Monthly Archives: November 2007

Venezuela: Turning Against Chavez ?

In what may well be the last real chance the people of Venezuela have to stop Hugo Chavez by democratic means, it looks like there’s more than a few citizens of the country who’ve had enough:

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of the capital Thursday to oppose a referendum that would eliminate term limits for President Hugo Chavez and help him establish a socialist state in Venezuela.

Blowing whistles, waving placards and shouting “Not like this!” the marchers carried Venezuelan flags and dressed in blue—the chosen color of the opposition—as they streamed along Bolivar Avenue.

“This is a movement by those of us who oppose a change to this country’s way of life, because what (the referendum) aims to do is impose totalitarianism,” said former lawmaker Elias Matta. “There can’t be a communist Venezuela, and that’s why our society is reacting this way.”

(…)

Venezuelans will vote on 69 proposed changes to nation’s 1999 constitution that would, among other things, eliminate presidential term limits, create forms of communal property and give greater power to the presidency.

Recent polls have suggested that the public as a whole is turning against Chavez’s proposed Constitutional changes, so it will be very interesting to see how things turn out on Sunday.

Federalism vs. Individual Freedom

The Constitutionalism of Ron Paul has ignited a debate that’s sorely needed in this country. The Founding Fathers envisioned a nation of individual States, each with its own quirks and ideas, and each with wide latitudes to set its own internal laws and policies as it saw fit. The central government was tasked only with foreign affairs and acting as arbiter of inter-state matters. The individual States had nearly full sovereignty with most other affairs. In many ways, the United States was set up with a roughly similar mix between central authority and State sovereignty as the current EU.

Ron Paul and many libertarians reflexively yearn for a return to such an idea. The central government we have now is a behemoth, trampling our freedoms under its oppressive taxes and mountains of regulation. Even worse, the system is largely out of control, and citizens have almost no power over its workings. Devolving power to the States and local governments would counter the dilution of power that naturally occurs when one is a single voice out of 300 million. Petitioning your city or state representative is much more effective than some Senator who may represent several million people.

Inherent in the assumption by these libertarians, though, is that moving power to smaller levels of government will improve individual freedom. I’m not sure that assumption is accurate. There are pros and cons of both systems.

Federalism:

On the positive side, federalism allows for experiments in freedom. States and localities compete on a whole host of aspects, such as taxation, regulation, and social policies. In many instances, it allows those states to do things that would not be allowed in a true top-down structure. In some cases, that may be liberalized policies such as California allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana, the city of Galveston, Texas to opt out of social security for their retirement plans, or states like Massachusetts recognizing gay marriages. These are all things that individual states or localities are doing to increase personal freedoms.

But there’s a big negative. Many policies undertaken by individual states inimical to individual freedom. For example, the trend to outlaw smoking in private businesses would be a simple example. Another fairly innocuous example would be the crazy alcohol “blue laws” dotting the nation, many of which have absolutely no justification and are simply a way to appease special interests at the expense of freedom. On a more serious note would be the “Jim Crow” laws, or if you’re looking for a modern incarnation, Massachusetts’ new health-care plan. States are laboratories for new policies, but those policies are not always pro-freedom.

Central Government:

The benefit of central government mandates are simple: if the central government does something right, it can immediately apply that across the country. Many of our Constitutional amendments have followed this path, such as the 24th, eliminating a poll tax. It was a way to end an immoral form of discrimination in a place which sorely needed it. Similarly, while the 14th amendment may have opened the door to some very strange unintended consequences, the idea is purely in favor of liberty: to make sure that individual states and localities cannot engage in unfair discriminates against individuals based on things such as race or gender.

But again, there’s a big negative. As co-contributor tarran quoted Barry Goldwater to me in a discussion on this topic, “The government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it all away.” Look no further than the government’s failed attempt at Prohibition, a distinctly anti-freedom policy that might have been proven to be damaging if done in individual states that was instead foisted on the entire nation. Even worse, our central government has the potential to cut down individual states’ pro-freedom policies at the knees, as we saw in Raich.

So what’s best?

Well, the ideal government would be a single world government that was only powerful enough to protect freedom but disciplined enough not to infringe on individual freedom for the “common good”. However, such a government has never existed, will never exist, and with the incentives inherent in government, can never exist. So looking at the ideal government is not a useful way to answer this question.

The best way to answer this question is to ask how federalism relates to individual freedom. I used “vs.” in the title of this post for a reason. Of course, I don’t believe that federalism works contrary to individual freedom. However, I don’t think it necessarily works FOR individual freedom either. Federalism is only a tool for individual freedom if the people in a region believe in individual freedom, likewise a strong central government is only as damaging to individual freedom as the populace allows it to become.

Where federalism does shine, however, is in giving individuals choice over what mix of freedom and of taxation/regulation they prefer. However, as the differences in politics between the “liberal” and “conservative” states show, federalism does not automatically equal liberty. In states like California, there are large degrees of personal freedom, but not much economic freedom. In states such as Georgia, there is a large degree of economic freedom, but the level of social conservatism circumscribes personal freedoms. All this occurs in the spheres of control outside those of the central government, and I see no reason to believe this would not be the case if the central government were weakened.

