Monthly Archives: December 2007

John Stossel & Ron Paul On Immigration

In the fourth part of their web-only interview, ABC’s John Stossel and Congressman Ron Paul talk about illegal immigration:

Paul, R-Texas, strongly opposes granting “amnesty” to the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States today. So I asked him what he’d do with all those immigrants. Would he try to arrest all of them?

“I don’t think anybody could find ‘em. I don’t think anybody knows where they are,” he said. “But if they come for welfare benefits, and you know they’re illegal, deny them the benefits.”

That’s the crux of Paul’s approach &3151; deny the immigrants the welfare and social services that many of them now receive.

“Get rid of the subsidies,” he said. “You subsidize illegal immigration, you get more of it.”

Paul, like most opponents of illegal immigration, seems to believe that one of the main reasons that immigrants come to the United States, whether legally or illegally, is to take advantage of welfare and other social service benefits. Frankly, I’m not so sure about that. Other than the fact that illegal immigrants will enroll their children, who are usually born here, in public schools, there doesn’t seem to be any real evidence that they use social services in any significant respect, or at a rate that is disproportionate with their percentage of the population. More likely, immigrants come here for the same reason immigrants have always come here; because there are jobs to do, whether it’s in the construction industry or elsewhere.

I agree with Congressman Paul that illegal immigrants should be denied welfare benefits, but then I think the whole welfare system should be scrapped anyway.

Paul also says that we should rethink the idea of birthright citizenship:

Paul also objects to the so-called birthright law, which grants automatic U.S. citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants in this country.

“I don’t like to reward people who sneak in for that purpose, and get on the welfare rolls,” he said.

(…)

“I think there’s confusion on interpreting the 14th Amendment,” he said. “It says that if you’re under the jurisdiction of the United States, you have a right to citizenship if you’re born here. If you step over the border and you’re illegal, are you really under the jurisdiction? There’s a question on that, and I want to clarify it.”

The problem with Paul’s position is that the text of Section 1 the 14th Amendment is fairly clear:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I really don’t see any ambiguity there. If you’re born in the United States, you are a citizen. And if you are physically within the territory of the United States, you are subject to it’s jurisdiction. There is no exception for the children of someone who came here illegally. If you want to change that, you have to amend the Constitution.

Ron Paul is less nativist that the rest of the GOP field when it comes to immigration, and there’s something to be said for that, but he’s far from perfect.

Previous Posts:

John Stossel Interviews Ron Paul On Legalizing Drugs And Prostitution
John Stossel Talks To Ron Paul On The Proper Role Of Government
John Stossel & Ron Paul On Foreign Policy

Repeal The Shoe Tax !

Shoe manufacturers and retailers are lobbying Congress to repeal a seventy year old tariff that has outlived it’s usefulness:

WASHINGTON – Footwear manufacturers and retailers are trying to end a Depression-era federal shoe tax, a move they say could save American consumers hundreds of millions of dollars annually and kick-start relatively flat footwear sales.

Trade associations and their members, such as Payless ShoeSource, Nike Inc. and Columbia Sportswear Co., have been lobbying U.S. lawmakers weekly since the summer to get them to exempt certain categories of footwear, including all children’s shoes, from the import tariffs that can run as high as 67.5 percent a pair.

(…)

Imposed in the 1930s, the tariffs were designed to protect a domestic manufacturing industry from cheap imports. But that industry has largely disappeared over the past 20 years, as manufacturing overseas has become easier and cheaper.

(…)

Of the 2.4 billion pairs of shoes Americans bought in 2006, nearly 99 percent were made overseas, mostly in China, according to the American Apparel & Footwear Association.

U.S. shoe tariffs are among the highest in the world, compared with the European Union’s 17 percent, Japan’s 10 percent or Chile’s 6 percent duties, according to the centrist Progressive Policy Institute.

So basically what’s happening is that the price you’re paying for shoes if you live in the United States is artificially high because of a tariff imposed in the 1930s to protect an industry that, for the most part, doesn’t even exist anymore.

This story also illustrates a point — import barriers are really just a tax on American consumers because, to a large degree, the cost of the tariff will be built into the retail price. This is especially true in the case of shoes where the market is almost totally dominated by foreign manufacturers so there is limited price competition from American companies. It is a tax on the poor and middle class.

So where are the nativist trade protectionists on this one ?

Memo To Congress: Stay Away From Baseball

Less than a day after former Senator George Mitchell issued his report on the use of steroids in baseball, two Congressman are calling for investigations and hearings:

About two hours after the report was released, two congressmen at the forefront of Capitol Hill’s involvement in the steroids issue asked Mitchell, Selig and Fehr to testify at a House committee hearing Tuesday.

California Democrat Henry Waxman and Virginia Republican Tom Davis the leaders of the panel that held the March 17, 2005, hearing at which Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Palmeiro testified want to know “whether the Mitchell Report’s recommendations will be adopted and whether additional measures are needed,” they said.

Also, a Congressional subcommittee will hold a hearing on Jan. 23 relating to steroid use in professional sports.

I know I’m being slightly naive in asking this question, but why does Congress need to get involved in this matter at all ? Let Major League Baseball decide how to deal with it, and let the fans decide how they are going to treat the players named in the report. Not every problem in the country demands a Congressional subcommittee’s attention, and this is certainly one of those times when Congress would be best advised to butt out.

John Stossel & Ron Paul On Foreign Policy

More than any other issue, it is foreign policy and, more specifically the War in Iraq that has propelled Ron Paul’s Presidential campaign. He is, after all, the only Republican candidate who has spoken against the war and against virtually the entire foreign policy that the Bush Administration has engaged in since taking office in January 2001.

