2004-09-28

The waning usefulness of the UN

The UN, still ignoring the 50,000 people who have been slaughtered in the Sudan, sent peacekeepers to help hurricane victims in Haiti.

The Growing Police State

According to The Week, the TSA said it would order airlines to turn over information on all passengers who traveled in July.

"Latino Leaders"

In Oakland, CA, they were running sobriety checkpoints quite frequently. "Latino leaders," whoever that is, complained and got the checkpoints stopped. Would you suppose that they wanted to stop the checkpoints because and inordinate number of Latinos were being stopped? Not exactly. Would you suppose that Latinos are more likely to drive drunk? It could be true, I guess, but that's not why, either.

Nope, the reason they wanted the checkpoints stopped was because - get this - too many illegal aliens were getting caught at the checkpoints!

Now, knowing how these largely self-elected "leaders" operate, whether latino, black, Christian, or any other stripe, it doesn't surprise me that they demanded an end to a process that was actually catching criminals. Nor does it surprise me that the government of the city caved. But this kind of senseless pandering to ethnic groups has got to stop.

2004-09-21

Eminent domain.

Still think we live in a free country, folks? We don't.

2004-09-20

Iraq

The following is the latest missive from my friend in Kut, Iraq. Interpret it as you wish.

hi Zinn,
I am well .Everything in AL-kut is stable .There are some incidints which are happened in some Iraqi cities ,but the situation is not so worse as those fuckers journalists describe coz most of them don`t US & they don`t like the good for Iraqis .keep in touch .
majed

2004-09-14

Sudan

It has now been about two moths thatthe genocide in the Sudan has been going unchecked. At this point, the big debate in the UN is whether or not to call it a genocide.

How can anyone at all still think that the UN is good for anything at all?

The Will-They-Never-Learn Files

According to the Washington Post, DC voters are on the brink of electing to city council a man who has been convicted, on videotaped evidence, of smoking crack. Yes, that's right, it's Marion Barry.

Why is DC screwed up, again?

2004-09-13

More Campaign stuff...

"Now say someone comes to you looking for a job. Right off the bat, you notice something strange about his rèsumè: It goes on for page after page about a job he held for four months, more than 35 years ago, but makes only the barest mention of anything he's done since. You have him in for an interview, and he can't give you a straight answer to any question about what he plans to do in the job if you hire him. ... Still, you decide to check out his references. (John Edwards: "If you have any question about what John Kerry is made of, just spend three minutes with the men who served with him.") Some sing his praises quite extravagantly, but a greater number describe him harshly as a man of dubious character, and some accuse him of lying on his rèsumè. He acknowledges a few embellishments but refuses to provide you with documents that would shed light on the other accusations. Would you hire this man? And would you fire an employee of four years' standing in order to create an opening for him?" --James Taranto

2004-09-10

Statists

An Open Letter to Statists Everywhere

Published in The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty - December 2000 by Lawrence W. Reed

Lawrence Reed is president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (www.mackinac.org), a free-market research and educational organization in Midland, Michigan, and chairman of FEE’s Board of Trustees.

Dear Statist Friends:

I know, I know. You’re already objecting to my letter. You don’t like the label “statist.” You don’t think of yourselves as worshipping government; rather, you think of yourselves as simply wanting to help people, with government being your preferred means to achieve what is usually a very worthy end. “Statist,” you say, is a loaded term—a pejorative that suggests an overweening, irrational kinship with the state.

Well, let’s wait and see how the term stacks up after you’ve read my whole letter and answered its questions. Meantime, if you have any doubt about whether this missive is directed at you, let me clarify to whom I am writing. If you’re among those many people who spend most of their time and energy advocating a litany of proposals for expanded government action, and little or no time recommending offsetting reductions in state power, then this letter has indeed found its mark.

You clever guys are always coming up with new schemes for government to do this or that, to address this issue or solve that problem, or fill some need somewhere. You get us limited-government people bogged down in the minutiae of how your proposed programs are likely to work (or not work), and while we’re doing the technical homework you seldom do, you demonize us as heartless number crunchers who don’t care about people.

Sometimes we all get so caught up in the particulars that we ignore the big picture. I propose that we step back for a moment. Put aside your endless list of things for government to do and focus on the whole package. I need some thoughtful answers to some questions that maybe, just maybe, you’ve never thought much about because you’ve been too wrapped up in the program du jour.

At the start of the 1900s, government at all levels in America claimed about 5 percent of personal income. A hundred years later, it takes more than 40 percent—up by a factor of eight. So my first questions to you are these: Why is this not enough? How much do you want? Fifty percent? Seventy percent? Do you want all of it? To what extent do you believe a person is entitled to what he (or she) has earned?

I want specifics. Like millions of Americans planning for their retirement or their children’s college education, I need to know. I’ve already sacrificed a lot of plans to pay your bills, but if you’re aiming for more, I’m going to have to significantly curtail my charitable giving, my discretionary spending, my saving for a rainy day, my future vacations, and perhaps some other worthwhile things.