The problem, whether you look at the central government or individual states, is that the government will only be as pro-liberty as the populace it represents. If you’re in Massachusetts, you just might get a weak version of socialized medicine through “mandatory coverage”. If you’re in Alaska, you may find nearly non-existent government that actually pays you out of oil revenues to live there.

But as I mentioned, if you then have a choice between Massachusetts and Alaska, you have a lot more choice than between America and Australia. The closer in proximity those choices become, for example between Taxachusetts and the Free State, and the better it will be for lovers of liberty. And the weaker the central government is, the more differentiation there will be between more-free and less-free states.

Federalism is not a panacea that will solve our nation’s problems. It’s a step in the right direction, but it must always be remembered that the message must be about freedom, not about federalism. Federalism is a potential means to the end, but it is not the end in itself.

The Real Immigration Problem

The New York Times had an editorial this morning about the real problem with immigration in this country. The fact that many people who want to become Americans are forced to suffer with long delays before getting naturalized and residence visas.

The agency, Citizenship and Immigration Services, is telling legal immigrants that applications for citizenship and for residence visas filed after June 1 will take about 16 to 18 months to process. The agency was utterly unprepared for the surge, and so tens of thousands of Americans-in-waiting will have to keep on waiting. Many, gallingly, may have to sit out next November’s election, even though that civic act was what prompted many of them to apply in the first place.

This was not supposed to happen. The director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Emilio Gonzalez, promised this summer that the era of bad, slow service was over. He said a whopping increase in fees that took effect July 30 — an average of about 66 percent across the board, with naturalization now costing $675 per person, up from $400 — was about to make his agency fit for the 21st century. Speaking to newly naturalized immigrants, Mr. Gonzalez promised immediate results.

One immediate result was entirely predictable: people rushed to get their paperwork in. The agency received nearly 2.5 million naturalization petitions and visa applications in July and August, more than double from those months last year. But Mr. Gonzalez’s spokesman, Bill Wright, told Julia Preston in Friday’s Times: “We certainly were surprised by such an immediate increase.” Surprised and swamped. The agency’s processing center in Vermont is only now acknowledging naturalization petitions that came in by July 30.

It’s telling that we need to explain that this backlog is distinct from the other backlogs that plague the citizenship agency. This is not the visa overload that causes people in some countries, like the Philippines and Mexico, to wait decades to enter legally. Those backlogs are caused by visa quotas that no one has seen fit to adjust. Nor are they the chronic delays in conducting criminal background checks that have kept thousands of immigrants in limbo for months, even years.

Many of those immigrants have given up on the agency and sought redress in the courts. There has been a spate of decisions by judges who found that delays by the Federal Bureau of Investigation are unreasonable — three years is too long to wait to have the government decide if you are a criminal — and have ordered the bureaucracy to do its job. Judge Nathaniel Gorton of the Federal District Court in Boston became so fed up last month with a delayed background check that he simply gave a plaintiff, Ahmed Dayisty, the oath of citizenship.

Maybe before we decide to build a wall on the Mexican border and start ranting again about illegal aliens, maybe we should increase or better yet eliminate visa quotas and make sure wannabe legal immigrants have their background checks and visa applications processed in a timely manner.

h/t: Jon Henke @ QandO

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Another Reason Why Ron Paul Is Having Problems

Ron Paul is one of the few presidential candidates in any party running on a platform of immediate withdrawal from Iraq. However, the Pew Research Center conducted a poll on Nov. 20-26 which asked various questions on Iraq:

The results were:

Do you think the U.S. should keep military troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized, or do you think
the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible?

Bring Troops Home: 54%

Keep Troops In Iraq: 41%

Don’t Know: 5%

and then, respondents were asked how long it should take to withdraw forces from Iraq:

Immediate Withdrawal: 16%

Gradual Withdrawal: 36%

Don’t Know: 2%

Given how little public support there is for his position, especially in the Republican party; Paul should use his debate appearances to work on the issues where there is support in the Republican party for: fiscal responsibility, limited government, and federalism.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Religious Tolerance, Teddy Bears, And The Insanity Of Sharia Law

Today, an English teacher who went to Sudan to teach was sentenced to jail and deportation for letting her students name a teddy bear Muhammed:

KHARTOUM, Sudan (CNN) — A Sudanese court found a British teacher guilty of inciting religious hatred and sentenced her to 15 days imprisonment Thursday for allowing a teddy bear to be named “Mohammed,” British authorities and her lawyer reported.

Gillian Gibbons also faces deportation from Sudan after her prison term, her lawyer told CNN. He said he was “very disappointed” with the verdict and that Gibbons planned to appeal.

Gibbons, 54, was arrested Sunday after she asked her class of 7-year-olds in Khartoum to name the stuffed animal as part of a school project, the British Foreign Office said. She had faced charges under Article 125 of Sudan’s constitution, the law relating to insulting religion and inciting hatred.

