Monthly Archives: July 2007

Utah Supreme Court Resists Creating Another Genarlow Wilson

Via Eugene Volokh, comes news of a decision from the Utah Supreme Court regarding the state’s attempted prosecuted of a 12 year old boy and thirteen year old girl for committing sexual abuse on a child, with each other:

When she was thirteen years old, Z.C. engaged in consensual sex with a twelve-year-old boy and became pregnant. The state prosecutor chose to file delinquency petitions against both Z.C. and the boy for sexual abuse of a child under [State] Code section 76-5-404.1 [basically, in this context, any sexual touching of someone under 14 -EV], a crime that would constitute a second degree felony if committed by an adult….

Because we conclude that the legislature could not possibly have intended to punish both children under the child sex abuse statute for the same act of consensual heavy petting, we hold that applying the plain language of the statute in this case produces an absurd result. [Footnote, slightly moved: It is undisputed that Z.C. and the boy engaged in more than just sexual touching, but we must analyze the absurd result question in the context of the law actually applied and the act with which the State chose to charge Z.C., not the law that might have been applied or the act with which the State could have charged Z.C.]

Sexual abuse of a child is one of the most heinous crimes recognized by our penal code. The gravity of this crime is reflected by the fact that it is punished as a second degree felony if committed by an adult. Child sex abuse merits serious penalties because of the extreme psychological harm that the perpetrator causes the victim. Therefore, like all forms of sexual assault, child sex abuse presupposes that a single act of abuse involves a victim, whom the statute endeavors to protect, and a perpetrator, whom the statute punishes for harming the victim.

The State, however, applies [State] Code section 76-5-404.1 in an unprecedented manner. By filing delinquency petitions for child sex abuse against both participants for sexually touching one another, the State treats both children as perpetrators of the same act. In this situation, there is no discernible victim that the law seeks to protect, only culpable participants that the State seeks to punish. We know of no other instance in which the State has attempted to apply any sexual assault crime to produce such an effect.

[Footnote: The primary fail-safe against the absurd application of criminal law is the wise employment of prosecutorial discretion, a quality that is starkly absent in this case. While the State makes no attempt to defend the prosecution’s charging decision, it suggests that the particular offense selected by the prosecutor as the basis for the delinquency petition is not significant because a juvenile delinquency adjudication is not a criminal conviction, but merely a means to bring the juvenile within the guiding supervision of the juvenile court. If this is truly the case, it begs the question of why the prosecutor could not have accomplished the intended result by basing the delinquency petition on a victimless offense that more accurately fits the conduct at issue.]

We acknowledge that the legislature has demonstrated its intent to punish both participants in victimless, extramarital sexual activity under [State]’s adultery and fornication statutes. However, these statutes differ from sexual assault crimes, such as child sex abuse, in both the theory and degree of punishment. Rather than punishing an actor who has perpetrated a crime against a victim, these laws demonstrate the legislature’s disapproval of the acts of both participants for violating a moral standard. Because these crimes do not involve a victim, they involve a lesser degree of punishment. Both adultery and fornication are punishable as class B misdemeanors. Thus, while the legislature clearly could have intended some degree of simultaneous culpability for both Z.C. and the twelve-year-old boy under the fornication statute in order to discourage their admittedly reckless and age-inappropriate behavior, it is absurd to conclude that the legislature intended to simultaneously punish both children for child sex abuse, a crime that clearly envisions a perpetrator and a victim.

A review of the floor debates regarding the 1983 enactment of the [statute] reveals no evidence that the legislature contemplated application of the statute to situations where the same child was both victim and perpetrator. Although we generally do not consult legislative history where the meaning of the statute is clear, after finding that the plain meaning has been applied in an absurd manner, we seek to confirm that the absurd application was indeed unintended by the legislature….

We conclude that the legislature could not have intended the child sex abuse statute to be applied to punish Z.C. for the conduct at issue. And the fact that this is a juvenile court disposition, in which the judge enjoys considerable latitude in crafting punishments and assigning state services designed to help the child, does not change our conclusion. No amount of judicial lenity to compensate for the absurd application of the law changes the fact that the application of the law was absurd to begin with. Moreover, labeling Z.C. with the moniker of “child abuser,” even within the juvenile court system, can have serious consequences that were not intended by the legislature. A delinquency adjudication for sexual abuse of a child can lead to sentencing enhancements for any offenses Z.C. might commit while she is a juvenile or even as an adult if her juvenile record is not expunged. Such an adjudication also has the potential to affect any civil proceedings related to the custody of her child or any future attempts to seek child support from the father.