I know what you’re thinking: “There you go again, you selfish character. We’re concerned about all the people’s needs and you’re only interested in your own bank account.” But who is really focused on dollars and cents here, you or me?

Why is it that if I disagree with your means, you almost always assume I oppose your ends? I want people to eat well, live long and healthy lives, get the prescription drugs and health care they need, etc., etc., just like you. But I happen to think there are more creative and voluntary ways to get the job done than robbing Peter to pay Paul through the force of government. Why don’t you show some confidence in your fellow citizens and assume that they can solve problems without you?

We’re not ignorant and helpless, in spite of your many poorly performing government schools and our having to scrape by with a little more than half of what we earn. In fact, give us credit for managing to do some pretty amazing things even after you take your 40 percent cut—things like feeding and clothing and housing more people at higher levels than any socialized society has ever even dreamed of.

This raises a whole series of related questions about how you see the nature of government and what you’ve learned, if anything, from our collective experiences with it. I see the ideal government as America’s founders did—in Washington’s words, a “dangerous servant” employing legalized force for the purpose of preserving individual liberties. As such, it is charged with deterring violence and fraud and keeping itself small, limited, and efficient. How can you profess allegiance to peace and nonviolence and at the same time call for so much forcible redistribution?

Don’t invoke democracy, unless you’re prepared to explain why might—in the form of superior numbers—makes right. Of course, I want the governed to have a big say in whatever government we have, but unlike you I have no illusions about any act’s being a legitimate function of government if its political supporters are blessed by 50 percent plus one of those who bother to show up at the polls. Give me something deeper than that, or I’ll round up a majority posse to come and rightfully claim whatever we want of yours.

Why is it that you statists never seem to learn anything about government? You see almost any shortcoming in the marketplace as a reason for government to get bigger but you rarely see any shortcoming in government as a reason for it to get smaller. In fact, I wonder at times if you are honestly capable of identifying shortcomings of government at all! Do we really have to give you an encyclopedia of broken promises, failed programs, and wasted billions to get your attention? Do we have to recite all the workers’ paradises that never materialized, the flashy programs that fizzled, the problems government was supposed to solve but only managed into expensive perpetuity?

Where, by the way, do you think wealth comes from in the first place? I know you’re fond of collecting it and laundering it through bureaucracies—“feeding the sparrows through the horses” as my grandfather once put it—but tell me honestly how you think it initially comes into being. Come on, now. You can say it: private initiative.

I’ve asked a lot of questions here, I know. But you have to understand that you’re asking an awful lot more in blood, sweat, tears, and treasure from the rest of us every time you pile on more government without lightening any of the previous load. If anything I’ve asked prompts you to rethink your premises and place some new restraints on the reach of the state, then maybe the statist label doesn’t apply to you. In which case, you can look forward to devoting more of your energies to actually solving problems instead of just talking about them, and liberating people instead of enslaving them.

Sincerely, Lawrence W. Reed

Kerry's "Service"

Thanks to The Federalist for this little tidbit:

In 1992, from the floor of the Senate, John Kerry said, "If service or non-service in the [Vietnam] war is to become a test of qualification for high office...our nation would never recover from the divisions created by that war." Unfortunately, Kerry chose to make his abbreviated tour in Vietnam the centerpiece of his presidential campaign, and he is still on the defensive regarding his erroneously awarded medals for embellished heroics.

The Navy is now investigating Kerry's Silver Star with that mysterious "combat V," which never accompanies that award. As you may recall, in 1996, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jeremy M. Boorda committed suicide amid allegations that he wasn't entitled to the two small "combat V" clips among his medals. After his death, it was discovered that the 1965 Navy manual governing such decorations did, in fact, authorize the display of these clips.

At the time of Boorda's death, John Kerry found an open mike and protested, "Is it wrong? Yes, it is very wrong. Sufficient to question his leadership position? The answer is yes.... The military is a rigorous culture that places a high premium on battlefield accomplishment. In a sense, there's nothing that says more about your career than when you fought, where you fought and how you fought. If you wind up being less than what you're pretending to be, there is a major confrontation with value and self-esteem and your sense of how others view you. When you are the chief of them all, it has to weigh even more heavily."

"Sufficient to question his leadership position? The answer is yes.... If you wind up being less than what you're pretending to be...." Fellow Patriots, read these lines very carefully, for they represent much more than merely bald-faced hypocrisy. If Senator John F. Kerry is to be taken at his word, then he is, indeed, as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have asserted, unfit for command. He is certainly less than what he is pretending to be.