Although there is no ban in the Quran on images of Allah or the Prophet Mohammed, Islam’s founder, likenesses are considered highly offensive by Muslims.

And, of course, the fact that its offensive gives them the right to punish people, right ?

Wait a minute, isn’t that the same thing the FCC said about Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction ?

Open Thread: How Do We Stop Mike Huckabee?

Today’s open thread is about how those of who support limited government can stop Mike Huckabee.

To spur the creative juices, here’s Mike at his finest:

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

War On Drugs Update: Afghanistan Edition

Afghan leaders, prompted by the United States discourage farmers from growing opium, so they switch to alternative plants:

KABUL, Afghanistan — The fields of Balkh province in northern Afghanistan were free of opium poppies this year, a success touted often by Afghan and international officials. But one look at Mohammad Alam’s fields uncovers an emerging drug problem.

Ten-foot-tall cannabis plants flourish in Alam’s fields. The crop — the source of both marijuana and hashish — can be just as profitable as opium but draws none of the scrutiny from Afghan officials bent on eradicating poppies.

Cannabis cultivation rose 40 percent in Afghanistan this year, to 173,000 acres from 123,550 in 2006, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime estimated in its 2007 opium survey. The crop is being grown in at least 18 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, according to the survey released last month.

“The government cannot provide a good market for other crops like cotton, watermelon and vegetables, so I have to grow marijuana instead of poppy,” said Alam, a farmer in Balkh province, which the U.N. singles out as a “leading example” of an opium-free area.

Gen. Khodaidad, Afghanistan’s acting counter-narcotics minister, said the government doesn’t yet have a good handle on marijuana.

In unrelated news, an incredibly large number of people from San Francisco have volunteered to go to Afghanistan.

H/T: Hit & Run

The Marathon Is Becoming A Sprint

Thirty Five days from today, Iowa voters will caucus and the 2008 Presidential primary season will start. Five days later, New Hampshire will hold it’s primary earlier in the year than ever before. And, then, four weeks later, 20 states will hold primaries on what some pundits are referring to as Super Duper Tuesday. By the time Super Tuesday is over, more than 50% of the delegates needed to win the Republican nomination will have been chosen and it’s likely that the race will have narrowed to two, maybe three, candidates who have a realistic chance of winning the nomination.

So where does the race stand today ?

If you look at the national polls, Giuliani still leads but Romney is moving up in his rearview mirror:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows Rudy Giuliani with 24% support in the race for the Republican Presidential Nomination. Four candidates are closely bunched in a battle for second place nationally–Mitt Romney is supported by 15% John McCain by 14%, Mike Huckabee at 12% and Fred Thompson at 11%. Ron Paul’s attracts 5% of Likely Republican Primary voters nationwide and no other Republican candidate reaches 2%

Granted, Rasmussen is only one poll, but it’s the most recent one released and it appears to be consistent with other polls released to date.

In Iowa, it’s a slightly different story. Romney has been in the lead for the past several months, but a guy named Mike Huckabee has been sneaking up and may have passed him:

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of the Iowa caucus finds former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee with 28% of the vote, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney with 25% support, and everyone else far behind. National frontrunner Rudy Giuliani gets just 12% of the vote in Iowa at this time while former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson is the only other candidate in double digits at 11%

Polling in Iowa has traditionally been difficult, but this Rasmussen poll is consistent with other Iowa polls and consistent with something we’ve seen since August —- for better or worse, Mike Huckabee is poised to do well in Iowa.

In New Hampshire the results look like this

  1. Romney — 34%
  2. Giuliani — 20%
  3. McCain — 13%
  4. Paul — 8%
  5. Huckabee — 7%
  6. Thompson — 2%

Giuliani is apparently planning to make a push in New Hampshire, but its unclear that it would be enough to make up for a lead that Romney has consistently maintained for months. The more interesting question will be — what happens to Romney if Huckabee beats him in Iowa ? My guess is that some number of Romney voters will look elsewhere.

Finally, there’s the Super Tuesday states:

In states holding Primaries or Caucuses on February 5, the races for the Republican and Democratic Presidential nominations look broadly similar to the competition on a national level.

In the race for the Republican Presidential nomination, Rudy Giuliani attracts 27% in the February 5 states and holds a double digit lead. Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thomson and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee are tied for second with 14% support. Arizona Senator John McCain is close behind at 11% while former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney earns the vote from 10% of Likely Primary Voters in these states. Texas Congressman Ron Paul is supported by 4%

Obviously, this is an average of results from 20 states and each state holds its own primary but it shows something very interesting. While Giuliani remains in the lead, the principal challenge in these primarily southern and western states comes not from  Mitt Romney, but from Mike Huckabee, the guy who nobody thought would amount to anything. As much as it pains me to admit it, his campaign isn’t going away anytime soon.

