increases in the size, scope, and power of government. Posner briefly addresses this issue by citing examples from the Post-WW2 and Cold War eras of government regulation that has since abated. In reality, of course, the end of each of these supposed emergencies still resulted in a Federal Government that exerted more control than it did at the time the “crisis” started.

Of course, much of that is explained by the fact that local incumbents in law enforcement find it in their interest to point out how bad things would be under a second term.

There are some points one which I must admit that Judge Posner is right. There is a distinct difference between law enforcement and intelligence gathering. And there seem to be far fewer Constitutional limitations on intelligence gathering, which logically must be considered part of the Article II power of the Executive Branch, than on law enforcement, which finds itself limited by the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments, just to name a few.

And maybe that makes sense.

The purpose of intelligence gathering is, or at least, should be, preventing attacks on the homeland, whether from terrorists or foreign nations, from happening. Law enforcement steps in only after an attack has occurred. In the case of terrorism, law enforcement is an admittedly ineffective tool.There’s no point in filing criminal charges against the 19 men who hijacked planes on September 11th, but if we’d been able to break up that conspiracy on September 9th……..well, that wouldn’t have been a bad thing after all.

In the end, as Posner points out, and as reluctant as I may be willing to admit, it may well be true that there is a trade-off between liberty and security that we all will have to make a decision on in the near future.

On each side, there’s an extreme that is entirely unpleasant. Too little government vigilance in the face of a real terrorist threat could lead to the deaths of millions. Too severe a restriction on individual liberty could lead to a free reign for destruction.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Anti-Immigration Law

A U.S. District Court Judge in Pennsylvania has struck down a City of Hazleton ordinance targeting illegal immigrants:

HAZLETON, Pa. (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday struck down Hazleton’s tough anti-illegal immigration law, ruling unconstitutional a measure that has been copied around the country.

The city’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act sought to impose fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and deny business permits to companies that give them jobs. Another measure would have required tenants to register with City Hall and pay for a rental permit.

(…)

In a 206-page opinion, Munley said the act was pre-empted by federal law and would violate due process rights.

”Whatever frustrations … the city of Hazleton may feel about the current state of federal immigration enforcement, the nature of the political system in the United States prohibits the city from enacting ordinances that disrupt a carefully drawn federal statutory scheme,” Munley wrote.

”Even if federal law did not conflict with Hazleton’s measures, the city could not enact an ordinance that violates rights the Constitution guarantees to every person in the United States, whether legal resident or not,” he added.

On some level, this result is, as James Joyner called it, a no-brainer. The U.S. Constitution clearly gives Congress exclusive control over immigration issues and the Constitution also makes clear that Federal Law is supreme over state or local laws in areas where the Federal Government has jurisdiction.

To put it in simple terms, Hazleton simply doesn’t have the jurisdiction or the authority to do what they tried to do here.

This case will no doubt be appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and, quite possibly, the Supreme Court, so this isn’t over yet, but I think that Judge Munley got it right.

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

The Libertarian Legacy Of Robert A. Heinlein

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a great piece about Robert A. Heinlein’s political legacy:

Heinlein’s political beliefs were moving more and more toward the libertarian side of the spectrum. He supported Barry Goldwater in 1964, and in 1966 he published what many considered his greatest book, “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress,” the tale of how penal colonists and their descendants on the Moon successfully revolt against their Earthly masters. The core of this book, which keeps it near the top of the libertarians’ reading lists, is the speech by an old professor, Bernardo de la Paz, to the rebels’ constitutional convention: “. . . like fire and fusion, government is a dangerous servant and a terrible master. You now have your freedom–if you can keep it. But do remember that you can lose this freedom more quickly to yourselves than to any other tyrant.”The professor explains: “The power to tax, once conceded, has no limits; it contains until it destroys. I was not joking when I told them to dig into their own pouches. It may not be possible to do away with government–sometimes I think that it is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small and starved and inoffensive–and can you think of a better way than by requiring the governors themselves to pay the costs of their antisocial hobby.” As they say on the Moon, “TANSTAAFL!”: “There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch!”

(…)

In another hundred years, it will be interesting to see if the nuclear-powered spaceships and other technological marvels he predicted are with us. But nothing in his legacy will be more important than the spirit of liberty he championed and his belief that “this hairless embryo with the aching oversized brain case and the opposable thumb, this animal barely up from the apes will endure. Will endure and spread out to the stars and beyond, carrying with him his honesty and his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage and his noble essential decency.”

Nicely put.

Tyranny Can Kill You

Yet more evidence from North Korea:

About 430 North Koreans have died of hunger in a northern region of the impoverished communist country in the past month because of chronic food shortages, a South Korean aid group said. North Korean authorities have said illnesses were to blame for the deaths, but the Seoul-based Good Friends aid agency said they were caused by long-term malnutrition. The agency did not say how it obtained the information.

430, of course, is a small number compared to the millions of victims of the North Korean regime.

H/T: QandO

U.S. Senators To Parents: We Know Better Than You

Two United States Senators are advocating universal Internet filtering on the ground that parents aren’t capable of protecting their children:

US senators today made a bipartisan call for the universal implementation of filtering and monitoring technologies on the Internet in order to protect children at the end of a Senate hearing for which civil liberties groups were not invited.

Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Vice Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) both argued that Internet was a dangerous place where parents alone will not be able to protect their children.

“While filtering and monitoring technologies help parents to screen out offensive content and to monitor their child’s online activities, the use of these technologies is far from universal and may not be fool-proof in keeping kids away from adult material,” Sen. Inouye said. “In that context, we must evaluate our current efforts to combat child pornography and consider what further measures may be needed to stop the spread of such illegal material over high-speed broadband connections.”

“Given the increasingly important role of the Internet in education and commerce, it differs from other media like TV and cable because parents cannot prevent their children from using the Internet altogether,” Sen. Stevens said. “The headlines continue to tell us of children who are victimized online. While the issues are difficult, I believe Congress has an important role to play to ensure that the protections available in other parts of our society find their way to the Internet.”

First, a question for Senator Ted “the Internet is a series of tubes” Stevens and Senator Inouye, what part of this little part of the Constitution of the United States don’t you understand ?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

More importantly, where in this part of the Constitution do you find Congressional authority to regulate the content of the Internet or force ISP’s to filter content to “protect the children” ?

Yea, I didn’t think so.

And, finally, I’m not a parent myself, yet, but I think I speak for parents and adults everywhere when I say, Senators, we can decide for ourselves what is appropriate for our children. Leave us alone.

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