Monthly Archives: August 2007

Why Larry Craig And Not Ted Stevens ?

It now seems apparent that at some point on Saturday, Idaho Senator Larry Craig will announce his resignation from the Senate in the aftermath of what is at least a very embarrassing arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In what I can only consider a rare moment, though, I find myself agreeing with the New York Times Editoral Board when they point out the hypocrisy of the Republican outrage over Craig’s alleged infraction:

The Republican Party is in quite a rush to keelhaul Senator Larry Craig for his run-in with the vice squad in an airport men’s room. Disclosure of the senator’s guilty plea to disorderly conduct set off a frenzy to demand an investigation by the Senate’s somnolent Ethics Committee and to strip Mr. Craig of his committee seniority. Some of the senator’s peers simply demanded that he resign.

No similar leadership chorus for judgment has been heard about any number of other scandalous revelations on the party’s plate.

There’s the F.B.I.’s inquiry into whether Senator Ted Stevens swung a quid-pro-quo deal for a government contractor who eventually renovated his Alaska home. There’s also Senator David Vitter’s presence on the client list of a Washington brothel. Mr. Vitter, a social conservative, pleaded guilty to “sin” (heterosexual) and no leadership call ensued for a thorough in-house ethics inquiry. Certainly, no Republican called for the resignation of Mr. Vitter, who comes from Louisiana, which has a Democratic governor who would then replace him. Mr. Craig is from a safe state with a Republican governor.

The Times attributes the swift reaction of GOP insiders, and their conservative supporters, to the same prejudices that underlie their opposition to gay marriage.

Perhaps this is true, perhaps it isn’t. In either case, I’d rather be ruled by a Senate filled with Larry Craig’s  than a Senate filled with men like Ted Stevens.

Ron Paul Gets Some Respect

From The Wall Street Journal:

As polls track the public’s disaffection, political strategists are on alert for a third-party movement. Paulites insist their man can win the Republican nomination, though he has gone from zero to just 2% in polls. If he can’t, their fervor suggests they would push him to run independently. But having run as a Libertarian in 1988, when he took just 0.47% of the vote, Mr. Paul has discouraged such speculation.

The Web “is redefining what a grass-roots campaign looks like,” says Mr. Morey, the computer engineer. More than other candidates’ fans, Paul supporters take matters into their own hands, planning events and raising money in a decentralized process that parallels Mr. Paul’s vision of what government should be. Aside from his own Web site, there are free-lancers’ DailyPaul.com and RonPaulLibrary.org (“the world’s largest collection of writings by Ron Paul”), among others, MySpace “friends” groups and YouTube video-sharing.

It has meant $3 million to Mr. Paul, making him fourth among eight Republicans in fund raising and first among the five dark horses in cash on hand. But the netroots’ bottom-up energy poses challenges, too, for a campaign trying to channel if not control it. “We’re running a campaign, and we’d like to think we know what we’re doing,” says deputy campaign manager Joe Seehusen. “And then there’s this thing called the Internet, and that has a life of its own.”

There’s just one thing missing from the Journal’s article, and that’s any significant coverage of the ideas that Ron Paul talks about. In more than one sense, I would submit that those ideas are more important than the success of his campaign. This, however, seems consistent with the fact that support for the campaign itself seems to be mirroring the personality-based support for the campaigns of men like Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 and Ross Perot in 1992, neither of which succeeded in winning and neither of which succeeded in creating any lasting movement.

As nice as it would be to live in a world where it was possible, given the odds, Ron Paul isn’t going to be President. At the rate things are going, we’ll be lucky if the person taking the Oath of Office on January 20, 2009 is someone who actually believes in the free market.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that can be done to advance freedom. I addressed some of them in my open letter to Ron Paul’s supporters back in July, but I’m sure that someone else can come up with even more ideas.

Let’s Leave The Real Estate Market Alone

For the first time since it has become an issue, President Bush has decided that it’s necessary to inject himself into the market correction currently taking place in the real estate market:

President Bush today unveiled a series of measures intended to help ease a wave of mortgage defaults, but he ruled out any federal bailout for lenders or for homeowners who bought properties they could not afford.

