Thursday, March 31, 2005

Why We Need an ACLU

Someone needs to call petty tyrants like this county sherriff on sticking their noses where it doesn't belong:

A Pender County dispatcher forced to quit her job last year after the sheriff discovered she had a live-in boyfriend is suing to overturn a N.C. law that makes living together a crime.
Sheriff Carson Smith told Debora Lynn Hobbs, 40, that she would have to marry, move or leave her job, said Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina.
"I just didn't think it was any of my employer's business whether I was married or not, as long as I was good at my job," Hobbs said in a statement. "I couldn't believe that I was being given this ultimatum to choose between my boyfriend or my livelihood because the sheriff wanted to enforce a 200-year-old law that clearly violates my civil rights."

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Getting Bullish on Belarus

Bob at Abdymok is, anyways - issuing the call to Bush and Yushchenko to lead the charge in bringing freedom and democracy to Europe's last dictatorship:

yushchenko in his inaugural address on jan. 23 declared that ukraine will be “a reliable partner” in the fight against old and new threats, including tyranny and terrorism.

bush declared three days earlier in his own second inaugural address that the u.s. would “seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

there's no better place to turn these words into deeds than belarus.


belarusian pro-democratic organizations say that the efforts of most foreign donors, many kyiv-based, have been at best lacking in imagination and at worst self-defeating.

the only way to change belarus is to fight lukashenko — to aid the opposition, to discourage investment in the country, to do everything short of arming an insurgency. pro-democracy groups from belarus should not only be welcomed in kyiv. they should openly be coddled by the new kyiv government, and fed, financed and trained. and equipped.

the past policy of issuing grants only to belarusian non-governmental organizations should be replaced by flexible programs designed to identify and support those who are literally risking their necks to combat tyranny at home.

support must come out of the fog of official “dialogues” and “cultural exchanges” and flood across the polish ukrainian and lithuanian borders to minsk.

this means renting dozens of apartments in kyiv, warsaw and vilnius, buying computers and memory sticks and openly, transparently, publicly supporting the belarusian people.

all of them, all the time. afterall, there aren't many left.

both bush and yushchenko have at their disposal a wide range of diplomatic, informational, and economic tools that can be used to jettison europe’s last dictator.

the time to start using them is yesterday.

Amen, brother. Amen.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Minimum Wage and Retirees

Russell Roberts over at Cafe Hayek points us to Warren Meyer at Coyote Blog, and in particular to a recounting of the effects of minimum wage increases on his campground concessions business. Apparently a good deal of his work is accomplished by retirees subsisting on pensions and social security, and work largely for subsidized campground slots and bingo money. He recounts the various ways in which raising minimum wage laws will poison what has otherwise been a grand partnership.

Those in favor of "living wage" laws will tell you that this is an exception. I would counter that most, if not all minimum wage jobs, are the exception. Few, if any, people spend entire careers working for minimum wage and raising a family. This is a caricature advanced by statists playing to emotions in order to advance government coercion as a factor in voluntary exchange between employers and employees. And even if you do consider retirees and students to be the "exception", there is never any provision made to exempt these folks from the laws.

Meyer presents us with a great case study of the unintended consequences of good intentions.

Playing to His Base

from Radio Free Liberty:

(Belarussian) President Lukashenka has signed a decree ordering that the government increase pensions by an average of 8 percent as of April, Belapan reported on 28 March. The average pension is expected to increase to 187,300 rubles ($87).

"There. Now tell the grandkids to shut up and leave me alone, the overtime for riot police is killing me."


Top Cop Gives Good Advice

from this week's Citypaper:

Most murders occur in certain trouble neighborhoods, but police say they can't be everywhere at once to prevent them. "We recommend that people do what we do," says Commissioner Sylvester Johnson. "Stay away from those neighborhoods."

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Lukashenko Up to His Old Tricks

He's started another set of kangaroo court trails to railroad political opponents back into prison. From the Guardian:

Prosecutors opened a criminal case Saturday against more than two dozen protesters arrested in a rally demanding the ouster of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.


Andrei Klimov, an opposition leader who organized the protests, said the Minsk regime's crackdown on political opponents showed that it feared it would be next.