We therefore vacate Z.C.’s adjudication. We stress, however, that our holding is narrowly confined to the application of [State] Code section 76-5-404.1 in situations where no true victim or perpetrator can be identified. Even among children under the age of fourteen, there are unfortunately situations where an older or more physically mature child abuses a younger or smaller child. In cases where there is an identifiable distinction between the perpetrator and the victim, it is manifestly logical to conclude that the legislature intended to include such acts within the scope of [State] Code section 76-5-404.1. In Z.C.’s case, however, where both children were under the age of fourteen and were of similar age, where both children met the intent requirement of the statute, and where there was no evidence of any coercion or force, we conclude that application of the child sex abuse statute produces an absurd result….

Even though the plain language of section 76-5-404.1 allows Z.C. to be adjudicated delinquent for sexual abuse of a child, we conclude that the filing of delinquency petitions against both participants produces an absurd result not intended by the legislature because, like all sexual assault crimes, the statute presupposes a perpetrator and a victim. We therefore hold that the juvenile court erred in denying Z.C.’s motion to dismiss the delinquency petition. We remand this matter to the court of appeals with instructions to remand it to the juvenile court to vacate Z.C.’s delinquency adjudication.

In other words, no rational review of state laws against sex crimes against children should be held to apply to a case where both of the participants in the act are, in fact, children.

Approve of it, or disapprove of it, as you wish. But there’s no rational reason that something like this should be treated as a felony.

Tucker Carlson May Be Ron Paul’s Biggest Fan

At least in the media. For the third time since June, Tucker had Ron Paul on his MSNBC show this afternoon. This time, much of the conversation dealt with the Iraq War.

Congressman Paul is right about one thing. Prior to March 2003, there was no such thing as al Qaeda In Iraq. He’s on less steady ground, though, when he suggests that rational discussions are possible with the mullahs in Iran.

And then there’s the whole Barry Manilow thing.

Jeff Flake On Earmarks

Andrew Roth at Club for Growth reports on a great speech by Congressman Jeff Flake on earmarks that deserves to be reproduced:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today out of concern for what earmarks are doing to this body. Those of us on the Republican side understand very well the political perils of this practice. Unfettered earmarking, and the corruption that accompanies it, was a major factor in putting us right where we are today: squarely in the minority.

“But there are greater concerns than which party is in the majority. I would hope that all of us, Republicans and Democrats, would be concerned about what earmarks are doing to the practice of authorization, appropriation, and oversight that has been the hallmark of this institution for more than two centuries.

“Proponents of earmarking defend the practice by noting that Article One of the Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse, and that earmarking is consistent with that responsibility. It is true that Congress has the power of the purse. But the contemporary practice of earmarking circumvents, rather than enhances, the careful execution of our responsibility as stewards of public funds.

“Take the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill that we will consider this week. Under the new earmark rules adopted earlier this year, a list of earmarks accompanies the conference report. We received that list late last week. It contains 1,300 earmarks. Are we to assume that each of these 1,300 projects have been individually scrubbed to ensure their appropriateness to the legislation?

“I suspect that, as the distinguished Chairman of the Appropriations Committee said just weeks ago, there is no way to adequately screen these earmarks given the tight appropriation schedule. The question needs to be asked: Why are we so bent on moving forward with so many earmarks when we know we can’t adequately screen them?

“I should note that no House earmarks were approved in last year’s Labor-HHS bill. Last time I checked, the world didn’t come crashing to a halt. What’s more, owing to the politics surrounding the bill, no earmarks were approved the year before that. Here again, the planets seemed to stay in their orbit. The Chairman has frequently pointed out that, until a decade ago, the Labor-HHS bill wasn’t earmarked at all. So, why are we so insistent on approving 1,300 earmarks this week, earmarks that we know haven’t been adequately vetted and scrubbed?

“Perhaps the most frequent justification for the contemporary practice of earmarking is that, quote, ‘Members of Congress know their districts better than some faceless bureaucrat in Washington, DC.’ I’m not here to defend faceless bureaucrats. In fact, faceless bureaucrats often waste money on questionable projects in my own district. Faceless bureaucrats in federal agencies waste so much money that they need someone constantly looking over their shoulder. This is why congressional oversight is so important.