In a brief speech in the White House Rose Garden, Bush urged lenders to “work with homeowners to adjust their mortgages” if homeowners run into difficulties making payments. He also outlined steps to modernize the Federal Housing Administration, allow homeowners to refinance into FHA-insured mortgages with lower rates, temporarily reform a key housing provision of the federal tax code and launch a new “foreclosure avoidance initiative.”

Bush said U.S. markets “are in a period of transition as participants reassess and re-price risks,” a process he said will “take more time to fully play out.” But he stressed that the U.S. economy remains “strong enough to weather any turbulence.”

Referring to strains in the mortgage market, notably the “subprime” sector that includes riskier loans, Bush said the market has undergone “tremendous innovation” in recent years, with credit made available to more people. He described this development as mostly positive, helping to push American homeownership to new heights.

“Unfortunately, there has also been some excesses in the lending industry,” Bush said, citing a “troubling” increase in adjustable-rate mortgages, which start out with low interest rates and then rise sharply to higher rates.

What the President, and everyone else who has seen fit to make a comment on the real estate/mortgage situation recently fails to mention, of course, is the fact that there are two sides to every mortgage loan. There’s the lender, who takes the risk of lending hundreds of thousands of dollars. And there’s the seller, who, at least in the days of the high-flying real estate market, was not exactly the example of the rational consumer.

Case in point. There was a story in a local newspaper here in the Washington, D.C. area (a link to which seems to be unavailable at the moment) about a local couple who purchased a $ 600,000 home two years ago. The wife operated a maid service, and the husband was a construction contractor.

Yes, they may have qualified for a mortgage in 2005, but can anyone seriously tell me that they thought about whether they might have a problem if 2007 turned out to be a more difficult year than 2005 ? Frankly, I think the answer is no.

And yet George W. Bush, who claims to be a Republican, wants to intervene in the market to save people like this from bad financial decisions.

Colored Flour = Felony Terrorism Charges

As is well known to the readers of The Liberty Papers and The Unrepentant Individual, I love beer. It’s also true, largely due to drinking beer, that I could stand to be in better shape. So when I one day found the sport of hashing, I was excited. Sometimes called “a drinking club with a running problem”, it’s an excuse for runners to drink (or in my case, for drinkers to run).

Unfortunately, life got in the way, and I haven’t had a chance to get involved in a hashing club. It’s probably for the best, though, because some hashers found themselves in quite hot water recently:

Two people who sprinkled flour in a parking lot to mark a trail for their offbeat running club inadvertently caused a bioterrorism scare and now face a felony charge.

The sprinkled powder forced hundreds to evacuate an IKEA furniture store Thursday.

New Haven ophthalmologist Daniel Salchow, 36, and his sister, Dorothee, 31, who is visiting from Hamburg, Germany, were both charged with first-degree breach of peace, a felony.

Daniel Salchow biked back to IKEA when he heard there was a problem and told officers the powder was just harmless flour, which he said he and his sister have sprinkled everywhere from New York to California without incident.

“Not in my wildest dreams did I ever anticipate anything like that,” he said.

Phew. Thank god our fine law enforcement has saved us from crazy ophthalmologists with flour!

In a sane world I would expect that law enforcement would realize that they’ve overreacted, and everyone would go on there merry way… Knowing the world we live in, though, it makes perfect sense that this would be blown out of proportion and these people brought up on felony charges. After all, if the local authorities admit they made a mistake, they might have to answer to someone for it. Much better to simply deny they’ve done anything wrong and blame the victim!

And that’s just what the spokeswoman has done:

Mayoral spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the city plans to seek restitution from the Salchows, who are due in court Sept. 14.

“You see powder connected by arrows and chalk, you never know,” she said. “It could be a terrorist, it could be something more serious. We’re thankful it wasn’t, but there were a lot of resources that went into figuring that out.”

However, federal authorities have raised us to threat level Orange, until the below terrorist is apprehended.

Hat Tip: Billy Beck

Where’s Ron?

