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Friday, July 08, 2005

Poll: Arabs Want Reform

The American Thinker blog reproduces the following poll results from Arabs in the Middle East:

What do Arabs really think about the problems that afflict them, and how is this related to the issues Islamic terrorists are fighting and dying (and killing) for? A recent "Opinion Survey of the Arab Street 2005" by Al Arabiya news network provides some interesting answers.

The survey sought to see what Arabs thought about the relative lack of economic progress in the Arab world. In answer to the question, “What is stalling development in the Arab world?,” 81 percent chose "Governments are unwilling to implement change and reform", 8 percent citing "The ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict," 7 percent "Civil society is failing to convince governments", and 4 percent chose "Terrorism".

Another question, "What is the fastest way to achieve development in the Arab world?", had 67 percent choosing "Ensuring the rule of law through justice and law enforcement", 23 percent chose "Enhancing freedom of speech", and 10 percent chose "Resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict".

The leaders use the anti-Semitic ruse to try to keep the populace in tow. I believe that the low value that Israel rates in the minds of a majority of Arabs shows the anti-Jewish feelings, while perhaps present in various degrees in all or most Muslims, does not reach the level hoped-for by Muslim leaders.

The fanatics are growing smaller in number thanks to our miolitary/intelligence actions. The Islamists may act even more fanatic as their desperation increases. It will get uglier until they are reduced to a police action level. The Arab street continues to see the advance of Iraq. The end is coming.

Krugman's Skinny On Obesity

The NYT economist Paul Krugman in "Free to Choose Obesity?" tackles obesity and its harmful societal effects in today's column. He posits that government should take an active role in making us trimmer and, thus, healthier. He argues there is no choice in what or how much one eats and, much like the success of government intervention into public health like constructing sewers and anti-smoking campaigns, the government should "do something".

Certainly I am for sewer systems and I recognize the reduced number of smokers due to education but Krugman's faith in government intervention is scary to me. I like having the right to choose what I eat. According to Krugman:

It is more important, however, to emphasize that there are situations in which "free to choose" is all wrong - and that this is one of them.

I agree that choosing to rob, steal or murder is wrong and society has developed laws prohibiting and punishing these things over many millennia. I would prohibit late-term abortions, supported by Krugman as a matter of choice, due to the harm done to the unborn.

I agree with Krugman that childhood obesity is a big problem today. Overall the obese have a higher incidence of many health problems not seen as often in "normal" people.

Reports Michael Fumento:

For all nine of the physical conditions in 2002, “overweight” persons fared WORSE than “normal” ones. They were almost three times likelier to have type 2 diabetes and well over twice as likely to have high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

But the obese suffer far more. They were more than twice as likely to suffer
arthritis, asthma, heart disease, and upper gastrointestinal problems compared to “normal” persons. They were more than six times likelier to suffer diabetes and more than four times likelier to have hypertension.

But education on scientific issues is a more effective (and I do not mean cluttering it up with ideological garbage) kind of "intervention" that the Krugmans of the world generally intend. Our public schools have our children for 8 hours each day. Can't they skip a few fad topics and give children the skinny on foods? Today gym class grades have nothing to do with physical prowess. For the sake of children's self-esteem, testing and grading in gym class amounts to knowing how many outs there are per inning versus being able to throw a runner out at home plate. If your chubby kid knows how many feet there are in 2 miles, he aces gym. The kid who can actually run 2 miles may get a bad grade.

Still Krugman wants us to get over our prejudice against government. He writes:

In today's America, proposals to do something about rising obesity rates must contend with a public predisposed to believe that the market is always right and that the government always screws things up.

I guess Krugman missed the 4th of July excitement over the past weekend. A reasoned skepticism towards government has been an American attitude since our founding. Krugman professes his own skepticism of government regarding a report from the Department of Agriculture that championed choice over activism. He criticizes it for failing to provide examples of the reports claim of potential "unintended consequences" of a government obesity policy.

I am heartened that a government agency recognizes there may be unintended consequences to an action. I wish the government did more of that in the past. Of course, Krugman offers no solutions to this problem other than "let's do something about it". Thanks for the advice.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Raich Decision: What Were They Smoking?

Many of your fellow Americans have never heard of the concept of “enumerated powers” and what it means in our system of government. Incredulity will meet your explanation that Congress is not free to legislate on any pressing need of the nation. People will be shocked at this because their experience with Congress and Supreme Court reviews of acts of Congress has been a general expansion of the federal government. “What do you mean they cannot do that?” they’ll ask. Their lack of knowledge is not their fault.

The Supreme Court decision that confirms this all-powerful federal government scheme assumed by Americans is Gonzalez v. Raich. Raich is the case confirming the constitutionality of the sweeping federal drug law that has outlawed medical marijuana in California notwithstanding that state’s legislation making it lawful. The average American will correctly view the decision on a human level. The government is forcing its citizens to deal with the severe pain of cancer and chemotherapy, Aids or other diseases without a palliative remedy prescribed by their doctors. And those people are correct.

The Court has ruled and the legal basis espoused by the majority was wrong. It contains very serious danger for our futures. The wise dissents written by just-retired Justice O’Connor and Justice Thomas recognize this danger.