“But, let’s face it: when we approve congressional earmarks for indoor rainforests in Iowa or teapot museums in North Carolina, we make the most spendthrift faceless bureaucrat look frugal. Excess by federal agencies should not excuse congressional excess. If federal agencies don’t follow procedures requiring competitive bidding or other processes we have mandated, we should act by cutting funding and/or mandating improvements, not trying to one-up them with equally suspect appropriations.

“As an aside, we saw just weeks ago that the majority of this chamber chose to deny funding for an earmark requested by an individual member. For the record, I offered the amendment to deny funding for the “Perfect Christmas Tree Project.” There was no federal nexus and it was not a wise use of federal dollars. But it was no less worthy than hundreds of projects funded by the same legislation. I would like to conclude that the amendment succeeded thanks to the compelling case I presented, but I suspect that political payback had more to do with it.

“The distribution of earmarks is based on politics, not policy. Most appropriations bills award 60 percent of the earmarks to the majority party and 40 percent to the minority party. Is there a policy reason for this allocation that can reverse itself with an election? In most appropriations bills, well-positioned members award themselves many more earmarks than rank and file members receive. Are we to assume that districts represented by well-positioned Members are needier than those represented by less seasoned Members of Congress? In some appropriations bills, each member of the committee is given an equal share of the available dollars. Are we to assume here that these districts have identical needs?

“The truth is, we can try all we want to conjure up some sort of noble pedigree for the contemporary practice of earmarking, but we are just drinking our own bathwater if we think the public is buying it. It seems that over that past few years we’ve tried to increase the number of earmarks enough so that the plaudits we hear from earmark recipients will drown out the voices of taxpayers all over the country who have had enough. It hasn’t worked, thank goodness. For every group that directly benefits from earmarks, there are hundreds who see it as a transparent gimmick to assure our own reelection.

“Mr. Speaker, our constituents deserve better, and this institution deserves better than we are giving it. Let’s return to the time honored practice of authorization, appropriation, and oversight that has served us so well.”

Bravo

A 20,000 Percent Tax Increase

It may sound astounding, but that’s exactly what the Federal Government is proposing:

Eric Newman punches the numbers on his calculator and gapes at the results one more time.

It’s no mathematical error: The federal government has proposed raising taxes on premium cigars, the kind Newman’s family has been rolling for decades in Ybor City, by as much as 20,000 percent.

As part of an increase in tobacco taxes designed to pay for children’s health insurance, the nickel-per-cigar tax that has ruled the industry could rise to as much as $10 per cigar.

“I’m not sure in the history of man, since our forefathers founded the country in 1776, that there’s ever been a tax increase of 20,000 percent,” said Newman, who runs the Tampa business founded by grandfather Julius Caesar Newman. “They had the Boston Tea Party for less than this.”ric Newman punches the numbers on his calculator and gapes at the results one more time.

It’s no mathematical error: The federal government has proposed raising taxes on premium cigars, the kind Newman’s family has been rolling for decades in Ybor City, by as much as 20,000 percent.

As part of an increase in tobacco taxes designed to pay for children’s health insurance, the nickel-per-cigar tax that has ruled the industry could rise to as much as $10 per cigar.

“I’m not sure in the history of man, since our forefathers founded the country in 1776, that there’s ever been a tax increase of 20,000 percent,” said Newman, who runs the Tampa business founded by grandfather Julius Caesar Newman. “They had the Boston Tea Party for less than this.”

Sad, but true.

The pro-freedom lessons in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’

If you haven’t seen the movie “The Devil Wears Prada”, you should. Tonight. It’s on HBO, I believe. It has some interesting lessons regarding freedom.

The movie follows the adventures of Andrea, a serious, intellectual, hot, young woman who wants to be a journalist, as she works for a difficult editor of a fashion magazine. This woman, Miranda Priestly, played perfectly by Meryl Streep, is the ultimate gatekeeper who defines what is hot and what is not. She has the power to make or break careers in the fashion industry, and she wields it ruthlessly. She dictates what food her staff eats, and the clothes they wear. She delights in making impossible demands, for example giving her assistant 6 hours to get two copies of the next unpublished Harry Potter novel, or demanding that they find a plane to fly her out of Miami despite the hurricane pummeling the city.