Not that I think hes’ got a shot; but he IS a declared candidate, he should be up there.

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

Did Larry Craig Really Commit A Crime ?

Notwithstanding the media circus over what Idaho Senator Larry Craig may or may not have done in a bathroom at the Minneapolis Airport, the question that remains is whether he actually committed a crime:

Why was Sen. Craig arrested? Is it really illegal to try to find a sexual partner in a public bathroom using code? How would that be any different than looking for a sexual partner at a dance club, be it using code, pick-up lines, or any thing else in your singles arsenal?

I suppose you could argue that most people don’t expect to be propositioned in a bathroom, and could be offended or humiliated should it inadvertently happen to them. But then, those people wouldn’t be privy to any foot-tapping codes, so it seems to me there’d be little risk of someone being accidentally propositioned.

Admittedly, Craig’s defense that this was all some mistake is utter nonsense. But, the fact of the matter remains, he didn’t actually have sex in public. He merely engaged in what one police officer interpreted as an invitation to further conduct. If that’s a crime, then either the criminal statutes of Minnesota need to be re-written, or the Senator’s decision to plead guilty was far too hasty.

Just think how much more damage they could do with less “recess”

From: http://www.unclejayexplains.com/

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

“Binge Drinking Culture”, or Selfish Irresponsible Idiot

Well, if you’re in the UK, the answer is clear: it’s all the fault of “the culture”

… personally I’m thinking it’s more like Darwin in action

emphasis mine:

Two weeks after a liver swop, girl of 19 was back on the drink
— By JAMES MILLS – Daily Mail

After eight days in a coma and a life- saving liver transplant, Laura Bates was warned that continuing to drink alcohol could kill her.

But the 19-year-old is apparently so caught up in the binge-drinking culture that she has refused to heed medical advice.

Claiming that she would feel ‘left out’ if she gave up alcohol, the student had her first alcopop a mere two weeks after being released from hospital.

She admits to going out drinking with friends at least twice a week – despite the fact that alcohol abuse was at least partly to blame for her liver failing just six months ago.

Her case was held up last night as an example of how deeply entrenched the drinking culture has become, particularly among young women.

Miss Bates, whose parents Caroline, a 51-year-old housewife, and Derrick, a 48-year-old customer service worker, have begged her to stop drinking, said: “My friends told me not to but I wanted to feel normal again so I bought a bottle of WKD” (a vodka-based alcopop).

“At first I did feel bad about the family who donated their relative’s liver to me – I felt it was disrespectful to the person who died. But people buy me drinks and I feel left out if I don’t have one. I’ve decided it’s okay to have a few – I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong.”

Ahh yes, the fact that a person is so irresponsible that they would start drinking 8-10 alcoholic beverages a night, two or three (or more) nights a week at 14, leading to liver failure in a 110lb or so young woman at age 19, and an emergency liver transplant… yes, that’s the fault of the “binge drinking culture”.

It couldn’t possibly be a result of her poor decision making, now could it?

After all, she had a hard life didn’t she… well, no not really; she’s middle class, with two apparently decent parents.

Well she’s poorly educated right? Nope, at least no more poorly than all the other kids in her council school.

Bad media messages? Are you joking? Watch a night of British prime time TV, and you might come back with the impression that drinking an alcopop is worse than smoking crack while having sex with satan.

Then there’s the fact that she felt justified in ignoring doctors orders, and started drinking again (on her now diminished in function transplanted liver) because she “felt left out”; and she “doesnt think she’s done anything wrong”.

Well, yes, it is her life and she can die if she wants to; but the fact that she really doesn’t think she’s done anything wrong here? How about burdening her socialist society with her medical care, and depriving a more deserving non-idiot of a good transplant liver?

I mean, if she preferred alcohol and socialization to life, she should have been allowed to die when her own liver failed in the first place. Then she never would have needed to worry about “feeling left out” again.

Maybe I’m being too harsh here. After all, her “culture” has told her for her entire life, that she wasn’t responsible for her own problems, that the state would take care of everything, and that her “feelings” are by far the most important thing in the world, and override any kind of rational or practical considerations right?.