Based on the above, here’s my entirely unscientific prediction of where things will stand on February 6, 2008 in terms of the race for delegates:

  • In first place, though perhaps not by a large margin —- Rudy Giuliani.
  • In second place —- Mike Huckabee
  • Close behind in third —- Mitt Romney
  • Paul, McCain, and Thompson (if he’s still in the race) will make up the rest of the pack

Feel free to link to this article on February 7th if I’m proven to be wrong.

Right-wing Progressivism

Jonah Goldberg wraps on Mike Huckabee on NRO TV.

Here is part of the transcript:

I think people are focusing way too much on Ron Paul when the real threat is Mike Huckabee.
[…]
He believes that the government, the federal government, the government in Washington is there to be used to do any and all good things wherever, whenever he can. And it is essentially, in terms of it’s methodology and means, it is very, very similar to what conservatives see in liberalism. This use of big government to create the ideal society. I think the best example of that would be his support for a nationwide, federal smoking ban…enforced by the federal government, which I think is an outrageous sort of sacreligious affront to traditional conservatism’s understand about the role of the federal government.
[…]
When it comes to economic issues, he is hard to distinguish from all sort of different brands of liberals. He is hostile to free trade. He is very friendly to raising taxes. He believes in regulation wherever necessary. He thinks abortion must remain a federal national issue, can’t send it back to the states. And that’s what I mean by “right-wing progressive.” He wants to use government towards conservative ends. He says it’s a biblical duty to fight global warming. The problem with someone like Huckabee is that he much like, in my mind, a liberal sees no dogmatic constitutional limits on the “do-goodery” of the federal government. Whatever he thinks is the right thing for the federal government to do, if he thinks there’s a good thing that can be done by the federal government, he wants the federal government to do it whether it’s constitutional or in accordance with principles of limited government. And maybe what he wants to isn’t what a cultural liberal would want to do but he still wants to use the government the same way. It’s big government conservatism. And that, I think, is the real threat these days to conservatism.

Two things this brings to mind. The first is that I had a conversation several months ago with a State Senator from here in Georgia where he said that Giuliani was the real threat to the Republican Party, mainly due to his stance on abortion, and that Huckabee was never going to have any impact on the race so there was no real need to worry about his liberal record on fiscal issues. Fast forward to today…I was right.

The second is that Goldberg’s point about what “right-wing progressivism” and Mike Huckabee is right on target. The idea that government should shape and mold the type of society that we should live in pretty much defines the progressive era.

Republican CNN/YouTube Debate Roundup And Reaction

Well, that was a complete and total waste of about two hours of my life.

Tonight, the Republican candidates for President (not including Alan Keyes, who’s campaign has somehow gotten my email address and decided to bombard me with daily updates) gathered in Florida for their version of 2008’s latest fad……..a bunch of inane debate questions asked by people with webcams.

I’m sure that the professionals will have their own opinions of how things went but here’s my reaction, grouped by candidate, influenced by Cabernet Sauvignon, and in no particular order:

Mitt Romney: I’ll hand it to Romney, he certainly looks the part of President. And, for the most part, he seemed to come across as the kind of candidate that would do well in a national election. In the course of a two hour debate, however, we were treated to evidence of three times that Romney has changed his position on an issue of importance to conservative Republicans in the last three years. On abortion, he used to be pro-choice and now he claims to be pro-life…..he attributes this to a “mistake.” On immigration, his policy as Governor of Massachusetts accommodated illegal immigrants, and now he claims to be tough on illegal immigration. And, finally, back in 1994 he said that gay men and women should be permitted to serve in the Armed Forces and, tonight, even when confronted by a retired Brigadier General who happened to be gay, he parroted the same nonsense about gays in the military that we’ve heard from Republicans since 1993.

Rudy Giuliani: For a front-runner, Giuliani seemed surprisingly on the defensive. When Anderson Cooper confronted him with a question about the story that had broken late today about questionable charges by his security team when he was Mayor of New York, he dodged the question quite badly. He was put on the defensive early thanks to three questions in a row on immigration and New York City’s status as a “sanctuary city”; which led to an exchange between Giuliani and Romney about some allegation that Romney employed illegal immigrants…..or maybe that he hired someone who may have employed illegal immigrants. Whatever.

John McCain: McCain struck me tonight as a man who knows that his campaign is pretty much over but is staying in the race to make a point. On at least two points, he said things that struck me as right. On immigration, he refused to join in the immigrant bashing along with Giuliani, Romney, Tancredo, and Hunter and pretty much condemned them for it. Without coming out and saying it, McCain said something that no Republican ever will — there is simply no way that the 12 million people here illegally are going to be deported. That’s not what America is about.

The other issue where McCain took an admirable stand was waterboarding. In response to a direct question, Mitt Romney, refused to say that waterboarding was torture. McCain, who strikes me as the only man on the stage tonight who knows what real torture is, took him to task for it, and rightly so.

Mike Huckabee: I still don’t get what the big deal is about this guy. He isn’t saying anything different from anyone else, and his record in Arkansas makes it fairly clear that his not a fiscal conservative. He didn’t do anything tonight to change my mind.

