Thursday, June 30, 2005

Politico Conceit

In her latest Wall Street Journal editorial, Peggy Noonan asks, Why are our politicians so full of themselves? She is speaking rhetorically, right? Surely this is not a recent revelation for Ms. Peggy "I wrote speeches for a President" Noonan. Well, in case she is serious - they are politicians because they are so full of themselves. Seriously, what kind of sane, modest, moral human-being would choose to become a politician? It takes a serious genetic flaw to seek a position from which one can exercise POWER over other persons. I'm talking something well beyond your everyday bioaccumulated-lead-poisoning from generations of ingesting paint chips. Politicos are freaks of nature that comparatively make Michael Jackson seem human. In essence, the term "public" service is classic doublespeak - more appropriately, it is self-service and nothing more.

Zimbabwe Update

Mugabe has implemented another gun grab. Hat tip to David Kopel at Volokh for the link. Don't these schemes always smell funny? A government seizes the guns of its citizens to solidify the state's monopoly on the use of legal force for two, and only two, reasons: to subordinate and weaken the law-abiding citizenry in an effort to increase dependency upon the state or, (one step further) to guaranty that the disarmed people are powerless to prevent whatever tyrannical scheme the power-whores have planned. Go figure where this one is headed.

Kopel opines:

Perhaps the most effective foreign aid which should be sent to the people of Zimbabwe would be millions of rifles, so that the people would no longer be defenseless against the depredations of one of the most evil governments in all of African history.


Related Posts:
1. How to Destroy a Country.

Attention all Nanny-State'er's: Get Out, and Keep Out.

Mad Bokononist props to my favorite Burger joint, the Vortex (even though I don't eat cow or buffalo), for telling the state of Georgia what they think of the state's new public smoking ban:

VORTEX TO REMAIN SMOKER-FRIENDLY At The Vortex Bar & Grill we are staunch supporters of individual liberty and freedom of choice. But unfortunately the State of Georgia is not. Under the rules of the new "Georgia Smokefree Air Act of 2005," we are legally prohibited from offering smoking as an option for our customers unless we restrict minors from our premises. We are saddened that the State government is forcing us to limit the choices we offer our clientele, but since The Vortex was established as a social gathering place for adults, we will continue to
offer the option of smoking to our patrons.

Therefore, EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2005 you must be 21 years old to enter The Vortex. We are deeply concerned that more citizens do not understand the real danger in government-sponsored Smoking Bans and other types of coercive legislation that violate individual choice and private property rights. Yes, tyranny is alive and well and can often be found hiding behind the label of "Public Safety."

I don't want to eat with a bunch of puritans anyway.

"World Island" Paradise

I want one of these.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

President "Woodrow Wilson" Bush

The justification for our invasion of, and continued presence in, Iraq appears to have finally morphed into a well-developed argument.... The latest formulation fuses the neoconservative Middle East strategy with the goals of the larger "War on Terror." For years, the neocons have been pushing this Wilsonian idea that a free and democratized Middle East equals a stable, peaceful, and, most importantly, US-friendly Middle East. Thus, they argue, the United States has a moral obligation to spread (by force if necessary) the promise of liberty and self-rule to the region and, at the same time, pick up some good will along the way.

Still, the opponents of this view, myself included, have viewed such imperialistic endeavors with a skeptical eye - asserting that there are countries, even entire regions, around the world where democracy and freedom are little more than hopeful fantasies. So the argument goes, how can we arbitrarily pick this single region?? It must be the oil, right? I may be wrong, but it's hard to believe that even Bush's biggest critics think this whole to-do is over oil. Regardless, such conspiratorial claims have received more credence than they properly deserve precisely because of the President's failure to effectively explain just why Iraq is so unique. Consider the list. Until recently, the Bush administration has clumsily argued that the Iraqi invasion was necessitated to provide humanitarian relief to those living under Saddam's oppressive thumb; to neutralize his ability to produce and/or use WMD's; and, ultimately, to remove the bully from his pulpit. Despite the noble intentions associated with each of the aforementioned motivations, each explanation seemed overly rationalized and left the administration vulnerable to criticism from all sides. Many still wondered, "What are they up to?"

As I said, the failure can be traced to President's hodgepodge, ever-shifting rationale for war which seemed to skimp on the fundamental questions: why us, why there, why now? Afterall, this is quinticentially the nation-building model that G.W. repeatedly disclaimed prior to the 2000 election. But, as they say, 9/11 changed everything. Blah, blah, blah. So, it changed everything. Well, that doesn't explain why it took the administration three years to articulate (or perhaps, formulate is a better description) a winning argument for why Iraq should be considered public enemy #1. That is, until now. Based on Tuesday's speech, it is clear that the administration's justification for our Iraqi-involvement has matured, if not formally evolved. The President's explanation last night seems to shore up the shortcomings that once riddled his Iraqi policy and provided so much fodder for his critics (including me).