Nah… some people are just too stupid to live anyway; it’s better that she weeds herself out before she breeds (which is sure to be soon if the booze doesn’t get her first).

This is the consequence of such a morally degenerated society that no-one is held responsible for their own actions or decisions. This is the result of the consequence free society.

It’s just a shame that the subjects of (once) Great Britain will be forced to bear the burden (both directly financial, and the inevitable dimunition of the rights of consenting adults to drink) of this idiots medical care yet again (in fact, most likely over and over again until her hopefully rapid death).

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

Licensed To Death

On Friday, the Reason Foundation released a study on the extent which state regulations have imposed barriers to entry into a mind-numbing variety of professions:

Los Angeles (August 24, 2007) – Do you want to be a fortune teller in Maryland? Your future better include a license from the state. How about being a hair braider in Mississippi? You’ll need 300 to 1,500 hours of training and government permission. Want to sell flowers in Louisiana? Only licensed florists can do that. And almost every state requires certification if you want to move furniture and hang art while calling yourself an interior designer.

The Top Ten:

1. California (177)
2. Connecticut (155)
3. Maine (134)
4. New Hampshire (130)
5. Arkansas (128)
6. Michigan (116)
7. Rhode Island (116)
8. New Jersey (114)
9. Wisconsin (111)
10. Tennessee (110)

Even the lowest-ranked state, Missouri, has a list of 51 professions that it imposes regulatory barriers to entry upon.

Gone are the days when someone could decide to go into business for themselves.

We Won’t Have Fredo To Kick Around Anymore

Alberto Gonzalez has resigned as Attorney General:

Embattled Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has resigned from his post, according to an administration official, ending a controversial cabinet tenure that included clashes with Congress over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys and the nature of efforts to spy on U.S. citizens.

The official said Gonzales submitted a letter on Friday saying he had decided to step down, but the announcement was withheld until he met with President Bush at the president’s Crawford ranch. His resignation will be announced at a press conference scheduled at 10:30.

As I said back in April, with a nickname like Fredo, Gonzalez should’ve been concerned.

Monday Open Thread: Questions For Ron Paul Supporters

The posts about Ron Paul’s campaign have brought numerous visitors and comments to The Liberty Papers over the past several months. Some have accused some of is, me in particular, of being overly negative about Paul’s campaign. The truth is, I’m overly negative about the state of the GOP to the point where I doubt that it can nominate someone who thinks like Ron Paul at this point.

Nonethless, I’d like to take today’s Open Thread as an opportunity to ask the Ron Paul  supporters out there some questions.

1. Other than Ron Paul, is there any Republican candidate for President currently running that you could support in either the primaries or the General Election in 2008 ? If not, what would you do on Election Day 2008 if Ron Paul fails to win the Republican nomination ?

2. If you do think he will win the nomination, how do you reconcile his current standing in the national polls, no higher than 3%, with that belief ?

3. Are you supporting any Republican candidates for office (i.e., candidates for Congress, the Senate, Governor, or local offices) other than Ron Paul ?

4. If Ron Paul doesn’t win the nomination, would you stay involved in the Republican Party

I’ll be interested to hear everyone’s responses.

How To Really Reform The Electoral College

Back in April, here and here, I wrote about the National Popular Vote, an effort by some states to change the way the Electoral College works by means of an agreement among participating states that it would give it’s electoral vote to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of which candidates may have actually gotten the most votes in a given state.

As I stated back then, there are several problems with the NPV, not the least of them being that it is unconstitutional. But that doesn’t mean that the Electoral College can’t be reformed short of amending the Constitution. There is at least one alternative, and it’s being considered in California right now:

LOS ANGELES — California Republicans are floating a ballot initiative that would change how the state awards its 55 electoral votes, a whopping prize that Democrats have come over the past four presidential elections to regard as theirs.

Under the current format, the winner of the state’s popular vote takes all electoral votes. The initiative proposes to award one electoral vote for every congressional district a candidate wins, with the statewide winner getting two more electoral votes.