Andrea, who turned down a scholarship at Stanford law, is the antithesis of most of her coworkers. She is slender rather than anorexic. She wants to be a journalist. She views the industry as being shallow, and rather beneath her. She merely puts up with Miranda due to the doors that working on this magazine will open for her. Initially, she eschews designer clothes, and sticks out like a sore thumb in the crowd of people working at the magazine whom she calls “clackers”, describing the sounds their stiletto heels make on the reception floors. Warning spoilers ahead » Read more

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

The 2008 Republican Presidential Nominee: None Of The Above

According to a new AP Poll, Republican voters aren’t happy with any of the choices they are facing in 2008:

The latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that nearly a quarter of Republicans are unwilling to back top-tier hopefuls Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, John McCain or Mitt Romney, and no one candidate has emerged as the clear front-runner among Christian evangelicals. Such dissatisfaction underscores the volatility of the 2008 GOP nomination fight.

(…)

A half year before voting begins, the survey shows the White House race is far more wide open on the Republican side than on the Democratic. The uneven enthusiasm about the fields also is reflected in fundraising in which Democrats outraised Republicans $80 million to $50 million from April through June, continuing a trend from the year’s first three months.

Unfortunately, if the GOP is going win, NOTA is not an acceptable candidate.

Libertarians And The War

Randy Barnett has an excellent essay in the Wall Street Journal explains why there is no correct libertarian position on the Iraq War:

First and foremost, libertarians believe in robust rights of private property, freedom of contract, and restitution to victims of crime. They hold that these rights define true “liberty” and provide the boundaries within which individuals may pursue happiness by making their own free choices while living in close proximity to each other. Within these boundaries, individuals can actualize their potential while minimizing their interference with the pursuit of happiness by others.

When it comes to foreign policy, libertarians’ severe skepticism of government planning in the domestic arena carries over to the government’s ability to accomplish anything positive through foreign aid, whether economic or military–a skepticism they share with most Americans. All libertarians, I suspect, oppose military conscription on principle, considering it involuntary servitude. To a libertarian, any effort at “nation building” seems to be just another form of central planning which, however well-motivated, is fraught with unintended consequences and the danger of blowback. And, like most everyone, libertarians oppose any war of aggression. In all these regards, Mr. Paul is a mainstream libertarian.

But like all libertarians, even Mr. Paul believes in the fundamental, individual right of self-defense, which is why libertarians like him overwhelmingly support the right to keep and bear arms. And most also believe that when the territory of the U.S. is attacked militarily, the government–which claims a monopoly on providing for national defense and extracts billions of tax dollars for this purpose–is justified in using the military in self-defense. For this reason, many libertarians (though not all) who now oppose the war in Iraq supported U.S. military actions against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which had aided and harbored the al Qaeda network that organized the 9/11 attack.

But here is the rub. While all libertarians accept the principle of self-defense, and most accept the role of the U.S. government in defending U.S. territory, libertarian first principles of individual rights and the rule of law tell us little about what constitutes appropriate and effective self-defense after an attack. Devising a military defense strategy is a matter of judgment or prudence about which reasonable libertarians may differ greatly.

So where does Iraq fit into this ? Barnett comes up with two alternative libertarian positions:

Many libertarians, and perhaps most libertarian intellectuals, opposed the war in Iraq even before its inception. They believed Saddam’s regime neither directly threatened the U.S. nor harbored or supported the terrorist network responsible for Sept. 11. They also feared the risk of harmful, unintended consequences. Some may also have believed that since the U.S. was not attacked by the government of Iraq, any such war was aggressive rather than defensive in nature.

Other libertarians, however, supported the war in Iraq because they viewed it as part of a larger war of self-defense against Islamic jihadists who were organizationally independent of any government. They viewed radical Islamic fundamentalism as resulting in part from the corrupt dictatorial regimes that inhabit the Middle East, which have effectively repressed indigenous democratic reformers. Although opposed to nation building generally, these libertarians believed that a strategy of fomenting democratic regimes in the Middle East, as was done in Germany and Japan after World War II, might well be the best way to take the fight to the enemy rather than solely trying to ward off the next attack.

The problem with the pro-war position as Barnett advances it, though, is that there was no evidence before March 2003, and even less today, that Saddam’s regime was in anyway involved in the broader pan-Islamist movement that calls itself al Qaeda. The opinions of some Americans notwithstanding, there’s no evidence that Saddam was involved in September 11th. In fact, if involvement in acts of terrorism is the criteria, then Iran would present a more justifiable target than Iraq, whether it be in 2003 or 2007.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a libertarian argument that can be made for war, just that the war in Iraq is a very bad candidate for advancing that position.