The Bush doctrine of preemptively rooting out terror before it strikes (the grand, Orwellian, "War on Terror") provides an articulable basis (pretextual or not) to forcibly democratize the Middle East while still ignoring other countries that continue to carry the yoke of oppression. I admit, it does seem like the region is strangely semi-saturated with those that find honor in strapping a bomb to themselves just to take down a couple infidels. But, the kicker is the link to the neocon theory that once the terrorists are neutralized and democracy takes hold, the resulting stability will necessarily translate into US security. Applying the wonkish-neocon policy pursuits to the Iraq war and the overall War on Terror allows the President to wear the dual hat of liberator - one who will plant the seed of freedom and democracy in the liberty-starved region, and protector - one from whom US security will flow once the reformed-Middle East embraces the freedom that we "provide." So, the theory goes, when this whole experiment is over, all the boys and girls that we "liberate" from Jordan, Syria, Iran, Lebanon et. al. are certain to become our best-buds -- just like the French....

Whether you agree with these ends or not, this is a much more powerful argument that the administration should have vocalized from day one.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

RIP Shelby Foote

One of my favorite historian/writers passes on.

No Lobbyist Left Behind

True to form, the pork-drunken Senate passed their version of the Energy Bill (85-12) today. The bill includes tax breaks for well-connected energy producers and purports to double the use of the most worthless formulation concocted by man since New Coke - ethanol - by 2012. Am I the only person who misses the good 'ole days of 90's gridlock?

Beats a Flag

Way to go, Maryland LP!
Hat tip to Hit and Run.

Monday, June 27, 2005

We All Must Be 'Glib'

Is it possible to come away from watching the Tom Cruise/Matt Lauer interview without thinking Maverick has lost his mind? But really, what's the big surprise?? The MSM is acting as if this is some earth-shattering revelation. Did the Today Show producers actually think that Frank "TJ" Mackey was going to dazzle us all with some brilliant psychological insights and objective truths?? Talk about deluded. But then again, this is the same MSM that tends to wet itself when the likes of Sean Penn make foreign policy recommendations. Don't misunderstand me, I like Spicoli as much as anyone, but I can think of at least 4 gazillion other people that I would rather pick as my jeopardy partner.

Justices Against Innovation

The Supreme Court (on a roll the last few weeks...) has unanimously ruled to protect Hollywood and the record industry to the detriment of innovation and consumers. Go figure. Chalk another one up to the entrenched powers that be. This ruling will allow the industry to continue its same old business as usual, insulated from the competitive forces of increased efficiency and technological innovation that compel static industry to change in order to survive. We are all poorer as a result.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Free-Market Telecom

BEHOLD..., the wonders of the free market! The Bokononist girlfriend, Carrie, who is currently serving with the Peace Corps in Zambia, recently bought a cell phone on her latest trip through the capital city. Although the coverage area is limited to major cities and towns (and thus of no use while she is in her village outpost, Matonchi), the phone is a worthwhile purchase. She paid $80.00 USD for the phone and will receive perpetual service (or at least until the company folds...). Now she can receive calls and never pay another cent for its use. As you can imagine, the land-lines in Zambia are very erratic and quite scarce unless you are in one of few major cities. Cell phones, on the other hand, are virtually everywhere. Being a country roughly the size of Texas with very few accessible roads, the logistics of equipping the corners of the country with phone lines has always been an impossibility. However, cellular technology has enabled the country (as with many other poor African nations) to simply technologically skip the need to establish wire-based systems. On my recent trip to southern and east Africa, I was amazed to see "cell phone rental booths" in many of the towns and cities. As for Zambia, wireless technology combined with the absence of regulation is revolutionizing this extraordinarily poor nation.

It seems like some continentals are even willing to risk death for their beloved phones.

Into the West

Thanks to the glories of Tivo, I have recently been sucked into the TNT/Spielberg production, "Into the West." For those who have not seen the program, the story takes place during the mid-nineteenth century as the fictional Wheeler family of Virginia makes their way westward in search of adventure and fortune. I find the show interesting because, in a very Forest Gump-like way, it places various family members in the midst of the dominant historical events of the time.