Had such a system been in place in 2004, President Bush would have come out of California with 22 electoral votes instead of zero. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) would have gotten only 33.

“It has a gut-level appeal to it,” said Kevin Eckery, a GOP consultant supporting the initiative, which would be put before voters in June. “It sounds fair, and it is fair.”

Democrats emphatically disagree and are mounting their own campaign to derail the initiative, which strategists say could easily alter the outcome of the 2008 contest.

“You’re looking at between 19 and 22 votes that would shift to the Republican side,” said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist mobilizing against the proposal. “The electoral math becomes very challenging.”

Leaving aside the politics that underlies the debate in California, and would indisputably play a role in any state where this method for allocating electoral votes was considered, there is much about this proposal that is worthy of consideration.

First of all, it maintains the Electoral College’s purpose of balancing large states against small ones, and regions against regions while at the same time addressing one of the biggest criticisms of the way that we elect Presidents. By tying at least one electoral vote in each state to a Congressional District, the proposal would put nearly every state into play in a Presidential election. Yes, the proposal would benefit Republicans in California, but it would also benefit Democrats in states like Florida and Texas. In the end, the benefits would probably balance themselves out across the nation, and candidates would be forced to run a campaign that addresses the country as a whole, rather than one that merely focuses on a few big states.

Second, unlike the NPV, the Congressional district allocation method has been tried before, and works. Both Nebraska and Maine have had this system in effect for several years and it’s worked just fine.

Finally, unlike the NPV, the Congressional district allocation method is completely constitutional. The Constitution leaves to the individual states the method by which Electoral Votes are allocated.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think that the Electoral College is as broken as some people think it is. In it’s 200 year history, there have been only three occasions where the Electoral College winner did not also win the popular vote, and only two where no candidate got a majority of Electoral College votes, requiring the House of Representatives to choose the President. In some sense, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But, if reform is considered at all, the District Method seems to be the way to go.

Demonizing The Mortgage Industry

In today’s Chicago Tribune, Steve Chapman points out the hypocrisy that has been exhibited by many on the left in response to the problems in the sub-prime mortgage industry and the increasing number of foreclosures on such loans:

In the old days, financial institutions that refused to lend to people with low incomes or imperfect credit were accused of victimizing the needy. Today, financial institutions that make many loans to those same people are found guilty of the same crime.

Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, lenders who refused to lend to people with risky financial portfolios were accused of “redlining” — which was the supposed practice of refusing to lend to anyone within certain geographic areas, usually areas dominated by minorities — or of outright racism in their lending practices. In reality, what lenders were usually doing was responding in a rational way to both the prospective borrowers in question, and the rules and regulations they were forced to deal with.

First of all, poor people, whether they’re minorities or not, are not good credit risks. They aren’t regularly employed, they don’t have significant assets, and they usually have financial obligations that make the idea of being able to meet a mortgage payment often unrealistic. Lending someone in such an economic state hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a home would be an incredibly stupid business decision, unless the loan were structured in such a way as to protect the lender from the increased risk of default.

And that’s where # 2 comes in…….

Second, because of banking and lending regulations in the 1960s and 70s, lenders were often restricted in the terms they could offer to borrowers. Interest rates, typically the best way of counteracting credit risk, if not capped, were at least highly regulated, and banks were not permitted to offer anything much more than the typical 30 year fixed rate conventional loan.

When the mortgage industry was deregulated, thanks in part to the people who were complaining about so called “redlining” and discriminatory lending, lenders were able to non-traditional mortgages that permitted people who otherwise would have been locked out of the opportunity to purchase a home the ability to do so. One can argue about whether or not people like this are making the right choice when they take on the responsibility of home ownership, but they’re all adults, and, in the end, they’re the ones who accept financial responsibility when they sign on the dotted line.

As Chapman points out, the mere fact that some of these subprime borrowers are defaulting on their obligations is not a condemnation of either the subprime market itself, or the mortgage industry as a whole:

[T]he fact that some borrowers are behind on their payments is no condemnation of the system that furnished them credit. They are in the subprime market, after all, because their credit history or income suggests they are bad risks, and it’s no shock to find that some of them turn out to be exactly that.