Let’s recap the case and the case law relied upon in the Justice Stevens majority opinion. The facts are, from the majority opinion:

“Respondents Angel Raich and Diane Monson are Cali­fornia residents who suffer from a variety of serious medi­cal conditions and have sought to avail themselves of medical marijuana pursuant to the terms of the Compas­sionate Use Act. They are being treated by licensed, board-certified family practitioners, who have concluded, after prescribing a host of conventional medicines to treat respondents’ conditions and to alleviate their associated symptoms, that marijuana is the only drug available that provides effective treatment. Both women have been using marijuana as a medication for several years pursu­ant to their doctors’ recommendation, and both rely heav­ily on cannabis to function on a daily basis. Indeed, Raich’s physician believes that forgoing cannabis treat­ments would certainly cause Raich excruciating pain and could very well prove fatal.

Respondent Monson cultivates her own marijuana, and ingests the drug in a variety of ways including smoking and using a vaporizer. Respondent Raich, by contrast, is unable to cultivate her own, and thus relies on two care­givers, litigating as “John Does,” to provide her with lo­cally grown marijuana at no charge. These caregivers also process the cannabis into hashish or keif, and Raich her­self processes some of the marijuana into oils, balms, and foods for consumption.

On August 15, 2002, county deputy sheriffs and agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) came to Monson’s home. After a thorough investigation, the county officials concluded that her use of marijuana was entirely lawful as a matter of California law. Never­theless, after a 3-hour standoff, the federal agents seized and destroyed all six of her cannabis plants.”

So Congress has denied under through the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) remedies prescribed by physicians to pained citizens. Can the Congress do this? Of course they can because of this Supreme Court ruling. However, it is legally incorrect.

Under the federal system of government, the Founders recognized the many sovereign states would not give up their full authority over activities within their borders but would cede some powers in order to facilitate good economic relations among the states. This limited offer from the states would help develop a federal government that was strong enough to ensure individual rights to “life, liberty and property”. The earlier Articles of Confederation were relatively successful but flawed as to the economic needs of the new nation. Thus, the Commerce Clause of Article I allows the federal government to regulate “Commerce…among the several States”.

The majority opinion discussed how this clause was initially interpreted for the first century of America’s existence. “[T]he primary use of the Clause was to preclude the kind of discriminatory state legislation that had once been per­missible. Then, in response to rapid industrial develop­ment and an increasingly interdependent national econ­omy, Congress “ushered in a new era of federal regulation under the commerce power,” beginning with the enact­ment of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887, 24 Stat. 379, and the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890…”

How could the first generation of interpretations of this clause be wrong when the actual individuals who drafted and ratified the Constitution were still living? How can a different and expansive interpretation be true to the intent?

Justice O’Connor recognized the need to uphold the concept of enumerated powers. It is the essence of the unique federalism in a country like ours. She wrote:

“This case exemplifies the role of State as laboratories. The States’ core police powers have always included authority to define criminal law and to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens.”

Experiments are done in labs to avoid extraneous inputs, to focus the analysis and limit the environment in case of damage. Think of the movie “The Blob”. One giant oozing blob can only go so far. It can “roll” or shimmy over a few people, turning them into skeletons and to threaten, at most, a small city. Local militia can use flames throwers or modern lasers to sizzle the Blob into black scrambled eggs. It is a tough go for that city but the damage is contained. A federal “Blob”, simultaneously unleashed in 50 states at once would be less easy to contain, if not be a catastrophe.

However, the majority sees today as part of the earlier mentioned “new era”:

“[T]hree general catego­ries of regulation in which Congress is authorized to en­gage under its commerce power. First, Congress can regulate the channels of interstate commerce. Perez v. United States, 402 U. S. 146, 150 (1971). Second, Congress has authority to regulate and protect the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, and persons or things in interstate commerce. Ibid. Third, Congress has the power to regu­late activities that substantially affect interstate com­merce. Ibid.; NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U. S. 1, 37 (1937). Only the third category is implicated in the case at hand.”

The majority then discussed the case that most parallels this issue, that provides the stare decisis or precedent for their decision:

“Our decision in Wickard, 317 U. S. 111, is of particular relevance. In Wickard, we upheld the application of regu­lations promulgated under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, 52 Stat. 31, which were designed to control the volume of wheat moving in interstate and foreign commerce in order to avoid surpluses and consequent abnormally low prices. The regulations established an allotment of 11.1 acres for Filburn’s 1941 wheat crop, but he sowed 23 acres, intending to use the excess by consum­ing it on his own farm. Filburn argued that even though we had sustained Congress’ power to regulate the produc­tion of goods for commerce, that power did not authorize “federal regulation [of] production not intended in any part for commerce but wholly for consumption on the farm.” Wickard, 317 U. S., at 118. Justice Jackson’s opinion for a unanimous Court rejected this submission.”

How did a person growing his own crops like one does in typical ones own garden fall within the Commerce Clause?

The majority cited 3 instances when Congress may act without exceeding the Commerce Clause:

1. To regulate the channels of interstate commerce;
2. To regulate and protect the instrumentalities of interstate commerce;
3. To regulate activities that substantially affects interstate commerce.