``The opening of a criminal case shows that Lukashenko has really taken fright at the events in Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Georgia and is trying to crush any manifestation of democracy,'' said Klimov, who was still at liberty on Saturday.

``The last dictatorship in Europe is surviving on fear and repression,'' he said.

Go visit Stefania at Free Thoughts for the rest of the images of autocratic suppression in action.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Social Security and Welfare

Robert Samuelson has a tremendous column in yesterday's Washington Post that makes me want to stand up and cheer. Quite simply, it insists that we call Social Security what it is - welfare.

We are a nation of closet welfare junkies, which helps explain why we can't have an honest debate about Social Security. Social Security and Medicare are our biggest welfare programs, but because Americans regard "welfare" as shameful, we've found other labels for them. We call them "social insurance" or "entitlements." Anything but welfare. Democrats and Republicans alike embrace the deception. No one wants to upset older voters. Well, if you can't call something by its real name, you can't discuss it honestly.

Absolutely. Welfare comes in many forms - corporate, elder, or underemployed - and I oppose all of it wholesale. I particularly like Samuelson's point regarding Social Security as "insurance":

In normal usage, insurance suggests protection against something you don't expect to happen -- a house fire, a car accident. By contrast, most people expect to grow old. Using the "terminology of insurance . . . [was intended] to mask the huge welfare payments being made," ... People falsely believe they're "only getting what they have paid for."

This is a big reason why the dual purposes of Social Security should be separated. The first is a welfare payment to older citizens. The second is a government insurance program to provide for those who are no longer able to work. By covering both with one blanket, we allow the specious argument that the 80% that falls into the first category is a "safety net" lumped together with the 20% who are disabled. There is no good reason to consider these programs together as they have fundamentally different purposes.

Samuelson contends, and I agree, that labeling social security as welfare is important because any other discussion is predicated on the misguided conclusion that baby boomers are just "getting back what they paid in".

Americans regard "earned benefits" and "welfare" differently. The first is a right, the second a privilege. In theory, welfare should serve some public purpose and not just enrich the recipients. By admitting that Social Security and Medicare are welfare, we allow relevant questions to be raised. Do all beneficiaries "need" or "deserve" their welfare? Is the cost "unfair" to taxpayers or burdensome to the economy? Have the social and economic conditions that originally justified the welfare changed?

And, of course, an honest appraisal of those questions lead to one inevitable conclusion:

If these costs are too high (and I think they are), the only way to curb them is to cut benefits. Neither Democrats nor Republicans want to face that reality. President Bush's proposal for "personal accounts" diverts the debate. To enhance their appeal, he promises to exempt anyone 55 or older (anyone born in 1950 or earlier) from any benefit cuts. Some other proposals lower the exemption to 45 (anyone born in 1960 or earlier). Well, that covers most of the baby boom, which stretched from 1946 to 1964. If the real problem is the baby boomers' retirement costs and you exempt baby boomers from benefit cuts, then by definition you ignore the problem.

On these issues, we can't think straight unless we talk straight. We can't control our welfare habit unless we admit our addiction. Don't hold your breath.

Minsk Demonstration Squashed

Look's like Andrey Klimaw's protest went on with or without permission from the authorities. 1000 protesters was short of Klimaw's original intent of up to 100,000, but sizable enough to draw a reaction from authorities:

About 1,000 pro-democracy protesters tried to gather Friday near the palace of President Alexander Lukashenko, claiming to be emulating the popular uprising in fellow ex-Soviet republic Kyrgyzstan, but they were beaten and dispersed by police in riot gear, and several dozen were arrested.
It took the truncheon-wielding police about two hours to disperse the protesters, who chanted "Down with Lukashenko!" and "Long live Belarus!" A group of 100 or so opposition activists regrouped, only to be pushed away a second time.

The bad news for Lukashenko's opponents is that 1000 protesters just isn't going to get it done. The good news is that this is a rally without an immediate catalyst, and they still managed to get a fair turnout. What has happened in Georgia and Ukraine, and whatever has yet to unfold in Kyrgyzstan will have profound effects upon the aftermath of what will undoubtedly be another rigged "election" in 2006. Europe's last dictator has to be concerned watching what is going on around him and knowing there's no real way out of seeing this all come to a head at some point not too far down the road.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Take it Easy There, Commissar

How's about if I give you credit here. No, it ain't no Instapundit, but I guarantee at least two more people will give you credit for your wise insight into the mocking of federalism.