Precisely, and more importantly, all the press about the increase in foreclosures among such borrowers ignores a broader reality:

[T]he overwhelming majority of subprime customers handle their obligations just fine. At last count, fewer than 14 percent of them were delinquent, meaning that 86 percent were not. Most people pay what they owe, and those who don’t suffer the consequences. Absent consequences, fewer people would repay, and mortgage providers would demand higher rates to lend to the remainder.

And that, ultimately, is what the free market, individual liberty, and being an adult in a free society are all about — accepting the consequences of your actions.

But it doesn’t, unfortunately, end there. Details below the fold:
» Read more

Curing alcoholism with free whiskey

Imagine you have an alcoholic brother who lives with your parents because he has trouble holding down a job when he lives alone. So your parents keep an eye on him, limit his access to alcohol etc. One day, you come home, and you find your dad calmly stacking cans of Milwaukee’s Best into the fridge. When you ask why, he explains that your brother has been under some stress, and your parents are trying to help the poor guy out.

This scenario is so ass-backwards that most people would doubt it could happen in real life. However, this is precisely what the Federal Reserve just did last week.

In a further effort to increase liquidity, the Fed wrote to New York-based Citigroup on Aug. 20, temporarily easing restrictions on the relationship between Citibank NA, the company’s U.S. bank, and its broker-dealer subsidiary Citigroup Global Markets Inc.
The change lets the bank channel money from the discount window to the broker-dealer, which would then lend it to clients holding “certain mortgage loans and related assets.” The exemption allows Citibank to lend up to $25 billion to the broker-dealer’s customers.

Citibank’s brokerage unit is out of money, because they made unwise investments. The Federal Reserve is encouraging the bank to divert money to its failing unit from the bank’s reserves, and if that fails, from the Federal Reserve itself. However, nothing, nothing is being done about the root causes of the brokerage arm’s near bankruptcy. When the new influx of money runs out, the unit will still be in the same bad shape, but now the bank will have fewer reserves on hand. Your alcoholic brother is not going to learn how to drink responsibly if you keep offering him beers. » 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.

Venezuela & DC — Price Controls From The Barrel Of A Gun

I was checking in to see the latest news from Venezuela, and saw how Chavez is using the threat of nationalization to bring down steel prices:

Ternium SA, the only maker of flat- steel products in Venezuela, agreed to sell its goods at a discount in the South American country, warding off a threatened nationalization by President Hugo Chavez.

As part of the three-year agreement, Ternium’s Siderurgica del Orinoco SA unit will offer discounts ranging from 2 percent to 4 percent for certain programs and some businesses, Ternium said today in a statement. The company also agreed to transfer operations of a port on the Orinoco River to the government and invest $500 million in its Venezuelan facilities through 2012.

The deal comes three months after Chavez threatened to nationalize the unit, claiming that the company charged too much for steel while buying electricity and other resources at a discount. Luxembourg-based Ternium holds a 60 percent stake in Sidor, as the unit is known, while the government and workers at the steel mill each own 20 percent.

Now, I’m known for criticizing Chavez. And there should be no exception here. His threats of nationalization erode foreign investment, and will eventually destroy the country.

Yet I’m often criticized for focusing too much on Venezuela, and not enough here at home. So lest I be taken to task for considering the beam in Venezuela’s eye, I should bring up a mote in our own.

The District of Columbia was concerned about “excessive” drug prices… So they decided to threaten drug companies with arbitrary lawsuits based upon prices for drugs in other nations:

The controls, signed into law in October 2005, allow residents to sue a drug company if the wholesale price of a patented drug is 30 percent higher than the drug’s price in Canada, Germany, Australia or the United Kingdom.

“In the District’s judgment, patents enable pharmaceutical companies to wield too much market power, charging prices that are ‘excessive’ for patented drugs,” the panel wrote. “The Act is a clear attempt to restrain those excessive prices, in effect diminishing the reward to patentees in order to provide greater benefit to District drug consumers.”