It also happens to be the one issue where, to some degree, I part company with Ron Paul.

I agree with him that the War In Iraq was a fought for the wrong reasons, based on bad intelligence, and without a plan for victory. I also agree that we need to make bringing American forces there home as soon as possible our primary goal, and that we should not be establishing permanent basis in a country that is not known either for it’s stability, or it’s loyalty to American interests. I also agree that neoconservatism, with it’s focus on remaking the face of the world for democracy, is fundamentally mistaken; the sole focus of American foreign and military policy should be the protection of American interests, not the promotion of democracy or, to use a Cater-era phrase, “human rights.”

That said, I think Paul’s idea that we should withdraw American forces to the Continental United States and only concern ourselves with direct threats to the American homeland to be, well, naive. American interests extend further than just the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, and something that happens in another part of the world can still have an impact on the United States even if it doesn’t directly threaten us. We can’t just pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist except to respond to what we do — which, in effect, is what Paul says when he focuses on the idea that Islamic terrorism is nothing more than a response to American actions.

With that in mind, I don’t entirely agree with what Paul has to say in his interview with John Stossel on the issue on foreign policy:

Again, Paul is mostly right in his criticisms of America’s Post-Cold War foreign policy. Kosovo and the other interventions in the former Yugoslavia were completely unjustified interventions in internal civil wars. The same is true of Somalia. And Iraq, well, like I said, Iraq was a disaster from the beginning and it’s no surprise to me that it’s turned out the way that it has. The United States does not have an obligation to make the world safe for democracy; and the idea that we do has been responsible for more needless deaths of American soldiers than anything else in the past 100 years.

Previous Posts:

John Stossel Interviews Ron Paul On Legalizing Drugs And Prostitution
John Stossel Talks To Ron Paul On The Proper Role Of Government

Those Stupid Europeans

The next time you hear some politician telling you that America should be more like Europe, remember nonsense like this:

Amazon.com may not offer free delivery on books in France, the high court in Versailles has ruled.

The action, brought in January 2004 by the French Booksellers’ Union (Syndicat de la librairie française), accused Amazon of offering illegal discounts on books and even of selling some books below cost.

The court gave Amazon 10 days to start charging for the delivery of books, which should at least allow the company to maintain the offer through the end-of-year gift-giving season. After that, it must pay a fine of €1,000 (US$1,470) per day that it continues to offer free delivery. It must also pay €100,000 in compensation to the booksellers’ union.

Those familiar with the work of a Frenchman named Frederic Bastiat will recognize the similarity between this lawsuit and the candlemaker’s petition.

Why Capitalism Is Not Anti-Environment

To obtain shellfish, it’s often required dredging the sea floor. That’s a particularly nasty proposition, because it destroys reefs harboring complex ecosystems. And at the same time, it’s not particularly energy-efficient, and the damage done tends to also damage the shellfish recovered. However, a new type of non-invasive dredge is changing that (at least for scallops):

However, in one case—scallop trawling—Cliff Goudey of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reckons he has a solution. He and his team have designed a dredge that can dislodge scallops without touching the seafloor.

The dredge has several hemispheric scoops in place of the toothed bar. As it is pulled along, the scoops direct water downward. That creates a series of gentle jets that can shuffle the scallops from their resting places—but the streams of water are not powerful enough to damage the benthic zone’s long-term tenants. And the scoops swivel out of the way if they encounter anything solid, so the dredge does not destroy such protuberances. Best of all, from the fisherman’s point of view, it takes less effort to float a dredge on water jets than it does to drag it across the uneven surface of the seabed. That makes Dr Goudey’s new device a more fuel-efficient way to fish than the traditional method.

Having assessed a prototype both in a laboratory tank and in the sea off the coast of Massachusetts, Dr Goudey was recently invited by the University of Wales to test his invention against a traditional dredge. New and old designs were dropped from the stern of a trawler and towed across the seabed off the Isle of Man. They each caught the same number of scallops. The new dredge, though, damaged the catch much less than the traditional one.

Most of what humans do is considered damage to the environment, at least by the strongest of environmentalists. And unfortunately, with the old dredging technique, they have somewhat of a point. There was very little way to capture the externality of damage done to the environment. So the environmentalists resort to their only tactic: ban it immediately.

But look at what happens when the market is able to innovate? They find a better way of doing it. It catches the same number of scallops, so it’s just as effective. It uses less energy, so it makes more money. And even better, it causes less damage to the scallops, so they can likely be sold for a higher price (earning more money). So fishermen make more money, the environment is not damaged, and consumers get higher-quality scallops. We’ve all become richer– due to capitalism.

Quote Of The Day — Bush Strategerist Edition

From a “memo” in the Financial Times, where Karl Rove offers Obama advice on beating Hillary:

First, stop acting like a vitamindeficient Adlai Stevenson. Striking a pose of being high-minded and too pure will not work. Americans want to see you scrapping and fighting for the job, not in a mean or ugly way but in a forceful and straightforward way.

Wow, is Rove trying to help Obama because he thinks Obama is more beatable, or is just due to how much he absolutely hates the Clintons? Given some of the tone in his article, I think it’s the latter…

Democratic Des Moines Register Debate Round-Up And Reaction

You would have thought I learned my lesson yesterday, but I actually sat down and watched the entire 90 minutes of the Democratic candidates debate sponsored by The Des Moines Register and Iowa Public Television.