The War on People in Philadelphia

DanielUA over at YoungPhillyPolitics has a great post regarding the misguided "War on Drugs" and asset forfeiture. Besides pointing out the insane, immoral, and unconstitutional practice of seizure of property "involved" in a drug deal as the tyranny that it is, he also offers plausible reasoning on why it may not even serve as the great revenue stream that the abusive governments think it is:

But, lets forget basic moral questions for a second, and think about the public policy ramifications. We have a City with many struggling neighborhoods, that have abandoned homes, unstable populations, a plethora of mortgage foreclosures, and all the problems that stem from those issues. And within that context, we have the DA, the locally elected DA, helping to push these neighborhoods further into decline by taking long time residents out of their homes?

In the end, of course, the whole thing must actually cost Philadelphia money. Forget the real, but still somewhat abstract monetary effect that a Sheriff Sale has on a neighborhood (some estimates have been that it knocks $15,000 off of the property value of its neighboring homes). Forget the psychic cost to a population that sees a longstanding neighborhood resident forced out of her home by officials elected to represent the interests of Philadelphia residents. How about some very basic costs? Where, for example, do you think people are going to go when this happens? How about a homeless shelter ($$$)? How about public housing ($$$)? Can this really be justified?

Of course, these questions have never been asked. As with most of our drug policy, it is based on kneejerk reaction rather than legitimate cause and effect analysis. We've been persuing this War on Drugs for my entire lifetime, with no discernable positive effect. Isn't it time to reevaluate our tactics?

Coup in Kyrgyzstan

In the wake of more post-Soviet disputed elections, the people have stormed the palace and the president has fled to Russia.

Visit and Publius Pundit for coverage.

Speaking of Santorum

Our own little Keystone State fake memo situation?

It's Rathergate all over again, and the same vigilant entities that brought about to the collapse of CBS News could now also cause heads to roll among Democratic Senate leadership staffers and further shame multiple news organizations that would appear to have fallen for another document hoax.

Very quietly, Senate Republican leadership aides to both Sen. Rick Santorum and Sen. Mitch McConnell, as well as the Senate Republican Policy Committee, have been using the Senate recess break to reconstruct the purported distribution of a document that media outlets, including ABC News, the New York Times and a number of regional newspapers, identified as Senate "GOP talking
points" on the Terri Schiavo fight that unfolded over the weekend.

"There is a process here for documents like this that are passed around down on the Senate floor, which is where the media claimed that the 'talking points' were being distributed last Thursday," says a Republican policy committee staffer. "There was a lot of stuff going on Thursday, but a document like this one was not being distributed. As far as we know, the only documents being handed out related to votes on a series of amendments being pushed through before the recess. Schiavo wasn't part of that package."


However, Republican leadership staffers now believe the document was generated out of the Democratic opposition research office set up recently by Sen. Harry Reid, and distributed to some Democratic Senate staffers claiming it was a GOP document, in the hope -- or more likely expectation -- that it would then be leaked by those Democrats to reporters. In fact, the New York Times stated that it was Democratic staffers who were distributing the "talking points" document.

Hat tip to
Grassroots PA, where they've been on this for a couple of days now. I'd like to take this opportunity to flip a big old metaphoric bird to both parties for politicizing the hell out of some poor woman's horrible fate. These people would exhume her corpse and take it on a traveling roadshow in late October if they thought it might solidify their position with the constituency. It makes me ill.

Santorum This Week Goes 1 for 2


A new poll showing that Catholics are backing off support for the death penalty was no surprise to U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, an outspoken conservative Catholic, who says he has been re-examining his own view.

He has not become an abolitionist, and he believes church teaching against the death penalty carries less weight than its longer-standing opposition to abortion. But he questions what he once unquestioningly supported.

"I felt very troubled about cases where someone may have been convicted wrongly. DNA evidence definitely should be used when possible," he said.

That's right Rick, one innocent put to death by government is one too many.