Luckily for freedom’s sake, the law was just struck down in court. But that doesn’t make it’s biggest proponent, Council Member David Catania very happy. His comments suggest a quite different understanding of property than I might hold:

A three-judge appellate panel concluded that the D.C. Council and mayor might have had noble intentions with the pricing law but that it improperly usurps Congress’s power and interferes with the decisions it made in passing the federal patent law. That law allows drugmakers to maintain a monopoly — and a pricing advantage — for years after they patent a new drug.

“This may be a worthy undertaking on the part of the District government, but it is contrary to the goals established by Congress in the patent laws,” the judges continued. “The District has thus seen fit to change federal patent policy within its borders.”

Catania yesterday called the ruling “extreme in its scope” and said he will discuss appealing it with the D.C. attorney general.

“It implies that patents would ban any legislation that affects the ability of patent holders to charge whatever they please, which is absurd,” Catania said. “The Supreme Court has already upheld legislation that mandates price discounts to participate in Medicaid formularies. And no one has argued that states cannot enforce antitrust and other rules that limit monopoly prices of drugs indirectly — although the full logical thrust of the opinion would do just that.”

You see, to David Catania, drugs are not owned by pharmaceutical companies, and they have no right to decide what to charge. Drugs are owned by “the public”, and David Catania will set a “fair” price for those drugs.

Property rights are under assault from Caracas to DC. Those who believe property is communally owned, and who would rather give power to the government than the market to provide goods, are quick to reach for their sidearm in to force companies to bend to their will. They do this without an understanding of economics, or the incentives to produce, because the short-term incentive to gain power trumps the long-term goals of ensuring Venezuela has access to steel or that the world has access to newly-developed drugs.

I criticize Venezuela, because Chavez is a brash, unapologetic example of socialism in action. I often highlight Venezuela, because the changes we see in that country are a wonderful case study in what will happen if we allow socialism to further take hold here in the US. But the case in DC shows that we are facing the same pressures here, and never should our willingness to criticize Chavez allow us to forget that while we are using him as an example, the fight needs to be centered here at home.

Strippers For Ron Paul

It seems that Congressman Paul is drawing support from all kinds of people:

[T]he issue at hand is “Strippers for Ron Paul.” Why would the adult entertainment industry support such an obvious Christian? It is because the Christian congressman, Ron Paul, understands the proper role of government in the United States of America. Government should not dictate morality. Christians are instructed to cast stones if only free from sin. According to Biblical teaching, we are all born into sin and Ron Paul is the only candidate of the Republican Party doing both what his Constitution and Bible demands. I don’t know which he puts first, but I presume that it doesn’t matter because they aren’t incompatible.

Free will and free persons. Ron Paul will not likely be giving personal support to strippers, in dollars or encouragement, but he supports, in legislation, their right to be free. For that, this mother, wife, small biz owner, inventor, Libertarian Party county chairman, and ex-stripper thanks him.

As they say, politics makes for strange bedfellows.

H/T: Hit & Run

It’s Time To Write Off Mike Huckabee

His apparent support for the FairTax notwithstanding, I’ve pretty much decided that Mike Huckabee isn’t worthy of my support.

The reason ?

The fact that one of his biggest supporters is champion of the Bridge to Nowhere, and worthy of the title King of Pork:

Little Rock, AR – Former Governor Mike Huckabee announced Friday that U.S. Representative Don Young (R-AK) will serve as congressional chairman of his presidential exploratory committee and U.S. Representative John Boozman (R-AR) will serve as co-chairman.

“It’s an honor to have the strong support of such dedicated and well respected members of the U.S. Congress,” said Huckabee.

“As Governor of Arkansas and NGA Chairman, I worked closely with Don on a range of critical issues, including transportation – which is a passion we both share.  I’ve seen him in action and respect his commitment – not only to the people of Alaska, but to our country.  I have deep respect for the job he has done in Congress, and I know he’ll do a great job as chairman of my congressional team.”

I’ve written before about Congressman Young, here and here. He’s skilled at getting as much of your/my money for his constituents as possible, even if if means investing in a complete boondoggle of a transportation project, or asserting that cutting back on pork barrel spending is taking away “his money.”