It is the 3rd prong’s “substantially affect” that is stretched beyond logic. What does not affect another thing? The famous “butterfly effect” is the concept that a butterfly that flaps its wing in Asia can create a hurricane in Puerto Rico. One seemingly unrelated occurrence can have an affect somewhere else. The 3rd prong is so tenuous that very basis of the enumerated powers philosophy that permeates the Constitution is destroyed.

The majority claims Wickard established “that Congress can regulate purely intrastate activity that is not itself .commercial, in that it is not produced for sale, if it concludes that failure to regulate that class of activity would undercut the regulation of the interstate market in that commodity.”

I have not heard about this interstate market for pot. I have not heard about its regulation that must mean it is taxed and has FDA oversight. But, such is not the case. The Court reasoned that medical marijuana will be drawn into the illegal interstate market! Cancer patients are going to be at the Phish concerts in Idaho and Arizona to make a few dollars instead of smoking the stuff in order to hold down a sandwich after Chemo treatment. Cmon!

The majority held that, while the CSA is broad in its application, since some issues are legitimately within the Congress’ purview, they will let the rest of the unconstitutional stuff slide. Your honors, that is exactly why you get paid the big bucks! You are supposed to read the whole law and uphold that which is lawful and throw out that which is not. In contract law it is called the “Savings” rule. You save the good parts and toss out the bad. However, if the complete law is tainted by the bad, then it all gets tossed.

O’Connor says Congress cannot make a law that is too long and complex that way. The idea is not to confuse Justices with words. She writes that Congress now has incentives to “legislate broadly.”

She adds:

“Today’s decision suggests that the federal regulation of local activity is immune to Commerce Clause challenge because Congress chose to act with an ambitious, all encompassing statute, rather than piecemeal. In my view, allowing Congress to set the terms of the constitutional debate in this way, i.e., by packaging regulation of local
activity in broader schemes, is tantamount to removing meaningful limits on the Commerce Clause.”

Justice Thomas is befuddled by the connection between this ruling and interstate drug trafficking. He wrote:

“Congress’ goal of curtailing the interstate drug trade would not plainly be thwarted if it could not apply the CSA to patients like Monson and Raich. That is, unless Congress’ aim is really to exercise police power of the sort reserved to the States in order to eliminate even the intrastate possession and use of marijuana.”

But what is all the hullabaloo anyway? Giving appropriate historical perspective, Thomas wrote:

“[T]he Framers understood what the majority does not appear to fully appreciate: There is a danger to concentrating too much, as well as too little, power in the Federal Government. This Court has carefully avoided stripping Congress of its ability to regulate interstate commerce, but it has casually allowed the Federal Government to strip States of their ability to regulate intrastate commerce–not to mention a host of local activities, like mere drug possession, that are not commercial.”

If the States have no policing powers, then federal fiat from a majority vote in Congress is the law for everyone in the country. Our Founders held a reasonable fear of this tyranny of the majority. The assumptions were that criminal activity would be best policed by the people facing the criminals or their locally elected officials. If a street gang hassles people, local officials can pass and enforce laws to deal with that local problem. The federal bureaucrats will inevitably wait too long and come up with a bad solution because they lack the knowledge to properly police the problem.

As central government cannot effectively dictate the economic needs of millions who have individual wants, neither can the federal government dictate criminal law for individual states with differing issues. When we want government to protect our life, liberty and property, it is best done locally.

Justice Thomas wrapped it all up succinctly:

“If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything–and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.”

There were many debates among our Founders regarding the scope of the power of government. The Founders possessed a wealth of personal experience in self-government in the colonies and over-government during the final stage of King George’s rule. They were well-grounded in political theory and chose liberty as the over-riding goal of the administration of law. They knew that once in office, the natural proclivity of the politician is to assume more power (even small government icon Jefferson exceeded constitutional powers in the Louisiana Purchase).

Historian Paul Johnson has said: “[The] Founding Fathers were loyal to their respective states, and they weren’t about to embrace a constitution which made the states mere precincts of the federal government. That’s why the resulting Constitution divided power between states and federal government as well as among branches of the federal government.”

The Raich case has nothing to do with getting high on marijuana. In a country that values freedom, rulings that exceed the enumerated powers of the Constitution deprives us of liberty. Congress is obligated to prove that its actions are authorized by the Constitution. When the duty is forced upon the people to prove a given Congressional Act is not within the Constitution’s boundaries, our liberty is lost. And liberty, the thing that makes America surprisingly unique in this authoritarian world is the one thing we as Americans should get a buzz on.

Governor Granholm Chooses To Do the Opposite Of What Works

Rick Baxter and Gary Wolfram discuss the idiotic tax hikes proposed by Gov. Granholm of Michigan in today's WSJ. In a piece called "How to Skin a Wolverine" , we learn that Michigan is tied for the highest unemployment rate in the nation and ranks poorly for business tax climate. The writers ask if she is aware of the typical, historically proventrack record of tax cuts: increased government revenues and increased jobs.

Instead of following tried and true solutions, Gov. Granholm proposes increasing spending and borrowing to cover the deficit. The writers advise:

A Cato Institute study compared 10 tax-cutting states to 10 tax-raising states between 1990 and 1996, and found tax-cutting states generated 1.84 million more new jobs, family incomes grew by $1,600 more, economies grew 20% faster, and state governments averaged four times the budget reserves.