"You have judicial tyranny here," Santorum told WABC Radio in New York. "Congress passed a law that said that you had to look at this case. He simply thumbed his nose at Congress."

Sorry, Rick. The 20th justice reviewing the case agreeing with the other 19 justices who reviewed the case does not equal tyranny just because it's not the outcome you wanted. Some (and by some I mean me) would argue that interfering in a state matter by a federal legislature which has no domain under it's written constitution to do so is much closer to tyranny.

Is that a Threat?

A revolution is historically unavoidable in Belarus. March 25 will mark the beginning of the fall of this government

- Andrey Klimaw

Full context from Radio Free Europe:

The Minsk city administration has rejected a request by opposition politician Andrey Klimaw to stage a downtown protest rally on 25 March, Belapan News reported on 22 March. Klimaw says he intended to assemble up to 100,000 people to protest Alyaksandr Lukashenka's intention to run for a third presidential term. Klimaw told Belapan he is not surprised by the refusal, although the explanation baffles him. The city government told him that the location where he intended to hold the rally, Kastrychnitskaya Square, is not designed for events involving more than 1,000 people and that he had not produced a letter guaranteeing that he would pay for cleaning the square afterward. Klimaw said, "A revolution is historically unavoidable in Belarus. March 25 will mark the beginning of the fall of this government," Belapan reported.

100,000 people is a bit ambitious, I think.

Klimaw was an opposition member of parliament before Lukashenko forcibly disolved that body in 1999. Subsequent to criticizing the President for that power grab, he was put on a show trial for what certainly appear to be trumped up charges, and finally was released after serving 4 years of a 7 year sentence. Be watching Friday to see if he managed to pull anything off.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Federal Power Grab

Make no mistake about it, that's what tonight's late night session consists of.

"Today, congressional leaders are trying to appoint Congress as a judge and jury," said Rep. Jim Davis, D-Fla. "If we do not draw the line in the sand today, there is no limit to what democratic principles this Congress will ignore or what liberties they may trample on next."

He's absolutely correct.

Frist also noted that the bill, responding to some Democratic objections, does not affect state assisted suicide laws or serve as a precedent for future legislation.

That's a load of crap, Bill, and you know it. ALL legislation is precedent for other legislation, and every federal power grab is a threat to federalism and the rule of law. Funny, seems to me the GOP used to understand that logic.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Viable Opposition in Belarus?

I don't yet know what to make of it, but the opposition to dictator/president Alexander Lukashenko appears to be unifying behind one Alexander Kozulin. Obviously, I'm inclined to like this idea - a united opposition is necessary to pose a legitimate threat to Lukashenko's regime. We'll have to watch over the next several months to see if this guy can fashion himself into the kind of force that Viktor Yushchenko was in Ukraine.

Go visit Publius Pundit for a nice summary of the situation.

Conservatism Come Undone

Lifted Wholesale from Andrew Sullivan. Consider this a blogjacking.

So it is now the federal government's role to micro-manage baseball and to prevent a single Florida woman who is trapped in a living hell from dying with dignity. We're getting to the point when conservatism has become a political philosophy that believes that government - at the most distant level - has the right to intervene in almost anything to achieve the right solution. Today's conservatism is becoming yesterday's liberalism.

Friday, March 18, 2005

I Nominate This Guy for Mayor

From today's Inquirer:

A leading gun-control lobbyist said yesterday that Mayor Street's proposal to impose a moratorium on concealed-weapon "carry permits" would not do much to reverse the sharp spike in homicides.

The same sentiment was voiced by city residents sitting in a crowded office awaiting the police interview required to obtain a carry permit.

"All the crime going on, none of those people have permits," said a 30-year-old North Philadelphia forklift driver, a father of two, who declined to give his name because he did not want neighbors or coworkers to know he was seeking a permit.

"I get up to go to work at 3 a.m... . I don't want my son to see me lying in a casket."

The forklift driver has a better grasp of logic than John Street.

About 28,000 Philadelphians already possess carry permits, according to Street. That is a relatively small proportion of the total number of people who own handguns. About 250,000 handguns a year are sold in Pennsylvania, according to state police data.

Police did not immediately respond to a request for data on how many people charged with murder had legal permission to carry a concealed weapon.