I’ll give this much credit to Congressman Young. He’s a guy who knows how the system works. But, given the fact that the system itself is inherently corrupt, that can only lead to the conclusion that he’s dedicated to the idea of grabbing as much taxpayer money for his constituents as he can, regardless of whether its Constitutional, or even moral.

The fact that Huckabee would take this guy on as a supporter.

Well, you can draw your own conclusions.

The Iraq War Coalition Continues To Crumble

This time, though, we’re not talking about the international coalition of nations supporting the United States’ polices in Iraq, we’re talking about the coalition in the United States Senate, and, more specifically, one very influential Senator:

Sen. John W. Warner, one of the most influential Republican voices in Congress on national security, called on President Bush yesterday to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in time for Christmas as a new intelligence report concluded that political leaders in Baghdad are “unable to govern effectively.”

Warner’s declaration — after the Virginia senator’s recent four-day trip to the Middle East — roiled the political environment ahead of a much-anticipated progress report to be delivered Sept. 11 by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq. Although Warner had already broken with Bush’s strategy, this was the first time he endorsed pulling troops out by a specific date.

Warner’s comments followed the release of a new National Intelligence Estimate that provided a mixed assessment on Iraq seven months after Bush ordered more U.S. troops to the country. The report, produced by the CIA and 15 other intelligence agencies, determined that “there have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security.” But it predicted the Iraqi government “will become more precarious” in the next six to 12 months with little hope of reaching accommodation among political factions.

(….)

At his Capitol Hill news conference, Warner, a former Navy secretary and Armed Services Committee chairman, threw Bush’s own words back at him by noting that the president has said the U.S. commitment in Iraq must not be “open-ended.” Warner said it was time for the president to come up with an “orderly and carefully planned withdrawal,” suggesting that Bush “send a sharp and clear message” to the Iraqis by announcing a pullout plan by Sept. 15 — one that would involve at least a symbolic fraction of the 160,000 troops coming home by the holidays.

“I can think of no clearer form of that than if the president were to announce on the 15th that in consultation with our senior military commanders, he’s decided to initiate the first step in a withdrawal of armed forces,” Warner said. “I say to the president respectfully, ‘Pick whatever number you wish.’ . . . Say, 5,000, could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones no later than Christmas of this year. That’s the first step.”

This isn’t some wishy-washy Republican we’re talking about here. Warner is a former Secretary of the Navy and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. On issues of national security, he’s generally considered pro-military, and, on issues of foreign policy, very conservative.

Losing the support of a man like John Warner is a sign that the Bush Administration’s plans in Iraq are not going well at all.

Jimmy Justice: Policing the Police

As a general rule, I believe that most police officers are brave, respectable, and truly do their best to honor their mission statement: to serve and protect. As with any organization, there are some bad apples, however. And what happens when a police officer abuses his or her badge to break the law or harass a citizen? If it goes to court and it’s the citizen’s word against the police officer’s, unfortunately, many judges and juries will give the police officer the benefit of the doubt.

As Doug has pointed out in several of his posts, cities are considering adding surveillance cameras on city streets to keep an eye on the citizens. One man who calls himself Jimmy Justice is turning the tables and is doing some surveillance of his own on police officers and government officials who abuse the power given to them by the public.

As you might expect, some of these government officials don’t appreciate their bad behavior filmed and later broadcast on the internet for the whole world to see. Jimmy Justice’s work has put public pressure on the respective government agencies to investigate these incidents further and take disciplinary action.

In a time where government is taking more and more control over our lives, its refreshing to see that everyday citizens have the will and the technology to serve as a check on government abuse of power. This first clip is a news story on Jimmy Justice and his mission to police the police.

This second video is Jimmy Justice confronting a police officer who parked in front of a fire hydrant (if an average citizen were to do the same thing he or she would be ticketed and fined). Notice the contempt this woman and her friend have for the citizens; it’s both disturbing and revealing.

WARNING: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS PROFANITY. IF YOU ARE OFFENDED BY PROFANITY DON’T WATCH.

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