Same moderator. Same format. The only thing that was missing was Carolyn Washburn’s inane attempt to get all the candidates to raise their hand. Oh, the dumb questions were still there. For some reason, she asked Senator Chris Dodd if he was running for President because his father was censured for stealing campaign money, or something like that. And then there was that final question about New Year’s Resolution; here’s a memo Carolyn, we don’t care what Hillary Clinton’s New Year’s Resolution might be (now her resolution back in 1998 might have been interesting, but that’s another story).

As with the Republican debate, I think its fair to say that little of substance came out of this debate and that it served mostly as an opportunity for each of the candidates to repeat their stump speeches ad nauseum.

So, without further adieu and in no particular order, here we go:

Barack Obama: For all the talk about Obama being a breath of fresh air and the voice of a new generation, he really doesn’t say anything that Democrats haven’t been saying for ten years or more. From the budget to education to trade to farm subsidies, there’s nothing that Barack Obama would do that any other Democrat wouldn’t do.

That said, I can understand why he’s caught on in Iowa and elsewhere. He’s an extremely effective speaker and projects a far more pleasant image for the party than, say, Hillary does. In today’s debate, he was helped by the fact that there were no real questions of substance on foreign policy directed to him; that’s one area where he seems to be fairly weak and inexperienced.

John Edwards: If you closed your eyes when Edwards was talking, it was like you were transported back in time to the 2004 election because there’s nothing that Edwards is saying today that isn’t identical to what he said back then. It’s all about attacking the rich, the evil corporations, and of course the faceless elites. He mentioned that he’s been fighting these forces all his life but didn’t mention that he did so as a lawyer; probably a wise decision considering the esteem his profession is held in today. As for me, I just can’t get over the irony of a multi-millionaire trying to start a class war.

Hillary Clinton: Hillary came into this debate with her campaign in serious trouble. She is struggling to come in second in Iowa, has lost her lead in New Hampshire, and can see Barack Obama gaining on her in the national polls. At this point, she needs to defy expectations in Iowa, which means winning and winning decisively. This debate was her last chance to reach Iowa voters en masse before the holidays divert everyone’s attention and I just don’t think she did it. Her responses were formulaic and non-specific most of the time and, well, let’s just say that she clearly isn’t the best public speaker in the family.

Sixteen years ago, Bill Clinton lost Iowa and used his charisma (and the benefit of a relatively weak field of candidates) to win in New Hampshire and earn the title “The Comeback Kid.” Based on what we’ve seen from the Hillary Clinton campaign to date and what I saw at this debate, it’s clear that she’s doesn’t have Bill’s magic.

Bill Richardson: Beyond saying that his New Year’s Resolution was to lose weight, I can’t say that there was much of anything memorable about Richardson’s performance in this debate. He’s an able technocrat, no doubt, and I’m sure he’s done a passable job as Governor of New Mexico, but he’s just not Presidential. Heck, he’s not even Vice-Presidential.

Joe Biden: Biden gave us what was perhaps the most uncomfortable moment of the debate when Washburn asked him about the various comments he’s made over the years about Indians, inner city schools in Washington, D.C., and Barack Obama. Basically, she asked him if he was racist. Biden responded by saying that he just shoots his mouth off without thinking. Yea, that’s what we want in a President.

Chris Dodd: As noted above, Dodd participated in the most bizarre moment of the day when Washburn asked him if he was running for President to rehabilitate the legacy of his father, who was censured by the Senate back in 1970. Other than that, there really isn’t much else to say about Dodd other than the obvious — why are you running Chris ?

If today’s debate proved anything, it proved that yesterday was not a fluke. Whoever was responsible for the debate format has no idea about how to make interesting television — not surprising considering it was produced by PBS. The YouTube debate may have been silly, but at least it was interesting. These debates were like watching a group of philosophy professors debate Immanuel Kant. Important ? Perhaps, but completely and totally passionless.

Finally, there is one thing that is exceedingly clear to me after watching this debate. For all the talk about libertarian Democrats and all the faults of the Republican Party, there is no home in the Democratic Party for someone who believes in individual liberty, limited government, and free-market economics.

The differences between these candidates are mostly cosmetic and stylistic. They all believe in the same basic core principles and those principles involve increasing the size and scope of the government, involving it more in our daily lives, and taking away freedom of choice and property rights. There was no Ron Paul, or anything close to him, on that stage and the prospect that such a person will be welcome in Democratic politics anytime soon seems pretty non-existent.

Like it or not, if liberty minded Americans are going take over an American political party, they’ve really only got one choice.

Cross-Posted at Below The Beltway

The Ron Paul Republicans

Today’s Washington Post reports on something that I’m pretty sure is a first.

There’s a guy in Maryland campaigning for the Republican nomination for Maryland’s 4th Congressional District as a “Ron Paul Republican”:

In the past few election cycles, Republicans haven’t made much headway in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, which includes part of Montgomery County and most of Prince George’s County.

But Peter James, 52, isn’t running as just a regular Republican for the seat held by Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D). James is running as a Ron Paul Republican.

James said he is one of five congressional candidates running in Maryland at least in part to draw attention to the Texas representative, whose presidential campaign has been something of a grass-roots phenomenon. Paul advocates libertarian positions, including the abolishment of the federal income tax and the closure of many federal agencies. He opposes the war in Iraq.

James, a businessman from Germantown, said Paul will need allies in Congress if elected president. But, James said, even if his presidential candidate loses, the “Ron Paul message is stronger than the man himself.”

James acknowledged running with an “R” after his name will be tough, but he said at least a third of those who attend local weekly Ron Paul meet-ups identify themselves as liberal Democrats concerned with the growth of the federal government.