Ron Paul: In all honesty, I’m pretty sure that tonight may be the night that Ron Paul pretty much guaranteed that whatever chance he had of winning the Republican nomination went out the window.

Let me count the ways.

In one of the few YouTube questions directed specifically to him, he seemed to confirm that he believes the nonsensical stories about some conspiracy, of whatever variety, to create a so-called North American Union. Then, in the second hour, he used a phrase in response to a question about foreign policy that I’m convinced will be used against him when he said that we have to take care of “America first.” It doesn’t take too much creative thought on the part of someone to draw a parallel to the last group of people who used that phrase — and they haven’t exactly been proven right by history. Beyond that, I’ve got to say that I don’t think that he did much better in this debate than he did in the MSNBC debate back in October. And this time, the audience seemed far less receptive.

After tonight, I can honestly say that I think that any chance that Ron Paul will be taken seriously by mainstream Republicans is pretty much gone.

Duncan Hunter: Other than advising one YouTube questioner about gun safety, I can honestly say there isn’t anything memorable about anything Congressman Hunter said.

Fred Thompson: Honestly, I forgot to include him in the original version of this post, and that’s probably a reflection of the impression he made on me. If nothing else, this debate just confirmed for me that he’s not the candidate that political junkies such as myself thought he would be back in May. He still doesn’t seem to be totally into the race, and I don’t think he’ll last past Super Tuesday.

Tom Tancredo: For the first half-hour of this debate Congressman Tancredo was in his glory. Three questions in a row, and arguably the fourth, dealt with pretty much the only issue he’s campaigned on —- immigration. Other than that, he didn’t make that much of an impact, although he did have the best line of the night when he said, in response to one YouTubers question about which candidates would promise to put a man on Mars by 2025 “We can’t afford some things, and going to Mars is one of them.”

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much what the night was reduced to is a bunch of one-liners. Then again, I’m not sure why we should have expected anything different.

Cross-posted at Below The Beltway

Further debate reaction from fellow contributer Kevin Boyd. Meanwhile, Brad Warbiany wonders why Ron Paul’s fund-raising success hasn’t impressed the traders at Intrade. Quite frankly, after tonight’s debate, I think I know why.

GOP You Tube Wrap-Up

Tonight, the Republicans had their YouTube debate. I recommend my co-blogger Jason’s live blog about it.

Basically, I think tonight ended some bids for the White House and it gave some dark horse candidates a boost.

Winners: (In order of best to worst)

Mike Huckabee:

He was outstanding in his delivery on all the questions. He has reduced the campaign down to one-liners and quips. Huckabee earned his spot on the ticket tonight, unfortunately. The only question is, which position.

John McCain:

He hit home runs on Iraq and torture. He also criticized Republicans for spending too much. He acted presidential.

Rudy Giuliani:

He did what he needed to do, which was not screwup. His YouTube video was the best of the night.

Losers: (In order of worst to best)

Mitt Romney:

Constantly flip-flopped on everything from immigration to religion to gays. His campaign is pretty much over.

Ron Paul:

Came off as a raving lunatic when talking about well…everything. Except, his response to the last question, which was excellent and the response of agencies to eliminate, except when he went on a tangent about Iraq and set up a home run opportunity for McCain. The criticism of the Iraq War sounded like a “Blame America first” response. Also, Ron Paul missed numerous opportunities to make a cause for the free market and fiscal responsibility and ceded that ground to McCain and others. Paul made no impact with Republican voters tonight but he’ll stay in the top tier because he kept his supporters fired up. Also, the Ronulans that were there drowned out McCain when he responded to Paul and that will not go well with Republican voters.

Fred Thompson:

He didn’t stand out overall, but when he did, it was because he was too mean. His YouTube video was the worst of the night. Fred Thompson needed a good performance and he didn’t deliver. His campaign is over as he’ll now fall off the top tier.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Why Is Ron Paul Slipping On Intrade?

I’ve long been a fan of Intrade, as I’ve pointed out here, here, and here. I’ve noted that Ron Paul, for quite some time, has been trading higher on Intrade than he’s been polling.

But something recently changed, and rather inexplicably. When the Ron Paul advocates raised $4.2M in one day, I expected to see a big bump in his share price on Intrade. But it didn’t happen. Instead, from his peak of about a 9 share on that day, he’s now slipped to roughly 5.5. Why?

Looking at the top candidates, I see that Giuliani has increased share at the expense of Romney, and McCain has held roughly constant. The only explanation that I can see is a surge by Huckabee. Huckabee has become the media darling as a dark horse candidate, and it seems the evangelicals are backing him pretty forcefully. Since they’re both dark horse candidates, I could see traders making a move towards Huckabee rather than Paul. The only other explanation I can see is that perhaps traders were expecting Paul’s money position to lead to poll results, which doesn’t seem to have materialized.