On the subject of pretenders with phony war decorations, Rear Admiral William Schachte, USN (Ret.), says he has had about all he can take of Kerry's faux Purple Hearts. In a statement, Adm. Schachte clears up the question of Kerry's first unearned Purple Heart: "Lt. (jg) Kerry requested that he be put in for a Purple Heart as a result of a small piece of shrapnel removed from his arm that he attributed to the just-completed mission. I advised Lt. Cmdr. Hibbard that I could not support the request because there was no hostile fire. The shrapnel must have been a fragment from the M-79 that struck Lt. (jg) Kerry, because he had fired the M-79 too close to our boat. Lt. Cmdr. Hibbard denied Lt. (jg) Kerry's request. Lt. (jg) Kerry detached our division a few days later to be reassigned to another division. I departed Vietnam approximately three weeks later, and Lt. Cmdr. Hibbard followed shortly thereafter. It was not until years later that I was surprised to learn that Lt. (jg) Kerry had been awarded a Purple Heart for this night." (To read RADM Schachte's full statement, link to -- http://kerry-04.org/war/schachte.php )

The Big Government Files

While no-one can give Bush high scores for reducing the size of government, or even resisting its further expansion, Kerry has now gone on record as supporting a federal Department of Wellness.

The argument against every big-brother, socialism-by-any-other-name inefficient and largely useless government project out there can be summed up in just three words. (apologies to Ayn Rand.) Those words?


AT WHOSE EXPENSE?

The Straight Scoop on Kerry

Since he still won't shut up about it, here's the real story on Kerry's Vietnam service.

2004-09-09

Gun Control

While not an election-year issue this year, I believe this subject bears a little attention as to what the Second Amendment means.

Let me preface this with the fact that I don't really care what the Second Amendment means. It is a purely academic issue. I have a basic human right to defend myself from aggressors by any means necessary, including the use of arms, if I deem that to be necessary.

"A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infinged."

Don't ask me what those extra commas mean, I didn't put them there. But there are really only three possible ways to interpret this part of our Constitution.

1.) That by including the phrase "A well-regulated militia," the drafters of the Bill of Rights meant that this right to bear arms applied only to the militia, and that this militia, in modern times, is the National Guard.

2.) That the right is an individual right, and that the militia phrase was meant as a justification for the free excercise of that right.

3.) That the militia phrase meant that the right was to be exercised by the militia, but that the National Guard is not the militia.

Two and three have merits. The first can be immediately disposed of by the following quotes (italics mine throughout):

"It is more a subject of joy [than of regret] that we have so few of the desperate characters which compose modern regular armies. But it proves more forcibly the necessity of obliging every citizen to be a soldier; this was the case with the Greeks and Romans and must be that of every free State." --Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1813

"[The] governor [is] constitutionally the commander of the militia of the State, that is to say, of every man in it able to bear arms." --Thomas Jefferson to A. L. C. Destutt de Tracy, 1811

"We must train and classify the whole of our male citizens, and make military instruction a regular part of collegiate education. We can never be safe till this is done." --Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1813

"I think the truth must now be obvious that our people are too happy at home to enter into regular service, and that we cannot be defended but by making every citizen a soldier, as the Greeks and Romans who had no standing armies; and that in doing this all must be marshaled, classed by their ages, and every service ascribed to its competent class."--Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, 1814

"The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. A well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best
and most natural defense of a free country." --James Madison, in the Federalist
Papers No. 46 at 243-44
As for whether it is an individual right or a collective "right" (there can be no collective rights, only individual rights excercised collectively, but that's another post) in the opinion of the Founding Fathers, take note:

"The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that... it is their right and duty to be at all times armed."--Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824

"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." --Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria in On Crimes and Punishment (1764).

"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ... And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. -- Thomas Jefferson, November 13, 1787, letter to William S. Smith

Whereas civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as military forces, which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms. -- Tench Coxe in Remarks on the First Part of the Amendments to the Federal Constitution

To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them. -- Richard Henry Lee, Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic, (1787 - 1788)

The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed. -- Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188
Any further questions?

2004-09-01

Laws vs. Liberty

In Northern California last week, a man was charged with a felony charge of starting a fire, and a misdemeanor charge of reckless use of a lawnmower. That's right. And the reason it was a crime? Because the temperature was over 100 degrees, so he should have known better, according to the prosecutor.

Reminds me of another charge I remember hearing about: Possession of a knife under circumstances not manifestly appropriate. This was about 2000 or so, and happened as a man was caught at Newark Liberty International Airport (what an ironic name) with an 8-inch dagger in his shoe, which he claimed he did not know was there. Now I'm not judging whether he knew it was there, or whether he should have been allowed to take it on a plane. I simply can't believe that someone can face up to five years in prison on a state charge of possession of a knife under circumstances not manifestly appropriate! Hello? Is this thing on?

On Celebrity Activists

"If you're listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you're a bigger moron than they are. Why are we rock stars? Because we're morons. We sleep all day, we play music at night and very rarely do we sit around reading the Washington Journal. Besides, when I read the list of people who are supporting Kerry, if I wasn't already a Bush supporter, I would have immediately switched. Linda Ronstadt? Don Henley? Geez, that's a good reason right there to vote for Bush." --Alice Cooper