Gee... you'd think the mayor would have that information at his fingertips before suggesting a major policy initiative. Wonder if the Inquirer contacted his office about this information.

Many of the city's fatal shootings involve disputes between people with criminal records, which makes it illegal for them to own a gun, let alone possess a carry permit.

No kidding? You don't say?

Props to the Inquirer for putting out an article that doesn't necessarily approach the subject from the formulaic leftist perspective.

And it's good to hear that the law-abiding citizens amongst us are arming themselves. Hear that thugs? That's the sound of the people refusing to take it anymore.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Terri Schiavo, Marriage, and What it Means To Me

By now, anyone who isn't locked in a closet knows about the Terry Schiavo case. This woman has been incapacitated in a Florida hospital for over a decade and being kept alive only by the use of an IV and a feeding tube and is in what doctors describe as a "persistant vegitative state".

Her husband, Michael Schiavo, and her parents and a number of pro-life advocates have been fighting over whether the feeding tube should be removed, and she be allowed to starve to death. There are a host of court battles and legislative actions in the works to either have the tubes removed or kept functioning, and those are covered ad nauseum elsewhere.

My comment is in regards to the husband's contention that Terri would have wanted the tube removed, based on a conversation that they had years ago where she stated that she would not want to be kept alive artificially. My point is that I believe, in the absence of Terri's prior documentation of her wishes, her husband should speak in her place. Period.

This, my friends, is what marriage means. If I were in a similar situation, the one person I would want making this type of decision for me is my wife. Not my father or mother, not an aunt or a grandmother, not some advocacy group with an agenda behind their actions, and sure as hell not politicians or judges attempting to score political points. None of those people should matter. There's only one person I have sworn my life to, and only one person who has sworn her life to me. And if that is to mean anything at all, it means that if ever I am unable to speak for myself, she, and she alone should be able to speak in my stead.

And if you want to contend (as many appear to - unconvincingly, I might add) that Michael Schiavo is an evil, coniving character, then my answer to you is simply that she should have thought about that before she married him.

Marriage, my friends, is supposed to mean something. When you marry, you cede extraordinary powers to your spouse. Yes, even powers of life and death. And perhaps if people considered it this way before they married, we would not have a 60%+ divorce rate. And so, to all the religious folk out there so quick to decry the denigration of marriage in our popular culture, I say you need to be consistent. If marriage is to be the all-encompassing and powerful institution you claim it to be, then you must accept the word of a spouse speaking on behalf of a person unable to do so for themselves.

Local Stories Abound

And I've been lax on covering them. First, on a "what's eventually gonna chase rox_publius out of the city" note, there's this lovely story concerning Roxborough High School at the end of the block. A brawl involving 12 "girls". One aparently snuck a boxcutter in through a side door, bypassing the metal detectors students have to pass through on their way in. It sure didn't get passed to her through a window - as they are covered with metal grating, for that wholesome, caged animal effect. There are no kids at the rox_castle, and I'll probably stay in the city until there are, but unless I'm rich enough to fork over private school tuition without blinking, I'll be fleeing for the suburbs like so many before me. It's a damn shame, and it's killing our cities, but you just can't send children you love to Philadelphia City Schools. You just can't.

Speaking of high schools, I didn't realize the national story of Terri Schiavo had a local angle. Turns out me and Terri have something in common. We attended the same high school. Given this new info, I feel the need to comment in an ensuing post on this story I'd tend to let slide by in other circumstances.

Then there's the ongoing city corruption trials, where we have yet to see the kind of bulletproof evidence that we would hope for, and many in our corrupt and irrational political circles take this as justification for their belief that this is all an unreasonable witchhunt by the evil Bush justice department to take down a black minority mayor. Tom Ferrick Jr. in today's Inquirer, puts that theory to rest.

While we are enjoying our favorite pasttime of taking potshots at the Mayor, let's give him props for somehow being "unavailable" to meet with IRA terrorist supporter Gerry Adams. Perhaps the furor over his office bestowing gifts on other folks who support murder has taught him a thing or two.

But, lest we give him too much credit Mayor Street proves he is, as Maia eloquently puts it, still a moron. In response to a rash of murders in the city over the past couple of weeks, Street has composed a letter to our illustrious governor, Ed Rendell, asking for a moratorium on gun permits, and other limitations on legally held guns.