Ethanol: Not So Green After All

Ethanol is perhaps the biggest boondoggle in American history. Pushed forward by the farm lobby, we’ve been led to believe that its the clean, green alternative to gasoline. But we’ve already started seeing unintended consequences. Corn prices are higher than ever, because of demand from fuel producers for the raw material to make the ethanol that many states are requiring them to sell. Higher corn prices are themselves raising prices for everything from milk to tortillas in Mexico.

And, now, it seems that ethanol itself may not be all that great for the environment:

A surge in the demand for ethanol — touted as a greener alternative to gasoline — could have a serious environmental downside for the Chesapeake Bay, because more farmers growing corn could mean more pollution washing off farm fields, a new study warned yesterday.

The study, whose sponsors included the U.S. government and an environmental group, predicted that farmers in the bay watershed will plant 500,000 or more new acres of corn in the next five years. Because fields of corn generally produce more polluted runoff than those of other crops, that’s a problem.

“It’s going in the opposite direction from where we want to go,” said Jim Pease, a professor at Virginia Tech and one of the study’s authors.

Ethanol, a fuel made from processed and fermented plant matter, is an old invention with enormous new cachet. Proponents say that it offers an alternative to oil imported from overseas and that it emits fewer greenhouse gases than fossil fuels. In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush called for its use in motor fuels to be increased sevenfold by 2017. Already, 15 ethanol facilities are either planned or under construction in the mid-Atlantic, according to yesterday’s report.

But ethanol’s boom has also produced a variety of unintended, and unwanted, consequences. Because the primary ingredient at U.S. ethanol plants is corn, the price of that grain has shot up, making everything from tortillas to beef to chocolate more expensive.

In the Chesapeake area, according to the study, the drawback to ethanol’s boom is that more farmers have planted cornfields to take advantage of the prices. Corn harvests are expected to increase 12 percent in Maryland this year and 8 percent in Virginia, according to a forecast in March from the U.S. Agriculture Department.

(…)

More cornfields could be trouble, the study warned, because corn generally requires more fertilizer than such crops as soybeans or hay. When it rains, some of this fertilizer washes downstream, and it brings such pollutants as nitrogen and phosphorus, which feed unnatural algae blooms in the bay. These algae consume the oxygen that fish, crabs and other creatures need to breathe, creating the Chesapeake’s infamous dead zones.

Once again, the law of unintended consequences rears its head.

Parker v. District Of Columbia Headed To The Supreme Court

Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty announced today that the city will appeal the Appeals Court decision in Parker v. District of Columbia, which struck down the city’s gun control law:

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced today that the city will appeal to the Supreme Court to uphold a long-time ban on handguns that was overturned by a lower court in March.

“We have made the determination that this law can and should be defended,” Fenty said in a statement.

In a 2-1 decision, a panel of judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found in March that the city’s prohibition against residents keeping handguns in their homes is unconstitutional. The panel’s decision was upheld by the full court in May.

The Supreme Court could, of course, decline to hear the appeal but that seems unlikely given the breadth of the Parker decision and the fact that a split exists in the Circuit on whether the Second Amendment grants an individual or collective right to keep and bear arms.

Ron Paul’s YouTube Interview

Ron Paul sat down for his YouTube interview on Friday. Fairly interesting, mostly because Paul usually does well in one-on-one situations like this. And it’s nice to see an interview of Ron Paul that focuses on something other than the Iraq War. He talks about taxes, a libertarian position on the environment, and gives a passionate defense of his position on abortion.

Liberty And Generosity

John Stossel has a great column out today about the relationship between libertarian ideas and benevolence.

He starts off by relating something that Michael Moore said to him recently:

I INTERVIEWED Michael Moore recently for an upcoming “20/20″ special on health care. It’s refreshing to interview a leftist who proudly admits he’s a leftist. He told me that government should provide “food care” as well as health care and that big government would work if only the right people were in charge.

Moore added, “I watch your show and I know where you are coming from. …”

He knows I defend limited government, so he tried to explain why I was wrong. He began in a revealing way:

“I gotta believe that, even though I know you’re very much for the individual determining his own destiny, you also have a heart.”