When will these politicians ever learn?

Boys Need Fathers

Bob Herbert skipped writing his usual pseudo-economic columns for a heart-felt blast of reality in Dad's Empty Chair regarding the lack of fathers in the black community. He relates the circumstance of the fatal knifing of Christopher Rose in Brooklyn. Last weekend, the 15-year-old Rose was attacked and killed when a pack of teenagers robbed his companion’s iPod.

Comments Herbert:

Crime has eased in the past several years, but the toll on the young in many black communities is still horrific. And I can't think of this continuing slaughter of black youngsters without also thinking about the mass flight of black men from their family responsibilities, especially the obligation to look after their children.

Most black people are not poor, and most are law-abiding. But the vacuum left by this exodus of black men from the family scene has nevertheless been devastating, and its destructive effects are felt by entire communities.

Herbert’’s form of criticism is like that of a favorite uncle. Kindly and soft. Bill Cosby has been critical in the way a father would come down on an errant child. Firmly and with strength. Both form’s are necessary and both men are correct. And Herbert never reached for his convenient whipping boys-conservatives, Republicans or government. Good for him!

I have a son and a daughter. How I relate to each is different. Unconsciously, I find that my approach in disciplining my son is to be firmer and less explanatory. I think this is a natural tendency for men. It is clearly what is missing from the boys raised in the largely fatherless black community.

This is described by Herbert as:

Kids who grow up without a father never experience that special sense of security and the enhanced feeling of belonging that come from having a father in the home. So they seek it elsewhere. They don't get that sweet feeling of triumph that comes from a father's approval, or the warmth of the old man's hug, or the wisdom to be drawn from his discipline.

It is a sad situation that must be addressed from within the community. I am happy to see Herbert recognizes this.

Let's Leave The Defeatists Behind

From Skip March on the London bombings today:

As articulated by Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush today's barbaric events in London have reminded us that we are at war with a brutal and murderous enemy. We are also reminded by their remarks that while they (G8 countries) are working to relieve misery and suffering of people in the world, particularly in Africa, these murderers seek to inflict death and suffering on innocent people. We can make our choices, we can choose our reality.

These people are not insurgents, they are not freedom fighters, and they are not liberators. These people are barbaric murderers and let’s start calling them that. They have won the hearts and minds not of the Iraqi's or Afghans or of those people in those countries who are risking their lives to escape these murderers' tyranny, but of those who do not have the stomach or the will to confront this threat at every level. It was former New York City Mayor Koch who cast his vote for President Bush because he in fact has the stomach and the will. It will only be uglier if we do not have the will. There is no room for such words as withdrawal, timetable, global test that reflects a lack of resolve to confront this horror at every level... DO NOT trust those words, sentiments and actions. DO NOT trust the promise of peace in exchange for withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The extent to which Africa is the next major battleground in the war with radical fundamentalist terrorism will be directly impacted by the extent to which we have the will and resolve to confront and defeat this terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East. This must be done at the state sponsored and individual cell level. If there is a geo-political equivalent to cancer in its most virulent form, this is it. The economic and financial steps taken by President Bush (the most by any American President) and now the G8 to support Africa are right and essential. However, Africans themselves must resolve to take their own countries and governments back and to create responsible and representative governments. They will follow what happens in Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan very closely. You can be sure that Mogadishu still exists in their memories, as well.

As we resolve to help them economically we also must help them gain the confidence and the will to establish a life of self determination. This is where the hard work comes in. This is where our security and that of the civilized world lies; in the hard work, in the will and in the unfailing resolve.

I'm sorry, is the air conditioning set too low for you?

Mike Taylor provides this analysis of polls and what they may mean regarding the publics perception of Democrat action anticipated on SCOTUS nominations and the war On Terror.

I'm sorry, is the air conditioning set too low for you?

Some of us in the prediction business like to think it’s a science. We gather data from what has happened and try to extrapolate what might happen in the future. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we’re off by a mile. But the unpredictability of future events does not deter us from earning our daily bread by advising our clients that “based on what we’ve seen in the past, this is what we’re likely to see in the future…” My vocation does not include predicting future political events… but I like to think of it as my avocation.

So here’s my prediction: The Democrats are going to completely mis-handle the London bombings and the Judiciary committee hearings and will find themselves deeper in minority status after next year’s mid-term elections.

Now, let’s look at past events to see how we might construct a possible future. First, the judicial vacancy. On June 24th through 26th of this year, the Gallup Organization conducted a poll. It was conducted BEFORE Sandra Day O’Connor announced her eventual retirement from the SCOTUS (love these acronyms!) so the noise level and top-of-mind awareness was low among the general population. The key question asked:

"How likely do you think it is that the Democrats in the Senate would attempt to block Bush's nominee for inappropriate political reasons: very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?"

"How likely do you think it is that the Democrats in the Senate would attempt to block Bush's nominee for inappropriate political reasons: very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?"