His reasons?

The human cost of gun violence is devastating to the soul of the city and weakens the fabric of our region. Consider:

* Almost 80 percent of our 348 homicides in 2003 were committed with a gun;
* In a three-year period from January 2001 to February 2004, there were 4859 gunshot victims killed or injured by gun violence, nearly ten percent involved juveniles;
* Almost a year ago we had the tragic murder of Faheem Thomas-Childs outside his school. Unfortunately there have been more juvenile murders since, sometimes youth shooting youth.

Of course, nowhere in this letter does Mayor Street address how new regulations would prevent gun violence, or how many of the murders were comitted with legally held and properly registered guns. But such a correlation matters little to the statists who run our city. The appearance of "doing something" is much more important than small matters of results. And they will gladly run roughshod over our freedoms and rights in order to keep up appearances.

And last, but certainly not least, the nearby suburb of Coatesville has a particularly egregious attempt at an eminent domain land grab underway. It seems the city wants some residents' farm for a municipal golf course, and isn't too concerned with how they feel about it. Thankfully for the family, the court battle doesn't seem to be going well for the power hungry city officials. Unfortunately for local taxpayers, those legal fees have topped over $1 million. Once again, Maia has the scoop. (Two unrelated links, one post - I'm impressed)

Friday, March 11, 2005

Interesting Litmus Test

From Dr. Roy Cordato at the Locker Room:

Focussing on the privatization of retirement and education: if one is in favor of privatizing neither then it is safe to predict that he is a liberal. If he is in favor of a some degree of privatization of social security but no privatization of education then he is a conservative. If he favors privatization of both then he is libertarian.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

In Defense of Freedom

The REAL kind - an absence, or at least minimization of coercion.

Eloquently spelled out by Daniel McCarthy. There's not much need to comment from me, he speaks very well on my behalf. One choice passage here, but I recommend you read, and perhaps bookmark, the whole thing.

Libertarian societies in all their variety would not be utopias, of course. Libertarianism does not propose an end to evil or even to coercion, but only the flourishing of civilization in the absence of institutionalized coercion. Crime would not disappear, poor taste would still exist, and even conservative communities would remain beset with imperfection. Removing the privileges of the state would make these evils smaller, less centralized, and more manageable, however. This picture is no abstraction or economic construct; it arises from the practice of actual institutions. The record of civil society and the free market is as old as the human race.

On the Death Penalty for Minors

I have mixed emotions about the Supreme Court ruling last week disallowing the death penalty for minors. Generally, I am against the death penalty on a coldly logical level. I simply do not trust the government with that kind of power. There's too much evidence of examples where they have screwed it up, and if they're wrong, an execution is kind of hard to undo. My feeling is that if one innocent is put to death, that's one too many, and it's simply not worth the primal satisfaction that we get from putting the most heinous criminals amongst us out if it means we're entrusting the same governments that run our schools and DMVs and the IRS with the power to put people to death. Of course, there's always the occasional heinous crime that hits close enough to home, such as Lee Malvo, DC sniper accomplice, who struck at a school in Bowie, Maryland from the woods behind my mother's townhouse, or the brutal slaying of a Fishtown teenager by his best friends for $500, that make me question my stance.

Despite that small misgiving, I suppose I would have to favor the Supreme Court's decision, but I'm far from pleased with the basis for the majority decision, which has clearly overstepped the bounds established by the constitution in Article 3, Section 2:

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority

The majority opinion doesn't even bother with the facade of following this prescription. Instead, they base their opinion on "national consensus", which is quite frankly bullshit. As Edwin J. Feulner points out:

Indeed, a majority of death penalty states authorize the punishment for 16- and 17-year olds who commit certain premeditated and aggravated murders. So much for a supposed national consensus.

and even more galling, they then cite "international consensus" which is nothing short of absolute travesty. Mark Alexander explains:

Adding grievous insult to this "national consensus" injury, Kennedy cited "international consensus" noting "the overwhelming weight of international opinion" as a factor in the Court's decision. Kennedy referenced the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child when writing, "The United States is the only country in the world that continues to give official sanction to the juvenile death penalty." Here, his message was all too clear: The High Court is building a tradition of referring "to the laws of other countries and to international authorities as instructive for its interpretation" of the U.S. Constitution.