But perhaps I’m missing something. I know there are a lot of people who read this blog that are passionate about Ron Paul. Feel free to offer your own analysis in the comments, because I’m somewhat baffled.

John Edwards Doesn’t Trust The FDA

He won’t tell you this, though. In fact, he wants you to believe he’s here to help you, as part of the “other” America. But in fact, when he fights against advertising for drugs that have passed FDA certification on “safety” grounds, he’s implicitly telling you that he doesn’t believe the FDA is certifying drug safety:

Can we give John Edwards a taste of his own medicine?

One of the nostrums the Edwards presidential campaign proposes is a two-year ban on advertising for prescription drugs. Even if a drug makes it through the FDA’s hurdles, Edwards wants to prohibit the drug company from telling you about it for two more years.

Why this assault on First Amendment rights? Edwards says it’s to “prevent television ads from driving consumers to drugs that haven’t been proven safe.”

I’m sure my fellow libertarian bloggers will attack Edwards as being an opponent of freedom of speech, and generally willing to substitute his own opinion for ours. In fact, I assume that if the healthcare plan Kevin posted about were to get passed, Edwards would personally determine what drugs you need to take and then hire federal marshals to forcibly administer them. But that’s just the kind-hearted sort of guy he is.

What I’d rather focus on is his implicit acknowledgment of a fact that we are all painfully aware: the FDA is not exactly a foolproof gateway certifying drug safety. Of course, expecting them to be foolproof is something only a fool would do. Prescription drugs are all unsafe to various degrees. But the FDA assumes that the power to determine exactly what level of danger is acceptable resides within their walls.

John Edwards is suggesting that drugs should be available to patients before they’re proven safe, and those patients should be the guinea pigs of testing before the manufacturers are allowed to advertise the drugs. If that’s the case, what use is the FDA? If John Edwards believes the FDA doesn’t do an adequate job of certifying drug safety, why don’t we allow individuals to choose what level of danger they find personally acceptable?

If taking away our freedom through the FDA isn’t actually keeping us safe, Edwards would never give us the freedom to determine for ourselves what is safe. After all, he thinks we’re simply sheep, being “driven” to pharmaceuticals because we saw them on TV. You really want to know what Edwards thinks of you?

I love the ads,” a sarcastic Edwards told voters at a town hall meeting at Rundlett Middle School in Concord. “Buy their medicine, take it and the next day you and your spouse will be skipping through the fields.”

The message is: “you’re too dumb to think for yourself, so let me do it for you”. It’s a sad day when the candidate who actually has principles and ideas languishes in the polls, while the charlatans like Edwards who unabashedly pander to the lowest common denominator are polling at 23% in Iowa.

John Edwards Demands You Have Healthcare

Trial lawyer and Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards revealed how he will force all Americans to enroll in Edwardscare:

“I’m mandating healthcare for every man woman and child in America and that’s the only way to have real universal healthcare.”

“Evertime you go into contact with the helathcare system or the govenment you will be signed up.”

During a press avail following the event Edwards reiterated his mandate:

“Basically every time they come into contact with either the healthcare system or the government, whether it’s payment of taxes, school, going to the library, whatever it is they will be signed up.”

When asked by a reporter if an individual decided they didn’t want healthcare Edwards quickly responded, “You don’t get that choice.”

Of course the solution to avoid Edwardscare is don’t pay taxes, keep the kids out of government schools, and stay out of government libraries. If you want to go farther to avoid Edwardscare, use gold and silver as currency, become as self-sufficient as possible, and keep enough firepower on hand to defend yourself against all enemies.

Edwards, if elected, may find that he’s unleashed a hornets nest with his little healthcare mandate.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

A Small Win For Privacy

Amazon user data request dropped

Federal prosecutors have withdrawn a subpoena seeking the identities of thousands of people who bought used books through online retailer Amazon.com Inc., newly unsealed court records show.

The withdrawal came after a judge ruled that the customers had a 1st Amendment right to keep their reading habits from the government.

“The [subpoena’s] chilling effect on expressive e-commerce would frost keyboards across America,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker wrote.

“The subpoena is troubling because it permits the government to peek into the reading habits of specific individuals without their knowledge or permission,” Crocker wrote. “It is an unsettling and un-American scenario to envision federal agents nosing through the reading lists of law-abiding citizens while hunting for evidence against somebody else.”

In the days of warrant-less wiretaps, and PATRIOT act concerns that the feds may be snooping on your public library records, it’s nice to see that someone is still willing to step up and protect the rights of individuals.

It’s a small step, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Libertarianism And Non-Interventionism

Megan McArdle has a post up outlining the divide that developed among libertarians over foreign policy in the wake of the Iraq War:

A real non-interventionist has to accept that the United States should not have entered into World War II. Yes, Japan attacked us, but they did so because we were encroaching on their sphere of influence. Had we actually kept the navy within our territory, Japan would never have attacked, and we would never have entered World War II. And no, I’m not convinced by arguments that our intervention in WWI brought about WWII; our role, other than urging France and Britain to mitigate their vengeance, was fairly minor. Moreover, since we’re not starting from some blank, non-interventionist slate now, this is not a compelling argument against entering into World War II at the time of World War II.