“We’re seeing disenchanted Democrats, who say ‘whether I elect Giuliani or Hillary, I’m getting the same thing,’ ” James said, referring to Republican hopeful Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). “I believe there’s a very strong contingent of voters out there who have been woken up by this message.”

I know I’ve been critical of the Paul campaign in the past, but this is exactly the kind of thing that needs to happen if things are going to change. Change isn’t going to come from the White House down, it’s going to come, as it always has, from the bottom up; and that means starting at the local level with City Council races, state legislative races, and Congressional races.

Now, let’s make no mistake about it; thanks to the political and demographic makeup of the 4th District, James has almost no chance of winning in a General Election against an incumbent like Wynn. But that doesn’t matter because even a losing campaign can accomplish something. It will be interesting to see if other Republican candidates across the country adopt this same strategy.

For those who are interested, James’ website can be found here.

John Stossel Talks To Ron Paul On The Proper Role Of Government

In the second part of his web-only interview of Congressman Ron Paul, ABC’s John Stossel talks about the proper role of government:

When Paul is asked to count off the major responsibilities of the federal government should have, he arrives at a surprisingly short list.

“Protect our freedoms. Have a strong national defense. Look and take care of our borders. Have a sound currency. … Protect our environment through private property rights. … That’s it,” Paul said.

Paul notes that when our country was founded, the role of the government was to protect the general welfare, enforce the rule of law in court, maintain property rights and allow for free markets and free trade — “not to run our lives, and run everything in the economy.”

It’s a habit of politicians to identify problems and try to “fix” them with new laws and bureaucracies.

While some of these reforms may be well-intended, says Paul, “good intentions won’t solve our problems,” and more often they encroach on the personal liberties that have made our country great.

And the Congressman doesn’t hold back when talking about just how far he’d cut back the size and scope of the Federal Government:

The Department of Education isn’t the only government bureaucracy that Paul would like to see go. He’d also get rid of the Department of Energy.

(…)

Paul would also eliminate the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency. He cites the disastrous handling of Hurricane Katrina and the avoidable tragedy of Sept. 11 as signposts of government ineptitude.

I asked him about other Cabinet departments.

The Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development? Get rid of them all, says Paul.

The difference between Paul and other Republicans who say things like this is that you get the impression he actually would do it if given the power. Republicans have campaigned for far too long on the fiscally conservative/cut big government message only to drop the ball when actually given power. Even though he has no chance of winning, it’s nice to see that there’s at least one Republican who actually means it.

Here’s the full interview:

Previous Posts:

John Stossel Interviews Ron Paul On Legalizing Drugs And Prostitution

A Real Bailout For The Banking Industry

Only a week ago, I was claiming that the Bush “plan” to streamline the mortgage-modification process wasn’t a bailout. A bailout is when the government actually spends money or drastically changes regulation in order to give an industry a helping hand. That plan wasn’t a bailout, for many reasons.

But the financial markets weren’t quite happy with this non-action. And today, the Federal Reserve and European central banks chose to cow to their demands, by injecting inflation liquidity into the system:

A day after the Federal Reserve disappointed investors with a modest cut in interest rates, central banks in North America and Europe on Wednesday announced the most aggressive infusion of capital into the banking system since the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

Economists and market specialists say policy makers are trying to reassure bankers that they will stand firm as the lenders of last resort. The coordinated action is being led by the Fed, which will lend $40 billion this month. The European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Swiss National Bank and the Bank of Canada will lend $50.2 billion this month and next.

“This is basically a reinsurance policy,” said William H. Gross, chief investment officer of the bond management firm Pimco. Central bankers “are saying, ‘We will stand behind you.’ ”

The market is reeling because the rapid expansion of credit is starting to come to an end, and the [necessary] resulting credit crunch will be nearly as painful as the heady days of credit expansion were joyful. The problem is, pain takes the form of recession, and central banks don’t want to stand idly by and let recessions occur, even if necessary. So they’re going to throw money into the system until lenders realize that a contraction won’t occur.

The Fed created this credit bubble. Now when it’s in danger of popping, they’re going to try to patch it up. Like many government actions, it might achieve its goal in the short term, but the long-term consequences will be far more damaging than allowing the system to correct today. Stocks may have rebounded today, but so did gold, an indication that this is a sign of future inflation, adding another story to the house of cards built upon a foundation of sand.

Republican Des Moines Register Debate Round-Up And Reaction

This afternoon, the Republican candidates for President, including the quixotic and slightly odd Alan Keyes, met in Des Moines Iowa for their final debate before the January 3rd Iowa Caucuses.

To say that this debate was anti-climactic is an understatement. The moderator, Carolyn Washburn, is the editor of the Des Moines Register and, quite honestly, it’s quite easy to see why she’s made her career in the print media rather than on television; I don’t think I’ve seen a person with less passion in quite some time. That, combined with a set of rules that made it virtually impossible for any of the candidates to give a substantive answer to any question made for an incredibly boring affair that doesn’t seem likely to have any substantive impact on the race.

And, to make it worse, I actually watched this thing without the aid of a fine glass of wine. I’ve got to remember that politics and sobriety are a really bad mix.

Anyway, here we go:

Mike Huckabee: At least as far as Iowa is concerned, Huckabee came into this debate as the clear frontrunner. In the two short weeks since the CNN/YouTube debate, he has risen steadily and suprisingly in the polls both in the Hawkeye State and in other parts of the country to the point where he and Giuliani can both equally claim frontrunner status — and Huckabee would have the better argument.