Sadly, noting international standards and conventions in rulings seems to be the latest fashion among the Supremacists.

In 2003, Justices Ginsburg and Breyer upheld an affirmative-action policy at the University of Michigan, noting an international treaty endorsing race-based advancement for minorities. Stevens, for his part, cited international law in overturning another capital case:

Within the world community, the...death overwhelmingly disapproved." Furthermore, in Lawrence v. Texas, Kennedy wrote that the European Court of Human Rights has affirmed the "rights of homosexual adults to engage in intimate, consensual conduct.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said recently, "I suspect that over time we will rely increasingly...on international and foreign courts in examining domestic issues." Justice Breyer added, "We see all the time, Justice O'Connor and I, and the others, how the world really -- it's trite but it's true -- is growing together. The challenge [will be] whether our Constitution...fits into the governing documents of other nations."


Shall we revisit your oath of office, Sandra?

""I, Sandra Day O'Connor, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as Supreme Court Justice under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.''


Got that? Not "under national consensus", and sure as shootin' not "under international consensus". I really need to get off of this topic, 'cause it makes me so angry, I'm gonna end up using language that's gonna scare my one reader away.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Globalization and Capitalism Work

Reason's Ronald Bailey tells us that "The Poor May Not Be Getting Richer But they are living longer, eating better, and learning to read" and cites as evidence a study by World Bank economist Charles Kenny entitled "Why Are We Worried About Income? Nearly Everything that Matters is Converging".

But you'd never think it from the Anti-Capitalist, Anti-American, and Anti-Globalization factions out there (and that covers what - 98% of the world's policy "experts"?) who decry all that is going on in the world and are crying for tariffs to save jobs from outsorcing, taxes to feed the poor, and more regulation of corporate "greed" to compensate for the horrors of living in today's "tough times".

How can these people maintain this position with a straight face? Simple. Our standards have changed. The very successes that capitalism has brought about now work to empower its enemies, as they point to the growing gap in wealth between the "haves" and "have nots". In appealing to people's base emotion of envy, these people miss the fact that, for all the problems we have, we live in the greatest period of global prosperity that has ever been.

Kenny's study points out that life expectancy and infant mortality rates in developing countries have closed the gap with developed countries, they have grown closer in literacy rates and enrollment in primary schools, the percentage of children in the workforce has dropped worldwide, female literacy has approached that of males, and any number of a host of other objective measures have improved.

So, as capitalism and globalization have triumphed, the quality of life of the world's poorest have improved dramatically. Remember this the next time someone decries the capitalist system or globalization for creating disparity in wealth. Ask them to tell you honestly if they think it better that we achieve equality of income or if it is better to have some fantastically rich (and make no mistake, we in America and Europe - by historical standards - are on average fantastically rich) and the baseline quality of life for the poorest among us be better than it has been at any point in human history.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

More Dead Folks in Ukraine

The rash of suicides continues. This time, former Foreign Minister Yuri Kravchenko was found with two bullet wounds in his head and a suicide note saying:

"My dear ones, I am not to blame for anything. Forgive me. I have fallen victim to political intrigues of President Kuchma and his entourage. I'm leaving you with a clear conscience. Farewell."

Apparently, being connected to the Kuchma regime is very depressing stuff, since everyone involved is deciding to off themselves.

For more on Kravchenko's suicide(?), including the comments of the intriguing Mykola Melnichenko, former body guard turned political refugee, visit Bloggledygook.

I've Decided

In my paper copy of Reason, there's a feature debate between Tyler Cowen and James Glassman on Social Security reform, with Glassman more or less backing the president's privitization plan, and Cowen arguing that it isn't all it's cracked up to be. Those of you who have been reading this blog (ok, nevermind...) know that I've been back and forth on this issue. Some call it inconsistency, I prefer to call it being "nuanced".

But reading Cowen's argument has me convinced. Some choice quotes:

It runs counter to both liberty and responsibility to set up a new system of "private" accounts with regulated contributions, investments, and withdrawls. We would end up adding to government involvement in the market economy, not diminishing it.