VeryLikely 58%
SomewhatLikely 28%
Not TooLikely 6%
Not AtAll Likely6%
Unsure 2%

http://www.pollingreport.com/Court.htm

In the survey biz, we like to look at what we call “Top Two Box Scores”… in this case, the top two boxes indicate those people who believe that it’s “very likely or somewhat likely” that the Democrats will behave inappropriately. That aggregate score is 86%. Eighty-six percent! Rounding up, that’s 9 in 10 Americans. Unless the sampling was way off, as in Gallup went to a Republican Party fundraiser to gather responses for this poll, the data indicates that even die-hard Democrats expect their party leaders to embarrass themselves this summer.

That, my friends, is not an endorsement of the Democrat party. That one in ten American is probably Michael Moore.

Further, do you think that a party expected to behave inappropriately by so great a number of Americans is going to be trusted to gain further political advantage in this country? Do you think such a party will be trusted with higher authority? The only thing that I can say is that I sincerely hope not. Ronald Reagan had great success trusting that the majority of Americans know what’s right and what’s wrong and I have that same faith.

So when Americans go to the ballot box next election, with visions of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, Chucky (Schmucky) Schumer and Joe Biden dancing in their heads… will they feel good about pulling a lever marked with a big “D” next to the name?

Schumer, without even knowing the name of the SCOTUS nominee is girding himself for “war” and he’s also pledged to ask the nominee questions that SHOULDN’T be asked and HAVEN’T been asked in the past. In effect, Schumer plans to ask the nominee to pre-judge cases that will come before him or her. Never mind that every past Democrat and Republican has refrained from such a destructive line of questioning, this is going to be “war”.

It must be disheartening to be a liberal and/or a Democrat in this country. To wake up every morning and feel that the people surrounding you in this country are too stupid to know what’s good for them… but that’s another blog topic entirely.

Now let’s turn to the War on Terror and another Gallup poll that, on its face, doesn’t look as good for conservatives and Republicans:

"As you may know, since 2001, the United States has held people from other countries who are suspected of being terrorists at a detention facility in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Based on what you have heard or read, do you think the U.S. should continue to operate this facility or do you think the U.S. should close this facility and transfer the prisoners to other facilities?" Options rotated

ContinueTo Operate 58%
CloseFacility 36%
Unsure 6%

"In general, do you approve or disapprove of the way the U.S. is treating the prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba?"

Approve 52%
Dis-approve 37%
Unsure 11%

http://www.pollingreport.com/terror.htm

As you can see, these are not five point scales… the choices are binomial (which a fancy way of saying you are either for it or against it). So Top Two Box summaries aren’t possible and that means less “discrimination” in the data. It’s harder to judge the drift of public opinion with these black or white questions. But these questions indicate that most Americans want Guantanamo to continue its operation and a slightly slimmer majority approve of detainee treatment there.

But here’s a poll that can use a little “context” to better understand the numbers. First, what the public knows of Gitmo is mainly driven by the media. The Armed Forces aren’t putting out press releases about what good is coming out of that facility and you can be damn sure that the MSM isn’t flacking the lifesaving intelligence being gathered there. What little the US public knows about Guantanamo is mostly negative but, despite that, most Americans believe it should continue to operate.

Further context behind this poll is that, until this morning, we’ve been in a lull between terrorist attacks on Western countries. Americans might have been feeling a little complacent and “is it really necessary to detain these people indefinitely?” Perhaps there has been a growing feeling among Americans that the War on Terror is winding down and is mostly being conducted in Iraq.

Today’s London attacks should be a wake-up call that the War on Terror is still being waged outside of the Middle East. It ought to remind Americans that we need to WORK at preventing another attack, that we can’t just trust to luck. This morning, Americans might have a better sense of what terrorists are capable of. I’ll bet anyone getting on the Metro North or the MTA subway this morning is a little more aware of what Muslim extremists are capable of doing.

Here’s my last prediction. That won’t deter the Democrats from digging a deeper hole. Just as Dick Durbin couldn’t bring himself to say he was wrong to compare Americans to Nazis, Pol Pot and Soviet gulag jailers the Democrats are not going to admit that the London attacks are just a part of Al Qaeda’s plans… plans which include American cities. They’re going to continue to insist that President Bush is doing it wrong and that we can’t trust the Republicans to wage the War on Terror. Be assured that the Democrats will not propose their own strategy to prevent an attack for the simple reason they don’t have one. Nor are they likely to come up with a strategy that can be examined and criticized by voters.

Targets in the US are being examined by terrorists who want to kill as many innocents as they can. Especially American innocents. The only way to prevent another London incident is to gather information from those rounded up on battlefields and those with plastique strapped to their belts.

So, the setting on an air conditioner in Cuba doesn’t seem so much of problem this morning, does it?

Michael Taylor


Response from Andrew “Skip” March

Those are very revealing statistics...thank you Mike. I agree that the Democrats are digging a very big hole on many levels and as pertains to terrorism will have an extremely difficult time reconciling existing positions with the events today in London. However, Robert Bork, in his interview last night on Hannity and Colmes pointed out quite accurately that Republicans must have the resolve to stick to their guns and to stay on point. His particular example of staying on point is to say that judicial activism of liberal leaning judges is to make the Constitution something that it is not.