I am particularly intrigued by Spielberg's portrayal of east meets west. The cultural collision that occurs when the industrialized, white Americans begin to settle among the Stone-Aged, hunter/gatherer American Indian tribes brings to mind images of a sci-fi, earthling/alien encounter or Planet of the Apes. I certainly have a great deal of pity for the Indians who were, in essence, steamrolled by the blitzkrieg expansion of the continental American empire. It makes me wonder, if the western lands had been physically held by the Spanish, or another European nation, would the US government have continued to encourage the westward expansion with such zeal? My gut feeling is, no. Intuitively, I tend to think that the US policy of pushing the Indians aside was part and parcel to the racist view that the American-Indian, like the African, was inferior to white-European culture.

Somewhat relatedly, in hindsight, I think that both the tribal leadership and the US government failed to advance the progress of their peoples, and humankind, despite being given the opportunity to do so. These two converging civilizations, like so many others throughout history, had a chance to chart a new path in the human experience and thus provide a revolutionary example of the moral superiority embodied in the larger American experiment. However, both camps reverted to age-old ills of xenophobia and violence. I think that this failure can be partly traced to their respective inadequate (in the case of the whites) or nonexistent (in the case of the Indians) understanding of private property rights and individualism. As for the Indians, their culture was consumed with tribal wars that were largely the result of territorial disputes over hunting grounds and the like. The absence of established legal title to lands contributed to the perpetual state of war between neighboring tribes and emboldened the American expansionists to lay claim to these "un-owned" lands. Equally important, the Indians were communal mystics who believed that their collectivist culture should remain homogeneous and untainted by white culture. These two elements played a major role in shaping the white-American view of the Indians as old world savages that could not peacefully coexist within the American melting pot. Nonetheless, the racist conception of "Manifest Destiny" cannot be justified, irregardless of the Indian's separatist, anti-assimilationist attitudes. The fact remains, the US government did not recognize the individual, natural rights of the Indians (despite its supposed reverence to the Declaration of Independence) and thus did not respect their right to claim ownership of the western lands which they inhabited.
UPDATE: Welcome Right-Coaster's and thanks to my former law professor and fellow history-buff, Mike Rappaport, for the link!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

How to Destroy a Country

Robert Mugabe should write a textbook. After twenty-plus years in power, this maniacal dictator decided to stretch his destructive legs in 2000 by seizing Zimbabwe's white-owned farms to redistribute the land to his political cronies. This little of act of "egalitarian" compassion led to a famine that is now entering its fifth consecutive year.

Now that all the white-Zimbabweans have fled the country, Mugabe is looking to expand his grand social experiment.

Doesn't this kind of news make you thankful to live in the U.S. where your property is secure from state seizure. Err, oh yea - I forgot.

Engagement or Isolation?

Fareed Zakaria's recent Newsweek column poses an interesting juxtaposition between the effects of US foreign/economic policy towards Vietnam vs. Cuba. Generally, Zakaria suggests that the policy of limited engagement and openness towards Vietnam has led that country's communist regime to loosen its grip on power, at least compared to Castro in Cuba. I think this is correct. Nixon's China policy, although generally designed to pressure the Soviets, opened that country's two billion eyes to the wonders of capitalism and the prosperity that results therefrom. Of course, politically, China remains a despotic hell-hole. But given the Hobson's choice between residing in China or Cuba, I would quickly choose the latter where I can at least purchase toilet paper to wipe my persecuted ass.

Economic freedom is a necessary condition for political freedom. As such, a policy of "open" relations places outward pressure on repressive regimes to adopt liberal economic polices in an effort to save their volatile, faltering economies from collapse. As state control over the economy wanes, the desire for expanded liberty is sure to follow. Although the Chinese government has managed to adopt economic reforms while suppressing political discourse, I predict this current balance can not last.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Busy-bodies Keeping Busy

So, the Republican busy-bodies are at it again. Just in time for Independence day, the House is sending the Flag Burning Amendment to the Senate. Get ready for the soon to come bombardment of illogical, overly emotional, despicable demagoguery such as this little nugget of bull squeeze from Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, (R) of San Diego:

"Ask the men and women who stood on top of the [World] Trade Center... Ask them and they will tell you: pass this Amendment."

Pardon my French, but, "what an idiot." Thanks alot San Diego. Flag burning is speech. Of course there are no words involved, but I don't think the angry mobs that tend to spark up 'ole glory are doing so for the warmth of the flame. The sole purpose of such an action is to express a point of view -- largely, F.U.U.S.A. And while that message might offend some, even me to some extent, the offensive nature of the act is very reason for its protected status.

Eugene Volokh at the VC has a great take on the issue here.