As the frontrunner, all Huckabee had to do in this debate is not make any major mistakes and not let any of the other frontrunners touch him. For the most part, he succeeded in that task. The only time that I can really say I thought he went off the reservation was during the education discussion when he started talking about unbalanced brains and music and arts education. Apparently, the new Republican frontrunner has abandoned the idea of eliminating the Department of Education in favor of the idea of making all our children play the violin.

What’s worse, none of the Republican candidates really went after Huckabee. Partly, this was because of the restrictive nature of the debate and the inanity of the moderator, but the best that anyone was able to do was when Tancredo challenged him about national curriculum standards and Romney argued with him over which one had the better education record as Governor.

Not good enough guys.

Rudy Giuliani: Giuliani did okay today, but if he wanted to stop his slide in the polls, he needed to do better than okay; he needed to hit one out of the park and at least lay a glove on Huckabee. He didn’t do either of these things (to be fair, none of the candidates did all that well).

Giuliani has never been competitive in Iowa, so perhaps his campaign wrote this debate off but given the shortened campaign schedule, and the speed with which Huckabee has caught up to Giuliani in the polls, waiting is not a smart strategy. If Huckabee wins in Iowa and Rudy comes in third in New Hamsphire and South Carolina, his insistence that we “wait until Florida,” as he said Sunday on Meet the Press, will make less and less sense.

Mitt Romney: Like Giuliani, Romney needed to poke some holes in Huckabee today and he really didn’t do it. He argued with Huckabee over who had the better education record, but other than that he really didn’t go after the man who has taken away from him what once looked like an insurmountable lead in Iowa. Other than that, though, I can’t say that Romney did anything to reverse the decline.

John McCain: McCain seemed to have more life in him than he did in the last debate, perhaps because he senses an opportunity to overtake Giuliani in New Hampshire. McCain’s problem is that he’s still running as the War on Terror President when the polls are showing that both Iraq and the War on Terror are not as prominent in voters minds as they were earlier in the year. Some pundits seem to think that the Senator will pull it out and actually get the nomination, but I think it would take a miracle of biblical proportions for that to happen.

Fred Thompson: For a guy who has said that Iowa is an all-or-nothing run, Thompson didn’t seem all that energetic or eager to send the kind of message that could actually put him back in contention. The Iowa Caucuses are January 3rd. Fred Thompson campaign will end January 4th. I will give Thompson credit for being the only person honest enough to tell the viewing public that, yes, there would be sacrifices that would have to be made to reduce the deficit and the size of government; and specifically mentioned entitlement programs in connection with that response.

Thompson provided one of the best moments of comic relief in the debate when he refused to participate in the moderator’s absurd “raise your hand if you think global warming is a problem” question. Thompson said he doesn’t do the hand-raising thing, and, at least for a moment, all the Republicans went along with him. When he asked the moderator if he could actually answer the question rather than just raising his hand, she said no and moved on to the next question.

What a moron.

Ron Paul: For the most part, Paul did a passable job but there was at least one occasion where he gave an answer that, if it had actually been challenged, would have made him look foolish. In his response to the sacrifice question I noted above, Paul basically said that there would be no need for the American public to sacrifice anything — he would bring the troops home from abroad and that would save enough money to solve our problems. The truth is quite different; if the budget is going to be brought under control and the size of government shrunk, then we will all have to sacrifice our reliance upon the state in one way or another. That’s not going to be an easy sacrifice for some people to make.

Tom Tancredo: Is there any question to which the Congressman’s answer doesn’t involve immigration ?

Duncan Hunter: If I closed my eyes when Congressman Hunter was speaking, I would have thought that I was listening to one of the Democratic candidates talk, or maybe an anti-trade union official. What is an economic Neanderthal like this doing in the Republican Party ?

Alan Keyes: What can you say about Alan Keyes ? He responded to a question about global warming by going off for two minutes about the fact that he’s been excluded from every previous debate. He responded to a question about education by giving a bible-thumping response that makes even Reverend Huckabee look like an atheist. There was a time when Keyes seemed like a reasonable person, but that was a long, long time ago; I’m not even sure that he believes what he says and I’m not sure that it matters.

After everything was over, the debate ended as strangely as it started with Washburn asking each of the candidates to make a New Year’s Resolution for one of their opponents. Most of the candidates didn’t really answer the question, but that’s just as well it was, without a doubt, the stupidest debate question ever.

In the end, I don’t think this debate will have any substantial impact on either the Iowa Caucuses or the race on a national level. As things stand, Huckabee’s rise will continue unless and until Republicans start realizing what a big mistake it would be to nominate him.

Cross-Posted at Below The Beltway.

John Stossel Interviews Ron Paul On Legalizing Drugs And Prostitution

ABC’s John Stossel, who is probably the only outspoken pro-free market/pro-individual liberty journalists in the mainstream media, interviewed Presidential candidate Ron Paul recently, and their talk will be featured by ABC as a six-part series on ABCNews.com:

Over the last few months, I’ve received hundreds of e-mails from people who wanted me to interview the unconventional Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex. So this week I did.

In our hour-long interview, Paul and I discussed illegal immigration, the Iraq War, when war is necessary, the proper role of government, health care, drug laws, prostitution and more.

Despite relatively low poll numbers, Paul has had a big influence on the presidential campaign. That’s in part because he’s raised a ton of money, and in part because of the passionate following he has on the Web. It’s one reason we’re posting my interview with Paul only on the Internet, where the debate about Paul is very active. In fact, he’s the most Googled presidential candidate.