The resolve has not been what it needs to be (my comment). Allowing Democrats to frame the recent judicial nominee debate with Republicans resorting to the "nuclear option" and Republicans accepting that and in fact using that exact terminology when referring to their own possible actions. It was in fact the Democrats who resorted to the nuclear option in the first place by breaking precedent and filibustering.

Warriors or Wimps

Now we will see if England has the stuff of 70 years ago when they stood up to Hitler or are they like their Spanish neighbors. The subway and bus bombings in England, on the heels of their receiving the approval for the Olympics in 2012, will certainly have a reaction that the world will be watching. It is hard to see Blair going the cowardly route.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Ireland's Nostalgia: The Never Was Days

Nostalgia should be about good things of yesteryear like Yankee fans remembering championships pre-2001, like Americans remembering male tennis champions, like Frenchmen remembering their military heydays in the 1700s and like Howard Dean remembering the Democratic Party.

While I am no expert on Irish history, assuming McCourt's Angela's Ashes was remotely accurate, the history of Ireland has been that of little industry, few jobs, massive poverty and alcoholism borne of despair.

As Thomas Friedman has been reporting, the times in Ireland have changed and its embrace of free market capitalism and global economics has improved life there. Today is/are the "good old days" of Ireland.

Friedman reports the benefits of free market employment laws:

Given that Ireland received more foreign direct investment from the U.S. in 2003 than China received from the U.S., the Germans and French may want to take a few tips from the Celtic Tiger. One of the first reforms Ireland instituted was to make it easier to fire people, without having to pay years of severance. Sounds brutal, I know. But the easier it is to fire people, the more willing companies are to hire people.

Harry Kraemer Jr., the former C.E.O. of Baxter International, a medical equipment maker that has made several investments in Ireland, explained that "the energy level, the work ethic, the tax optimization and the flexibility of the labor supply" all made Ireland infinitely more attractive to invest in than France or Germany, where it was enormously costly to let go even one worker. The Irish, he added, had the self-confidence that if they kept their labor laws flexible some jobs would go, but new jobs would keep coming - and that is exactly what has happened.

But then we get those people who long for the "good old days" like this visitor (published in the NYT):

To the Editor:

While Thomas L. Friedman may be correct that "the Irish-British model is the way of the future" ("Follow the Leapin' Leprechaun," column, July 1), it is unfortunate that to secure this economically prosperous future, a nation must sacrifice its identity.

I spent six months studying in Cork, Ireland, and found myself increasingly disheartened. As I looked out over the ocean from the seaside village of Cobh, I felt an oppressive melancholy seeing the view sullied by a large number of foreign manufacturing plants. Gaelic, the native tongue, is dying everywhere but the west coast, which has been left out of much of the globalization.

Although the "bad old days" of emigration and poverty are behind the Irish people, it saddens me that Mr. Friedman hopes that other countries will follow their model; that will certainly cost those countries much of their individuality, as it did the Irish.

Peter J. Ebnet
St. Cloud, Minn., July 1, 2005

Dear Mr. Ebnet:

While your view of the coast may have been sullied by the appearance of manufacturing plants, you really should have had your head in the books. I take it you were studying neither economics nor sociology. Because, if you had any humanitarian impulses, you would appreciate that the citizens of The Old Sod are thriving, working and likely feeling great about their lives and prospects.

I know the views in Minnesota are breath-taking. On your next study-sabbatical I have an idea. If you are seeking great views and have the stomach to ignore the suffering of locals who die of dysentery, have polluted water and cannot combat other maladies routinely cured in developed countries, Live8 should have pointed you in the right direction. Contact Bono or Bob Geldorf for more information.

Neal L. Phenes

PS: I sent this letter to Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek. Little did I know he was half-Irish. He makes my letter appear down-right conciliatory. Meaning, he got pissed off. Please read it.

Growing Pains in China- Buy American

ChicagoBoyz cites an LA Times article reporting that investors are starting to pull out of China.
The LATimes Don Lee reports:

Now, amid rising wage and pension costs, energy shortages, tighter government regulation, traffic bottlenecks and other concerns, some of them are starting to look elsewhere. Their restlessness reflects a dark side to China's economic boom, as growth pains and other issues prompt companies to reconsider starting up or expanding in China.

The protectionists think that competition is to be feared. However, global free market economics teaches us that money will find its way to sound investments. Worker benefits will rise over time and the initial low costs of a developing country can change quickly. Lee also says "employers are struggling with worker shortages.

Meanwhile, Man Without Qualities opines that Chinese investors will continue to invest in the USA because of the value of security (not securities). The soundness of our relatively free market economy, with stable law enforcement, government and workforce, makes investing in America a safe bet. Writes Robert Musil:

By way of example: Many a billionaire family keeps essentially every asset in the United States (consider billionaire American real estate or technology investors, for example). But no wealthy Chinese family would keep all of its assets in that country. It is curious that some economists - such as Paul Krugman - focus excessively on American political risks (the possibility that the United States might deliberately inflate it currency to address its debts, for example, seems to prey on his gnomishly handsome mind), but pay essentially no attention to the vastly more significant Chinese and developing third world political risk as a reason for the American trade deficit.