Notice his smuggled premise in the words “even though.” In Moore’s mind, someone who favors individual freedom doesn’t care about his fellow human beings.

This is, of course, a standard leftist retort to people who believe in free markets and individual liberty. It is, at best, a distortion of what libertarians believe, as Stossel points out:

A free society is about voluntary communities cooperating through the division of labor. Libertarianism is far from “every man for himself.”

(…)

Individual freedom, with minimal government, made it possible for masses of people to cooperate for mutual advantage. As a result, society could be rich and peaceful.

As the great economist Ludwig von Mises wrote, “What makes friendly relations between human beings possible is the higher productivity of the division of labor. . . . A preeminent common interest, the preservation and further intensification of social cooperation, becomes paramount and obliterates all essential collisions.”

Freedom and benevolence go hand in hand.

I’d take it a step further. Statism not only isn’t necessary for the creation of a benevolent society, it actually discourages people from being concerned about their fellow human beings on an individual level. If the state says that it will “take care of” the poor, then, someone might ask, why should I bother worrying about them. If it says it will “take care of” the sick, then why worry about the elderly woman who lives downstairs ?

From first hand accounts, we’ve learned that this was in fact the attitude that existed in the USSR and some parts of Eastern Europe before the collapse of Communism. And it’s not at all surprising. If people think that the state is going to take care of everything, then they don’t need to care about it.

Americans have long been known as an incredibly generous people. When a crisis has erupted in some part of the world — whether it was the famine in Ethiopia in the 1980s, the tsunami in Indonesia in 2004, or the crisis of abandoned Romanian orphans after the collapse of Communism — Americans have been at the forefront of private fundraising efforts.

America is also the birthplace of liberty.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

H/T: Mises Economic Blog

Senate Democrats Vote Against Free Speech

On Friday, the Democratic controlled Senate voted down a bill that would have barred the Federal Communications Commission from reinstating the so-called Fairness Doctrine without Congressional approval:

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Friday blocked an amendment by Sen. Norm Coleman that would have prevented the return of the Fairness Doctrine, a federal rule which required broadcasters to air opposing views on issues.

Although no legislation has been offered to bring back the regulation, which was scrapped in 1987, Coleman and other Republicans have been mounting a pre-emptive attack in recent weeks, arguing that a return to the old rule would give the government too much power in regulating content. The House recently passed an amendment banning the rule’s return.

When Coleman, R-Minn., tried to bring up his amendment Friday to a defense authorization bill, Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who chairs the Armed Services Committee, objected. According to Levin’s office, he objected because the amendment belonged in the Commerce Committee’s jurisdiction, and because it would have taken up time while the Senate was trying to debate Iraq.

The subtext of the debate over the Fairness Doctrine is talk radio’s perceived dominance by conservative voices.

In a telephone interview, Coleman said his motivation was to preserve the First Amendment. But he added: “I do have a strong objection to folks wanting to cut off talk radio because it’s conservative. Let the people be able to make the choice.”

Contrast this seemingly common sense approach to the issue to the neo-Marxist ideas of Illinois Senator Dick Durbin:

“The airwaves belong to the American people,” Durbin said. “Those who profit from them do by permission of the people through their government.” He said that broadcasters should provide both points of view on an issue.

This, I think is the rock on which this entire argument is based. Since radio and television were first invented, we’ve lived with the absurd idea that the airwaves “belong” to the public. What that argument forgets, however, is that it wasn’t “the public” or the state that made the huge investment in research, development, and infrastructure that was necessary to first make the idea of mass broadcast of wireless radio and television a practical idea. And it’s not “the public” or the state who continue to put up the money it takes to run a radio or television station.

Since that’s the case, what right do either this amorphous group called “the public” or the state have to tell broadcasters what they can and cannot put on the air ?

Yea, I can’t figure it out either.

Republicans Continue To Splinter on Iraq

When it comes to Republican Senators, there are no two more pro-military members than John Warner and Richard Lugar. Warner is a former Secretary of the Navy who, while in the Senate has served on the Armed Services Committee nonstop and has been its Chairman more than once. Lugar has been on the same committee since entered in the Senate in 1976. And both are considered among the Republicans most reliable Senators when it comes to matters military.

Which is why this development yesterday should send signals to the White House that the beginning of the end in Iraq has arrived:

The Republican revolt against President Bush’s war strategy accelerated yesterday as two of the party’s most respected voices on national security proposed legislation envisioning a major realignment of U.S. troops in Iraq starting as early as Jan. 1.