State Run Media

Jacob Sullum over at Reason has a great article discussing the recent proposed cuts at PBS and NPR. While I admit that I frequently take advantage of PBS programming (from Austin City Limits to Ken Burns documentaries) and even tune into the NPR in the mornings simply to avoid the incessant laughing-fits that tend to dominate the commercial stations, I would not shed a single tear if they were to disappear tomorrow. Art is a commodity. And like all commodities in this quasi-"free market" of ours, its exposure and ultimate survival is dependent upon its appeal in the marketplace. In the unlikely event that Congress pulled the plug on our beloved Bert and Ernie, they would undoubtedly re-surface somewhere else in the blink of an eye because Sesame Street has viewers, attracts sponsors and thus generates cash.

Putting personal preferences aside, where did this fondness for state-run programming come from anyway? We can avoid commercials with basic cable and acquire greater variety to boot. Art, entertainment and news programs are not superior to their commercial counterparts simply because they have the state stamp of approval and are transmitted to us on the public dole. Quite the contrary in my opinion. There is a reason that you can walk into a movie theatre anywhere on planet Earth and see a Will Farrell movie, but who has ever heard a Soviet-era rock album. Put simply, state funds equal state strings. Sullum sums it up well:

"...the argument that the funding cuts had to be defeated to prevent political interference with programming has things backward. It's government funding that makes such interference inevitable. The best way to keep public broadcasting editorially independent is to make it financially independent."

PETA Kills

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by the way in which its animals are treated." — Mahatma Gandhi

This is not the kind of PR they need. Although euthanasia is an unfortunate necessity due to overpopulation and a pathetic lack of humane owners, you would think that an organization "dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals" would seek an alternative course action, at any cost.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Wacky Stevens

Despite my best efforts, I cannot understand Justice Stevens' reasoning in Kelo. Somebody, please, give a brother some help. Following the Justice's clear, albeit, in my opinion, very wrong, explanation of the court's evolutionary interpretation of the "Public Use Standard," Stevens asserts that federalist principles require the court to defer to the judgment of individual state legislatures. Federalist?? Obviously delusional, Stevens opines,

"Our public use jurisprudence has wisely eschewed rigid formulas and intrusive scrutiny in favor of affording legislatures broad latitude in determining what public needs justify the use of the takings power."
What? Okay, who took a sharpie to JP's copy of the constitution? Yes, Mr. Justice, there is another phrase following the Due Process clause. And, yes, the 14th Amendment did apply the entire amendment against the states as well. Jeez.

[In my unfrozen caveman lawyer voice] Maybe I am just confused because barely two weeks ago, Mr. Stevens determined that marijuana, grown by an individual with a valid and legal prescription for the purpose of personal consumption, is somehow subject to federal regulation under the commerce clause. Earth to Stevens, where's the commerce? Where's the interstate activity? There is no Wickard-esque market to "substantially effect." As they say in the backwoods around here, "that dog don't hunt." Alright, all together now - this is when we apply the federalist principles. But, then, I am just a caveman...

Maybe that is just too simple. As usual, this whole exercise is just a sham. It's all made up. The black robes simply apply the most convenient legal principle available at the time to achieve the political ends that they desire. And with these justices, the only consistency appears to be the belief that state power is nearly limitless and individual liberty is an exception to be afforded only when it does not interfere with their statist ambitions.

Thomas for Chief

The majority in Kelo suggests that courts should largely defer to the legislature in Takings cases with respect to whether the "use" in question constitutes a "public use." In other words, we can all sleep well at night with the knowledge that our benevolent, and unquestionably omnipotent, legislative bodies will carefully police themselves and confine their actions to legitimate matters in both subject and scope. Right. Does anyone actually believe this garbage? Does the court believe it? Perhaps JP and his gang should all walk over the Library of Congress and peruse ANY volume of the US code. The truth of the matter is, that since Carolene Products, the left/center members of the court have allowed lawmakers to do as they please vis-a-vis private property rights. And like in Raich, Justice Thomas nails it again.

"Even under the 'public purpose' interpretation..., it is most implausible that the Framers intended to defer to legislatures as to what satisfies the Public Use Clause, uniquely among all the express provisions of the Bill of Rights. We would not defer to a legislature's determination of the various circumstances that establish, for example, when a search of a home would be reasonable..."
Furthermore, as O'Connor and Thomas aptly stated, this ruling is certain to disproportionately harm the poor and the weak. At the same time, Walmart and well-connected big-business is given carte blanche to set up shop wherever they please. Why negotiate with the property owner when you can just take what you want?

UPDATE: I share Randy Barnett's praise for Thomas' dissent.

The Supremes Fail Again

First Raich, and now Kelo...

While I am not sure if I should be surprised by the outcome in these cases. I am surprised (pleasantly) that Justice O'Connor has finally decided to define some limits for the federal powergrabbers.

Perhaps this too is a sign that the distinguished jurist from Arizona is preparing to retire and wants to go out with a legacy as an originalist of sorts? Too little to late in this observer's opinion.