In Part One, Paul defends what have been traditionally considered two of libertarian thought’s more controversial positions — the War on Drugs and prostitution:

“I think the government’s role should not be involved in personal habits. When you defend freedom, you defend freedom of choice, and you can’t be picking and choosing how people use those freedoms . . .whether it’s personal behavior or economic behavior, I want people to have freedom of choice,” Paul asserted.

Freedom of choice, what a radical concept in a society where the government tells us what we can serve our children in school cafeterias, whether or not we can eat trans-fats, and what we can drink and when we can drink it.

Watch the whole interview for yourself:

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

36% Of Teens Use Drugs — Bush Claims Credit

Bush Says Drug Policy Working

Teens in the 2007 “Monitoring the Future” study reported that their use of most drugs either became less frequent or held steady during the previous 12 months. But researchers noted a gradual increase during the past few years in the number of teenagers using the drug known as ecstasy, following a period of sharp decline. They said the percentage of students who see “great risk” in using ecstasy has gone down in the past few years and theorized that students may be more willing to experiment with ecstasy because of a “generational forgetting” of the hazards widely associated with the drug when its usage peaked in the late 1990s.

The 33rd national survey showed the percentage of eighth-graders who had used any illegal drug at least once in the past year fell from 24 percent to 13 percent between 1997 and 2007. The percentage of 10th-graders in the same category fell from 39 percent in 1997 to 28 percent this year; and the percent of 12th-graders using an illicit drug in the past 12 months dropped from 42 percent in 1997 to 36 percent this year.

Now, first things first, I don’t credit the policies of George W. Bush with a significant decline in drug use. About the only thing that I can suggest is that teens, hearing the reports of Bush’s own alleged drug use, might have dissuaded them from using them! But in reality, there are often wider societal issues involved here, and a president who has spent so much time dealing with war and foreign affairs– not on drug issues– is unlikely to be a huge impact.

But why in the world would this administration crow about the wonderful situation of only 36% of our 12th-graders using drugs? Think about it. Go to your kid’s high school graduation. If the commencement speaker tells you to look at the couple to your left, then the couple to your right, and to note that at least one of your kids has used drugs, would you consider that a comforting fact? Of course, some will suggest that for most of them, it’s simply marijuana, which many to be fairly innocuous. But at the same time, nearly 20% of 12th-graders have tried a harder drug than pot in the last year.

At the same time, the study suggests that availability of some of the more popular drugs (marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, “other hallucinogens”– which I understand likely means shrooms) is roughly equal to levels seen in 1997. These drugs aren’t harder to get, which is something that might indicate a win in the War on (some) Drugs.

Is this anything other than an indication that the War on (some) Drugs is not only a failure, but is such a glaring failure that we need to try something new? At the very least, it’s not a day that Bush should be standing in a tie-dyed t-shirt before a bright-colored “mission accomplished” banner talking about how much improvement he’s making.

Congress Set To Declare That Christmas Is Important

In light of tarran’s excellent post about government recognition of religious holidays, I found this article from The Politico to be both amusing and disturbing:

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has introduced a resolution (H.Res. 847) saying, and I am not making this up, that Christmas and Christians are important. The House is scheduled to vote on this groundbreaking resolution on Tuesday.

Not surprisingly, King’s inane resolution has 58 co-sponsors.

And, just in case you didn’t know that a lot of people really like Christmas, here’s the text of the resolution:

Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world;

Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;

Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population;

Whereas Christians identify themselves as those who believe in the salvation from sin offered to them through the sacrifice of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible;

Whereas Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization;

Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its roots in Christianity;

Whereas on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ;

Whereas for Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a recognition of God’s redemption, mercy, and Grace; and

Whereas many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to serve others: Now, therefore be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives–

(1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world;

(2) expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide;

(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith;

(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization;

(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and

(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.

Left unstated is where in the Constitution Congress is even authorized to pass a resolution like this.

The Cult Of Death

An Australian medical expert has called for a $ 5,000 per child tax for any family with more than two children:

COUPLES who have more than two children should be charged a lifelong tax to offset their extra offspring’s carbon dioxide emissions, a medical expert says.

The report in an Australian medical journal called for parents to be charged $5000 a head for every child after their second, and an annual tax of up to $800.

And couples who were sterilised would be eligible for carbon credits under the controversial proposal.

(…)

“Every family choosing to have more than a defined number of children should be charged a carbon tax that would fund the planting of enough trees to offset the carbon cost generated by a new human being,” said Prof Walters, an obstetrician at King Edward Memorial Hospital.

Along the same lines, the British media ran a story a few weeks ago about a woman who had herself sterlizd to “protect the planet:”

Had Toni Vernelli gone ahead with her pregnancy ten years ago, she would know at first hand what it is like to cradle her own baby, to have a pair of innocent eyes gazing up at her with unconditional love, to feel a little hand slipping into hers – and a voice calling her Mummy.

But the very thought makes her shudder with horror.

Because when Toni terminated her pregnancy, she did so in the firm belief she was helping to save the planet.

Incredibly, so determined was she that the terrible “mistake” of pregnancy should never happen again, that she begged the doctor who performed the abortion to sterilise her at the same time.

He refused, but Toni – who works for an environmental charity – “relentlessly hunted down a doctor who would perform the irreversible surgery.

Finally, eight years ago, Toni got her way.

At the age of 27 this young woman at the height of her reproductive years was sterilised to “protect the planet”.

Incredibly, instead of mourning the loss of a family that never was, her boyfriend (now husband) presented her with a congratulations card.