Defying Bush even as his team fanned out to press Congress for more time, Sens. John W. Warner (Va.) and Richard G. Lugar (Ind.) unveiled a measure requiring the White House to begin drawing up plans to redeploy U.S. forces from frontline combat to border security and counterterrorism. But the legislation would not force Bush to implement the plans at this point.

The proposal fell short of Democratic demands to set a firm timetable for withdrawal but underscored the continuing erosion of the president’s position among Republicans on Capitol Hill, and it could shape the debate as Congress wrestles with its position on the war. Votes in both houses this week demonstrated that war opponents do not have enough support to overcome a Bush veto, and it remains unclear whether the two sides can reach a bipartisan consensus.

(…)

The measure proposed by Warner and Lugar yesterday would amend the Senate’s defense authorization bill. While the bulk of it is nonbinding, it would require the White House to present a realignment plan to Congress by Oct. 16, forcing the White House to begin work well before the September progress report from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. Bush implored Congress on Thursday to wait for Petraeus’s assessment before trying to change strategy.

“Senator Warner and I have tried to approach the current situation by asking, ‘What should happen now, even if the president has not changed course?’ ” Lugar said in remarks prepared for delivery on the Senate floor.

Lugar and Warner carry particular weight as two of the party’s leading authorities on national security. Until Democrats took over in January, Lugar was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and Warner was chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

The question now is whether the Democratic leadership in Congress will take developments like this and run with them, realizing that coming up with a compromise proposal that Republicans will agree with is better than taking meaningless vote after meaningless vote.

For the moment, it appears that Harry Reid is going to be the political idiot he’s always appeared to be.

Yet Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has shown no interest in working with rebellious Republicans if they do not support a firm withdrawal date. “We are not going to stop,” Reid told reporters after Bush’s news conference Thursday. “We are going to continue facing down this bad policy. It is not good for America. It’s not good for the world.”

Translation: The Democrats consider Iraq an issue they can score political points with, not something they actually want to do something about.

Genarlow Wilson Prosecutor Distributes Child Porn

ATLANTA (AP) — District Attorney David McDade has handed out some 35 copies of a video of teenagers having sex at a party.

McDade says Georgia’s open-records law leaves him no choice but to release the footage because it was evidence in one of the state’s most turbulent cases — that of Genarlow Wilson, a young man serving 10 years in prison for having oral sex with a girl when they were teenagers.
McDade’s actions have opened him up to accusations that he is vindictively misusing his authority to keep Wilson behind bars — and worse, distributing child pornography.

[…]

It shows Wilson, then 17, receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old girl and having intercourse with another 17-year-old girl. It was shot at a 2003 New Year’s Eve Party at a hotel room by another partygoer.
Earlier this week, Georgia’s chief federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney David Nahmias, said the video “constitutes child pornography under federal law,” and he called on McDade’s office to stop releasing copies.

I hope McDade gets the book thrown at him on this one. Whatever crime Wilson committed is minor compared with the DA distributing the video to others who do not need to see it. He has probably put everyone who received the video in danger of facing child pornography possession charges. And what’s to stop one of these copies from somehow making its way to the general public via the internet or other means? It’s a little curious to me why the DA believes he needs to make his point in the court of public opinion instead of a court of law. He knows that the public is not on his side but he may win in the court of law (unfortunately).

But like Michael Nifong, David McDade will probably avoid criminal prosecution. Meanwhile, Genarlow Wilson serves a 10 year prison sentence for receiving consensual oral sex from a young lady less than 2 years younger than him. Isn’t our criminal justice system just wonderful!

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More Mandatory Minimums Madness: The “Sexual Predator” Edition (Part I and Part II)

Ron Paul And The 9/11 Truthers

Let me start out by saying that I support Ron Paul. But when he does stuff like this, I really start questioning my support for him:

Presidential candidate Ron Paul says the U.S. is in “great danger” of a staged terror attack or a Gulf of Tonkin style provocation while also warning that a major collapse of the American economy is on the horizon and could be precipitated by the bombing of Iran and the closure of the Persian Gulf.

Speaking to The Alex Jones Show, the Texas Congressman was asked his opinion on Cindy Sheehan’s recent comments that the U.S. is in danger of a staged terror attack or a Gulf of Tonkin style provocation that will validate the Neo-Con agenda and lead to the implementation of the infrastructure of martial law that Bush recently signed into law via executive order, as well as public pronouncements from prominent officials that the West needs terrorism to save a doomed foreign policy.