Some libertarians do accept that (as does Pat Buchanan). Most, especially the more moderate breed nurtured post-Reagan, can’t accept a philosophy which means we should have allowed more millions to die in concentration camps, left the Russians and British to starve without lend-lease, etc. Their minds also turn to wondering how the American Revolution might have turned out had the French government adopted a similarly modest foreign policy.

If you are not willing to posit that Americans should stay home even when millions are being senselessly slaughtered, then you end up in sticky pragmatic arguments about the possibilities of inherently untrustworthy state power to counteract even more noxious state power, and how much in the way of cost we can reasonably be expected to bear in order to advance liberty. I don’t think there’s an inherently libertarian answer to those questions. Libertarians should be inherently more suspicious of the American government’s ability to make things better than other groups–but by the same token, it seems to me that they should be inherently more suspicious of repulsive states such as the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

Keep in mind that when we use the word “intervention,” it can mean any number of things such as cutting off diplomatic relations, joining in international pressure directed at a regime that is repressing its citizens, leading or joining in an economic boycott against that regime, supporting an internal opposition aimed at overthrowing that regime, all the way up to direct military action. This is important because the answer to the “should we intervene” question depends, in no small degree, on the type of intervention we’re talking about.

The question that McArdle’s post raises, of course, is when, if ever, the fact that a state like Iraq is violating the rights of its citizens justifies intervention in their internal affairs. If the answer is that the existence of a repressive regime is per se justification for intervention, then you’ve basically adopted a neo-conservative/Wilsonian idea of foreign policy, with all the attendant disasters that come from it. And here I disagree with McArdle in one respect — the negative impact that Wilsonian interventionism had on World War I, or more specifically on the peace that followed, clearly did have an influence on the events that led to another World War less than 30 years later. If the United States had stayed out of World War I and not intervened in the peace negotiations in Versailles that ended the war, then the treaty that ended the Great War would have, most likely, been far less punitive toward Germany, and that alone could have prevented the rise of Naziism.

If the answer to McArdle’s question is that intervention is never justified unless the United States is directly threatened, and even sometimes not even in that case, then you’ve basically adopted the position of the isolationists prior to World War II, who would have apparently been okay with Europe falling under Nazi rule and every Jew being sent to their death.

I don’t think that there’s an easy answer to this question and, in part, it depends on the kind of intervention that is being talked about.

Absent a direct threat to the United States or its interests, military action against, say, Burma, would not be justified; but that doesn’t mean that it would be impermissible under libertarian principles for the United States to suspend diplomatic relations with the Burmese junta, or to impose economic sanctions against the country in retaliation for their repression of the pro-democracy movement. Similarly, though less convincingly, the no-fly zones that were imposed in the northern and southern Iraq from the end of the First Gulf War until the U.S. invasion in March 2003 were arguably justifiable as means to protect the Kurdish and Shiite minorities that had been terrorized by Saddam Hussein’s forces.

Since there are gradations of “intervention”, many of which fall short of direct or indirect military action, I don’t think it makes sense to say that “intervention” can be judged by a specific set of principles or that “intervention” is always per se unjustified. Again, if you make the former argument they you are essentially saying that the United States should have stood by and done nothing in the years prior to World War II while the Nazis rolled over Europe — because Lend-Lease would have been a violation of a policy of strict non-interventionism.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not an outcome that I could accept.

Chavez threatens property of opponents

Atlas continues to shrug in Venezuela:

The Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, today threatened to strip the country’s industrialists of their assets if they continued to oppose his indefinite presidency.

Chávez faces a vote at the weekend on his proposals to change 69 articles of the constitution, including scrapping the limit on the number of terms a president can serve.

Venezuela’s largest business chamber, Fedecámaras, to which thousands of large and small businesses belong, has called the planned reforms an “illegal act”, and called on voters to oppose their passage “by every possible legal means”.

Where’s Jimmy Carter when you need him!!!

Lou Dobbs Is Winning

David Brooks argues in the New York Times that the nativist, anti-free trade, anti-immigrant message of Lou Dobbs is winning the battle for hearts and minds:

Once there was a majority in favor of liberal immigration policies, but apparently that’s not true anymore, at least if you judge by campaign rhetoric. Once there was a bipartisan consensus behind free trade, but that’s not true anymore, either. Even Republicans, by a two-to-one majority, believe free trade is bad for America, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll.

Once upon a time, the fact that hundreds of millions of people around the world are rising out of poverty would have been a source of pride and optimism. But if you listen to the presidential candidates, improvements in the developing world are menacing. Their speeches constitute a symphony of woe about lead-painted toys, manipulated currencies and stolen jobs.

And if Dobbsianism is winning when times are good, you can imagine how attractive it’s going to seem if we enter the serious recession that Larry Summers convincingly and terrifyingly forecasts in yesterday’s Financial Times. If the economy dips as seriously as that, the political climate could shift in ugly ways.