There was a time when the birth of a child, any child, was a time of celebration and, for most sane people, that is still the case. For this new breed of environmentalists, though, the birth of a child, if not the very existence of humanity itself, is a cause for despair, not a cause for celebration. To them, human beings are a scourge upon an otherwise pristine paradise.

Now, it’s not surprising that people like this exist; doomsday cults of one kind or another have existed as long as human civilization. Usually, though, they are recognized for the nuts that they are.

Today, though, they are lauded as visionaries.

Two Victories on the Mandatory Minimums Front

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday said judges may impose shorter prison terms for crack cocaine crimes, enhancing judicial discretion to reduce the disparity between sentences for crack and cocaine powder.

By a 7-2 vote, the court said that a 15-year sentence given to Derrick Kimbrough, a veteran of the 1991 war with Iraq, was acceptable, even though federal sentencing guidelines called for Kimbrough to receive 19 to 22 years.

In a separate sentencing case that did not involve crack cocaine, the court also ruled in favor of judicial discretion to impose more lenient sentences than federal guidelines recommend.

The challenges to criminal sentences center on a judge’s discretion to impose a shorter sentence than is called for in guidelines established by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, at Congress’ direction. The guidelines were adopted in the mid-1980s to help produce uniform punishments for similar crimes.

The cases are the result of a decision three years ago in which the justices ruled that judges need not strictly follow the sentencing guidelines. Instead, appellate courts would review sentences for reasonableness, although the court has since struggled to define what it meant by that term.

Kimbrough’s case did not present the justices with the ultimate question of the fairness of the disparity in crack and powder cocaine sentences.

In a time when 5-4 Supreme Court rulings are the norm, this 7-2 ruling is a strong signal that the courts should have more discretion when sentencing individuals. Some may call this ruling “judicial activism” and one could probably make that case. But assuming that this is judicial activism, I would argue that the courts are constitutionally held to an even higher duty to make sure the punishment fits the crime; to do justice. When the prescribed punishment violates common sense, then judicial activism is completely appropriate (see my posts about Genarlow Wilson here, here, and here). We cannot reasonably expect the courts to be reasonable if state and federal laws tie the hands of the judges with unreasonable mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

The article continues:

Congress wrote the harsher treatment for crack into a law that sets a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence for trafficking in 5 grams of crack cocaine or 100 times as much cocaine powder. The law also sets maximum terms.

Seventy percent of crack defendants are given the mandatory prison terms.

Kimbrough is among the remaining 30 percent who, under the guidelines, get even more time in prison because they are convicted of trafficking in more than the amount of crack that triggers the minimum sentences.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority, said, “A reviewing court could not rationally conclude that it was an abuse of discretion” to cut four years off the guidelines-recommended sentence for Kimbrough.

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.

The Sentencing Commission recently changed the guidelines to reduce the disparity in prison time for the two crimes. New guidelines took effect Nov. 1 after Congress took no action to overturn the change.
The commission is scheduled to vote Tuesday afternoon on the retroactive application of the crack cocaine guideline amendment that went into effect on Nov. 1. The commission has estimated 19,500 inmates could apply for sentence reductions under the proposal.

I certainly hope these 19,500 inmates do just that; these 19,500 spots would serve us all better if they were taken by violent criminals who are a genuine threat to the life, liberty, and property of us all.

The Supreme Court also made a ruling on another mandatory minimums case:

In the other case, the court, also by a 7-2 vote, upheld a sentence of probation for Brian Gall for his role in a conspiracy to sell 10,000 pills of ecstasy. U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt of Des Moines, Iowa, determined that Gall had voluntarily quit selling drugs several years before he was implicated, stopped drinking, graduated from college and built a successful business. The guidelines said Gall should have been sent to prison for 30 to 37 months.

The sentence was reasonable, Justice John Paul Stevens said in his majority opinion. Alito and Thomas again dissented.

The cases are Kimbrough v. U.S., 06-6330, and Gall v. U.S., 06-7949.

Another case of judicial activism? The court was once again correct to choose probation over prison. Mr. Gall had already taken steps to be a productive, law abiding citizen. What good would come of putting an already rehabilitated individual into the prison system? These are only questions which can be answered by a judge or a jury; not an arbitrary one-size-fits-all mandatory minimum sentencing law.

Should Governments Promote Religious Holidays?

A perennial question that comes up this time of the year is the question of how Christmas should be celebrated in public places, with a significant amount of anger and heated accusations being traded between proponents and opponents of the idea.

The Argument For

Christmas is a major part of American culture, especially since it was heavily commercialized in the late nineteenth century by nascent department stores and mail order businesses. Since the majority of the citizenry in nearly every polity on the local, state and federal levels that make up the United States are self-described Christians, governments universally make concessions to their holy day by refusing to conduct public business on or around that day. In order to maintain vital services, fire-fighters and police-men are paid bonuses for working on that day. Since governments are already marking this Christian holy day, since they are spending extra public monies for it, so why not go the extra step? After all, Christmas is a cheerful celebration marking birth and life, and God knows generally when the state shuts down business to mark an anniversary, it usually is about death; the day a war started or ended, or the day some war-maker was born or something.