“I think we’re in great danger of it,” responded the Congressman, “We’re in danger in many ways, the attack on our civil liberties here at home, the foreign policy that’s in shambles and our obligations overseas and commitment which endangers our troops and our national defense.”

“Every day we’re in worse shape and right now there’s an orchestrated effort to blame the Iranians for everything that’s gone wrong in Iraq and we’re quite concerned that the attack will be on Iran and that will jeopardize so many more of our troops, so I would say that we’re in much greater danger than we even were four or five years ago,” asserted Paul.

Let’s leave aside, for the moment at least, the merits of what Congressman Paul said and talk about where he said it.

Alex Jones is a radio host/commentator who runs a website called Prison Planet that, to put it nicely plays host to some of the most bizarre conspiracy theories that I’ve ever seen. He is a 9/11 truther who clearly believes that the United States Government had advance knowledge of, if not involvement in, the September 11th attacks despite clear evidence to the contrary. He is among those people who perpetuates the lie that there was no airplane that crashed into the Pentagon that day (and in case there’s any doubt about that, I could refer you to a friend of mine from law school who lived blocks away from the Pentagon in 2001 and saw and heard the plane before it crashed).

Alex Jones is, in a word, a nutjob.

So why is Ron Paul appearing on his program ? And what does he think of Jones’ bizarre theories regarding September 11th ?

Frankly, I think those questions need to be answered.

As far as the merits of what Paul said, Rojas at The Crossed Pond, makes this excellent point:

But there’s a major problem with both the Gulf of Tonkin scenario and the much more ludicrous prospect of a staged attack. And that problem is timing.

Why now? In order to buy that some sort of provocation for War with Iran is coming, you’d have to accept that the administration chose not to engage in that provocation when doing so would have provided a far, far greater political benefit.

(…)

Why now? The President is no longer even pretending that he needs broad public consent to exercise the powers of the Presidency; he’s the decider, and that’s that. The President has sufficient military jurisdiction to provoke war with Iran on his own and without provocation. He can bomb Tehran tomorrow if he chooses. Why, exactly, would he seek political cover for such an operation? In order to build international support? Please. In order to “protect his legacy?” If he engages in this operation, it will be because he thinks the operation ITSELF is something history will remember fondly; he’d gain nothing historically from being forced into it.

And there’s a broader point, and it’s the main reason I generally don’t believe conspiracy theories. To believe the conspiracy theorists version of history — whether its the Kennedy assassination, September 11th, or some supposed future terrorist attack — one has to also believe that a large number of people in government, each with their own agendas, ambitions, and axes to grind, would be capable of agreeing on a plan, executing it with such perfection that it looks to the outside world like someone else did it, and keep it a secret before, during, and after the operation.

All my experience in dealing with the government tells me that such people simply don’t exist in government.

But that’s beside the point. When Ron Paul does things like appear on the Alex Jones Show, or associate himself with remarks by a wacko like Cindy Sheehan, he does a disservice to his campaign, and to the people who support him.

Ron Paul Not A Factor In Latest Gallup Poll

The latest Gallup Poll is out, and while it shows Fred Thompson slipping into second place behind Giuliani, the news is not so good for Ron Paul:

Giuliani continues to be the top choice of Republicans for his party’s 2008 presidential nomination, with Fred Thompson following next, John McCain in third, and Mitt Romney in fourth. The percentage of support for these candidates varies little depending on whether reluctant candidate Newt Gingrich — who is supported by only 6% of Republicans — is included in the race. None of the remaining Republican candidates score higher than 3% in the poll.

Here are the numbers:

Candidate With Gingrich In Without Gingrich In
Rudy Giuliani 30 % 32 %
Fred Thompson 20 % 21 %
John McCain 16 % 16 %
Mitt Romney 9 % 9 %
Newt Gingrich 6 % n/a
Duncan Hunter 2 % 3 %
Mike Huckabee 2 % 2 %
Tom Tancredo 2 % 2 %
Chuck Hagel 1 % 1 %
Sam Brownback 1 % 1 %
Jim Gilmore > 0.5 % > 0.5%
Ron Paul > 0.5 % > 0.5%
No Opinion 9 % 10 %
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