And this is despite the fact, as Brooks notes, that the things Lou Dobbs and his ilk say are demonstrably, provably wrong:

[D]espite the ups and downs of the business cycle, the United States still possesses the most potent economy on earth.

(…)

In the World Economic Forum survey, the U.S. comes in just ahead of Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Germany (China is 34th). The U.S. gets poor marks for macroeconomic stability (the long-term federal debt), for its tax structure and for the low savings rate. But it leads the world in a range of categories: higher education and training, labor market flexibility, the ability to attract global talent, the availability of venture capital, the quality of corporate management and the capacity to innovate.

(…)

[T]he number of jobs actually lost to outsourcing is small, and recent reports suggest the outsourcing trend is slowing down. They are swamped by the general churn of creative destruction. Every quarter the U.S. loses somewhere around seven million jobs, and creates a bit more than seven million more. That double-edged process is the essence of a dynamic economy.

And it gets better from there. But you don’t here that if you tune into Lou Dobbs’ nativist screed, or pick up the latest doom-and-gloom book from Pat Buchanan. To them, it is precisely the things that makes America strongest — it’s open economy, it’s willingness to accept new immigrants, and it’s openness to international trade and competition — that are leading to its destruction.

It’s the same nonsense we’ve heard before, really, but, this time, it seems to be gaining adherents in the mainstream of American politics.  And, Brooks is absolutely right about one thing — if the nativists like Dobbs and Buchanan continue to gain credibility, then things really will get ugly when the next recession rolls around.

Mitt Romney’s Religious Test

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has stated that he would not appoint an otherwise qualified person who happened to be Muslim to his cabinet if he became President:

I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that “jihadism” is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, “…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.”

Romney, whose Mormon faith has become the subject of heated debate in Republican caucuses, wants America to be blind to his religious beliefs and judge him on merit instead. Yet he seems to accept excluding Muslims because of their religion, claiming they’re too much of a minority for a post in high-level policymaking. More ironic, that Islamic heritage is what qualifies them to best engage America’s Arab and Muslim communities and to help deter Islamist threats.

Romney’s reasoning for excluding Muslim’s from the cabinet, based apparently on their representation in the general population is, to say the least peculiar; especially when you consider that there are apparently more American Muslims than there are American Jews. So even if you accepted Romney’s inane suggestion that the makeup of the cabinet must somehow mirror American society, Romney’s position wouldn’t be consistent with reality.

More importantly, Romey’s blanket ban on Muslim cabinet members would appear to be unconstitutional. Specifically, Article VI states in part:

[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

In a Romney Administration, the religious test would be pretty straight-forward — you can serve in my Administration as long as you’re not a Muslim.

Of course, it’s ironic that Romney, whose Mormon faith has been, unfairly in my opinion, mentioned on several occasions as a reason we should be concerned about him, should be the one to say that someone’s religious faith per se disqualifies them from serving in his Administration. More than once, in fact, Romney has stated that his faith should not be an issue in the campaign.

But who ever said hypocritical politicians were something new on the scene ?

Update: The New York Times is reporting that Romney says that he was either misquoted or misunderstood:

“His question was: ‘Do I need to have a Muslim in my Cabinet to be able to confront radical jihad and would it be important to have a Muslim in my Cabinet?’” Mr. Romney said, according to ABC News. “And I said no. I don’t think that you have to have a Muslim in the Cabinet to be able to take on radical jihad.”

To be fair to Romney, this explanation would seem to be consistent with the tone of the original article, in which the author basically argues that we should put Muslim’s in the cabinet because failing to do so could lead to another terrorist attack:

[Romney], and other candidates for the presidency from both political parties, should actively begin searching for American Muslims and Arab Americans who can serve in primary decisionmaking cabinet level posts. To do otherwise is to risk promulgating policies that once again put the US straight in the sights of the terrorists who seek to bring America down.

This is, of course, an absurd suggestion. The only considering that President’s need to give in selecting appointees is (1) is the person qualified for the position in question and (2) are they in basic agreement with my agenda ? Everything else, including the religious faith, or lack thereof, of the candidate in question, is irrelevant.

Update No.2: It looks like Mitt’s flip-flopping on this story may get him in more trouble than the comment itself:

Presidential canidate Mitt Romney has discounted appointing Muslims to his cabinet on more than just the one occasion reported in a CSM op-ed yesterday.

TPM Election Central has learned that at a private fundraising lunchleon in LV three months ago, Romney said he would probably not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet and made other comments that one witness described as “racist.”

Making this story potentially worse for Romney, the witnesses, Irma Aguirre, a former finance director of the Nevada Republican Party, paraphrased Romney as saying: “They’re radical. There’s no talking to them. There’s no negotiating with them.”

A second witness, a self-described local registered Republican named George Harris, confirmed her account.

The sad truth of the matter is that there’s enough anti-Muslim bigotry out there that Romney’s remark may not hurt him at all in the primaries.

H/T: James Joyner

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