In my opinion, political risk matters a lot more than most commentators have been allowing, at least before the risk condenses into something obvious and immediate. Consider the effect of the recent dollop of political risk on the euro, a risk essentially ignored until a few weeks before the French referendum - although the structural issues now identified as the causes of the French rejection have long been present. In fact, it is possible that many wealthy third world investors would be willing to accept negative returns on their American investments for a very long time.

Imagine. Safety equals investment. Think of that when you see what's left of South Central LA since the Rodney King riots. The liberals have stopped the police from enforcing the law there. Who would invest in a business there?

Limit Supreme Court Justice Tenures

Why are Supreme Court appointments so important? Because the lifetime tenure means the justice will have power on key issues for many years to come. Many suggest that lifetime tenure be abolished. When lifetime tenure was first instituted, as explained by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist papers, it was intended to insulate justices from political heat. However, the tenures were short due to life expectancies in the 18th century being no greater than 30 years of age (this is world-wide, includes infant-mortality, and certainly the wealth and likely good health of the potential justices meant their lives would be longer). An appointee who was 40 would decide cases for no more than a decade.

Bruce Bartlett explains the current tenure statistics:

[T]enure on the court has increased over time and turnover has fallen. According to Northwestern University law professors Steven Calabresi and James Lindgren, since 1971 the average tenure in office for a justice has increased from 12.2 years (1941-1970) to 25.6 years. The average age of a justice upon leaving office has risen from 67.6 years to 78.8 years between the same periods. And the average number of years between appointments to the court has almost doubled from one every 1.67 years to one every 3.27 years. The current makeup of the court is one of the longest in history, lasting more than 10 years, since the appointment of Justice Stephen Breyer in 1994.

Let's allow the electorate to decide who are the members of the SCOTUS by giving Presidents a chance at making some appointments during their terms. Fresh minds can reduce the personal policy-making incentive we are seeing with lifetime justices.

Ohio Voucher Program Expands

Joanne Jacobs reports that Ohio has increased school voucher program. The tuition aid, which has been available only in Cleveland since 1996, will allow up to 14,000 additional students statewide to leave schools that persistently fail academic tests and move to private schools, beginning in the fall of 2006. Parents will get $4,250 per elementary student and $5,000 for a high school student; vouchers may be spent for tuition at church-run or secular schools. substantially.

Meanwhile, the NEA claims closing the minority achievement gap is its top priority. However, the NEA's budget for the year starting in August does not reflect a greater emphasis on raising student achievement. The department with that responsibility is to see its funding go up by less than 1 percent over the year, while the department handling collective bargaining and member advocacy is slated for an increase of almost 4 percent.

The interests of any union is the union first, members second and quality of the end-product last, if at all. This is nothing pejorative. Think of the auto union. It seeks to build its membership as large as possible. Its advertising budget is immense. While they seek higher wages generally, they are less interested in an individual teacher's growth or satisfaction. If any individual has a gripe that was not protected in the collective bargaining agreement, there is no hope for satisfaction for the employee. Finally, does the union itself care about the quality of the auto or the price charged by retailers? The same holds true for the teachers' union.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Secular Teachings of Jesus

In a unique essay, Lee Harris asks "Who Separated Church and State?". The answer is Jesus of Nazareth. Ironically, Jesus created the dichotomy of allegiance where political authority rests in the State but moral authority rests with God.

The Romans did not recognize a difference between the gods of Rome and the gods of other peoples. They followed the rule of tolerance. What was revolutionary was the concept that all gods were not authentic. Writes Harris:

Christians, like the Jews from whom they came, not only refused to accept other people's gods along side their own jealous god they didn't even think that other peoples' gods were gods at all. At best, they might be demons -- but in every case, what other men called gods were not, in the eyes of the Jews and the Christian, worthy of being worshipped. Their motto was not our god is better than your god, but our god alone is god.

Harris finds it an amusing paradox that the secular philosophy they follow means:

"Those who advocate the separation of church and state are trying to impose Jesus's teachings on their community -- and if this doesn't violate the separation of church and state clause of the Constitution, what would?"

Jesus taught that the higher authority was God's, not the State's. This is our difference with Statists that we regularly battle. To them, the State contains the answer. To us, it is the problem.

German Productivity- Nein!!

I will try to take a break (say a week) from knocking France. I will instead go after the Germans. Germany has massive deficits from Social Security, unemployment and other social programs (though they have very low military expenses-which I would like to change by pulling bases and troops out of there!). However, they tax the crap out of the successful businesses and individuals thinking they can increase revenues without killing the "golden goose" of business.

Fom Nico Wirtz in Tech Central:

After a brief period of relative success, Germany again finds itself at the bottom of Europe's economic ladder. For 2005 and 2006, Germany's economic output is projected to be the lowest of all 25 EU member states. With projected economic growth rates of 1.5 percent for 2006, Germany will continue to lack in economic performance. This is even more striking when compared to growth projections for 2006 for the United States (3 percent) and the EU average (2 percent).

Boo Hoo! They are less obnoxious than the French but are following the same idiotic economic policies (also pushed by America's Democrats).

I apologize for the knock on the French. I promise no more this week.