Argument Against #1

Of course, a substantial minority of Christians don’t celebrate Christmas as it actually has little to do with Christianity itself. Jesus was not born anywhere near the Winter Solstice. The earliest recorded celebration of Christmas on or about the winter solstice as a Christian holiday occurred in Egypt. Their worship of the holiday bears a strong resemblance to the celebration of the resurrection of Osiris, which were also celebrated on the winter solstice. It is very clear that the leaders of the late Roman Empire folded the popular festival of Saturnalia into the new imperial Christian religion. Much like Jews making a big deal about Hanukkah, and black Americans celebrating Kwanzaa, it is clear that the early Christians made up the holiday to basically have an excuse to participate in the holidays of the non-Christian cultures they were embedded within. The Christians who don’t celebrate Christmas and view its observance as a heresy, are quite understandably upset to see it promoted anywhere. This would have included many of the colonists in new England. As frequent Reason Hit and Run commenter joe observed:

Here is Massachusetts, they had a fight a few years ago about whether the Town of Lexington should be paying to put a nativity scene on the town common. One of the arguments often made was, “What would the Minutemen say if they found out we couldn’t have a nativity scene for Christmas?”

The desired answer was, they would be aghast at the hostility of the government towards Christianity.

The correct answer was, they would be aghast at such a blatant display of papist idolatry, and smash it to bits with the butts of their muskets.

Why should people be forced to pay for blasphemy?

Argument Against #2

Some people pay taxes but don’t like to see the money spent on things that they don’t like, including Christmas celebrations. The reason they don’t approve is immaterial, perhaps they are not Christian, perhaps they are but think that Christmas should be a private matter. These folks are, of course, aghast at the misuse of money. It is one thing to compel people to pay for a good like fire-prevention. It is another to force people to pay for something frivolous like a manger scene. They want their tax money spent on other things, perhaps ensuring that children have adequate health care or for more policemen or better radios for firefighters. If they were in charge the public monies would go to those things and not be frittered away on displays.

Argument Against #3

Of course, a significant number of people aren’t Christian, yet they too have their own ways of celebrating the Winter Solstice. Why shouldn’t they have their traditions celebrated as well? Where should one draw the line? At having the 49% of the population who are non-believers subsidize to 51% who are? 25%? 5%?

Again, why should a man be forced to pay for another religion’s celebrations?

Christmas at Disney-world: Where’s the Controversy?

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” [asked Inspector Gregory]

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” [answered Holmes]

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Every year, Disney-world has a massive extravaganza in celebration of Christmas. This celebration elicits little or no controversy. People don’t file lawsuits or get in shouting matches over their choices of how to celebrate the holiday. Why is that? It’s not that a single individual or sect owns the property. Disney’s board of directors answer to the shareholders, and there are millions of shareholders who own Disney, more than the thousands of voting taxpayers living in Lexington, MA. Surely there must be atheists, Jews, or people opposed to ostentatious displays of Christmas cheer in their ranks. Why do these millions not get angry while a mere ten thousand or so get into shouting matches? The answer lies in the fact that people who are unhappy with Disney’s decision are free to end their involvement with the company. They can sell their shares. They can refuse to give their custom to Disney-world.

But when it comes to government, people are denied that freedom. In his wonderful 15+ hour Commentaries, Robert LeFevre recounts the story of an exchange he had with a town commissioner. At the time, he was a newspaperman, and he was asked to publish an announcement on behalf of the town government to the effect that a local park would be closed to public access on a certain night. The commissioner explained that they had invited a youth group from a neighboring town to have a party of some kind in the park. LeFevre, apparently feeling a little mischievous, challenged the commissioner and asked him by what right he could make such a decision. The commissioner explained that he had been appointed by the townspeople who collectively owned the park. “Aha” LeFevre said, “you see, I know something about the guests you have invited, and they are rough customers.” He told the commissioner that he feared the guests would damage the park, and as an owner he would be on the hook for repairs. Since he thought his ownership share in the park was about to become a liability, he told the commissioner that he would like to sell his share. The commissioner, of course was apoplectic at the idea; “you can’t sell your share!” he cried. Regardless or Robert LeFevre’s concerns, he was a prisoner. So long as he lived within the commissioner’s zone of control, he was yoked to the wagon of state, compelled to go where the commissioner directed it, and forced to yield his back to the commissioner’s whip. As LeFevre predicted, the guests caused a significant amount of damage to the park. The damage was repaired at cost to the taxpayers.

Government Action Inevitably Causes Conflict

By forcing people to bear the costs of government, government officials are setting people at each other’s throats. Rather than being a force for peace and civilization, the government becomes a divisive entity, weakening the bonds of fellowship. People who otherwise would get along and have good relations with each other find themselves driven into conflict.

If the fans of Christmas really which to honor the Prince of Peace, they should eschew government-funded displays in favor of privately funded ones. Otherwise they are nudging society in a more conflict-prone, violent direction.

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.

Ron Paul Turns Down Invitation To Run On Libertarian Ticket

As I noted yesterday, the Libertarian National Committee took the somewhat unusual step of asking Ron Paul, who is running for the Republican Presidential nomination, to run as a Libertarian if he does not get the GOP nomination.

Today, the Austin American-Statesman reports that Paul has declined the invitation:

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Ron Paul turned down a Libertarian Party invitation on Sunday that could have kept him in the 2008 presidential race even if his long-shot bid for the GOP nomination fails.

At a meeting in Charleston, S.C., the Libertarian National Committee on Sunday unanimously approved a resolution praising the Lake Jackson congressman for igniting “a renewed passion for liberty across America.”

Paul was the 1988 Libertarian presidential nominee and, according to the resolution proposed by former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, “is a member of the Libertarian Party in good standing.”

“The Libertarian Party and Congressman Ron Paul share many common principles for liberty and prosperity in America,” the resolution said.

The Barr resolution urged Paul to seek the Libertarian Party nomination that will be awarded at the party’s May national convention in Denver.

But Paul spokesman Jesse Benton said it would not happen.

“Ron has no intention to run third party whatsoever,” he said.

And that, it would appear, is that.

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