All Property Is Public

From Scrappleface on Kelo:

The 5-4 decision comes on the heels of last week's court declaration that so-called "private" property is actually government land temporarily under private management until its eventual seizure.

I Hate This Place. Let Me Stay

An overwhelming majority of Palestinians in Israel either refuse to move out of Israel when given the chance or prefer their current cities remain under Israeli jurisdiction when offered. Barak once proposed that portions of Jerusalem that were Arab-majority be transferred to the PA. 70% of the Arabs there preferred it remain under Israeli sovereignty. Arabs fought the location of the famous fence so as to remain within the Israeli borders!

Daniel Pipes points to a number of Palestinians Who Cling to Israel . Telling is the following quote from an Arab doctor applying for Israeli papers:

"At least here I can speak my mind freely without being dumped in prison, as well as having a chance to earn an honest day's wage.”

They sound like rebellious 20-year olds who want to live like adults in their parents' house.

Government's Right To Take and Spend Your Money

Combining 2 obsessions, one writer I obsessively read and one topic I cannot stop caring about, Mark Steyn defines "eminent domain" as:

"[T]he fancy term for what happens when the government seizes the property of the private citizen. It pays you, of course, but that's not much comfort if you've built your dream home on your favorite spot of land.

Most laymen understand the "public interest" dimension as, oh, they're putting in the new Interstate and they don't want to make a huge detour because one cranky old coot refuses to sell his ramshackle dairy farm. But the Supreme Court's decision took a far more expansive view: that local governments could compel you to sell your property if a developer had a proposal that would generate greater tax revenue. In other words, the "public interest" boils down to whether or not the government gets more money to spend.

I can't say that's my definition. Indeed, the constitutional conflation of "public interest" with increased tax monies is deeply distressing to those of us who happen to think that letting governments access too much dough too easily leads them to create even more useless government programs that enfeeble the citizenry in deeply destructive ways.

The final point must be made again. The government has no natural right to your property (or as represented by money). You expend effort and earn it. The government just takes it and gives it to others. It was never more blatantly shown than in the Kelo case.

I do not think I will ever get over this ghastly decision.

Monday, July 04, 2005

U.S.A.- No Other Place

Ben Stein wrote a cute column about business travel with many sound tips on surviving hotels and plane rides. Without intending it, Stein provided a perfect 4th of July story. He wrote:

Just recently, I sat next to a lovely woman who was married to a highly paid Hollywood screenwriter. On a whim, I asked her what her grandparents' occupations were. She then told me a stunning tale. Her maternal grandfather was half-Jewish, living in Germany in 1941. He was approached by the Gestapo and told that he and his family would be sent to the camps unless he "volunteered" for a suicidal Wehrmacht mission in Stalingrad. He did, and was promptly killed. But the Nazis seized the family's house anyway, and the family had to seek shelter in a relative's farmhouse in the Sudetenland, where they suffered horribly in the late phases of the war.

Now this woman lives in an immense mansion in Hancock Park and drives a Cadillac. "Doesn't this make you want to kiss the American ground you walk on every morning?" I asked her.

"You bet," she said.

God bless America.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Summer Reading

Summer reading lists have been produced everywhere. Here is the summer reading list from notables at the National Review.

For me, summer reading as something different or more than rest-of-the-year reading is almost non-existent. I am an "older father" of two small children and hold a full-time non-writer's job. Summer reading is done but is actually harder than rest of the year reading. I go to the pool club on weekends and am required to shlep my 4-year old son or 7-year old daughter (and sometimes both plus their friends) around the pool for the whole 3-4 hours we are there. I see other parents with older children bring the NYT or books to read on their chaise lounges. I envy them but then they are reading the Da Vinci Code (a book I have promised myself never to read) or some other novel of no long-term value.

At night I read political articles from the internet, newspapers or magazines. Of course, I am, ergo, I blog. I allot 1 hour each night to "book reading". I am currently reading "A Patriot's History of the Unioted States" by Schweikart and Allen, "Novus Ordo Seclorum" by Forrest McDonald (about the intellectual origins of the Constitution) and I just began Thomas Sowell's "Applied Economics".

Money spent in vain, I have a few fiction books that were recommended to me. But since I have spent a good portion of my life reading fiction and, having exhausted the great French novelists and most of the other Europeans, I can spend a decade or so (the rest of my life?) solely on non-fiction.

Yes, I am a literature snob. However, every moment one spends reading is an opportunity for intellectual growth, so while the beach is hot and the sun is shining, please do read. Just skip some of those books on that NYT fiction list.

NJ Politics: Where Spending The Same Amount As Last Year Is Called A "Cut"

In a NYT news piece on the NJ state budget that, among other things, reduced the property owner's rebate and increased some taxes, the Democrat-dominated legislature:

mindful of Mr. Codey's [the Governor's] declaration during his budget address in March that "the days of spending like there's no tomorrow end today," agreed to spending cuts that helped keep the budget figure at $27.9 billion. That was essentially the same as last year's budget.

In NJ-NYT parlance, the same outlay as last year is called "spending cuts". But increasing taxes and increasing the surplus should mean a decrease in taxes. Surplusses always get spent-see what politicians have done with the Social Security surplus. I wish I could treat my home budget the same way.

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