And what will happen to the efficiency of capital markets? Glassman already has admitted that investment choices will be "restricted". By whom? According to what standards? Will the government use these regulations to punish unpopular companies? How about companies that (supposedly) break the law? How about companies that supported the other political party? This proposal invites the politicization of investment decisions.


Our government would raise taxes (or borrow) to finance further private investment in equity markets. Furthermore those investments are to be regulated by the government.


I'll vote no on this idea and hope that something better comes along.

I'm sure reason will put the full text up on their site soon. When they do I will link it. But you really oughtta subscribe anyways.

As for the accounts, I find Cowen's arguments persuasive. The idea of the government regulating where significant dollar values are placed in a capital market has a significant potential to distort price signals, and the use of these decisions for political gain is all too likely a scenario for my tastes.

It appears to me that the long term default position is going to be an endless progression of benefit cuts. That is, if nothing is done now, the benefits will be tied to inflation rather than wages, collection age will be pushed upwards, and other new and creative ways to decrease expenditures will be explored.

My ideal solution would be that I be given the option to opt out entirely. I'm 30 years old, and don't count on a single penny of the benefit to be there for me. The FICA line on my paycheck is money taken from me and given to another, in just the same manner that a welfare payment is taken, or property taxes go to city schools though I have no children. I've never seen it as mine or as an investment, and don't expect it ever to come back to me as such. I would welcome the opportunity to stop the hemorraging and denounce any claim to payments made since I started working at 14. I look at it as my payoff money to the gimme generation. Here, have it. Leave me alone.

Failing that, however, let the cuts come as they inevitably will. I'd prefer the program be allowed to wither on the vine, a drag on our economy caused by enormous expeditures, but yet allow the markets which are the only vehicle for potentially surviving this demographic bottleneck to operate free of the political meddling that the privitization plan is undeniably going to create.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Rendell Gets an 'F'

The illustrious governor of our fine state of Pennsylvania gets flunked on his economic report card from the Cato Institute

key points from the Policy Analysis (although CATO probably ain't too fond of me quoting them, since it's pdf'd to discourage cut and paste - tough)

Edward Rendell's low tax grade is a result of his stubborn insistence on raising taxes. After vetoing a budget that balanced the state's books without raising taxes, Rendell lobbied for a 33 percent hike in the income tax, an increase in the beer tax, and a new tax on cell phones. Even though his plan included some property tax relief, it still would have resluted in a net tax increase of $1 Billion

followed by these later on:

Job growth averaged 25 percent in the top 10 tax-cutting states ... the top ten tax-hiking states experienced employment growth of just under 18 percent.

tax-cutting states saw personal income grow more than 5 percentage points faster than the national average, while the tax hiking states saw below-average personal income growth

and, perhaps most importantly here in the population-hemorraging city of Philadelphia

Citizens voted with their feet and migrated to the tax-cutting states in great numbers. Population growth averaged 17.5 percent in tax-cutting states but only 14.4 percent in the tax-hiking states. Again, growth in this variable outstripped the national average in tax cutting states.

And the good news doesn't end there. No siree.

As PoliticsPA points out:

The deplorable ‘F’ rating from the Cato Institute follows on the heels of other independent reports that paint a dismal economic picture in the Keystone State. A recent Forbes Magazine survey ranked Pennsylvania 45th in their Economic Freedom Index, which measures job growth, cost of living and quality of life. Labor reports indicate consistent job loss during Gov. Rendell’s tenure in the state’s once proud manufacturing industry. Moreover, the non-partisan Commonwealth Foundation recently reported that Pennsylvanians pay over $800 more to fund government operations since Gov. Rendell took office just over 2 years ago.

$800 per year per person. I think I'm gonna put up my "88 for Gov." lawn sign right now.

The War Against Individuality is Declared

By British magazine Prospect's columinst Richard Ledyard, who here presents seriously a number of ways in which the government should legislate happiness. Thankfully I was prepared for what was to come by Don Boudreaux's commentary over at Cafe Hayek, and thus slowly immersed myself into Ledyard's statist utopia rather than suddenly erupting in a fury, smashing my monitor and bashing my CPU into pieces Office Space style.

Some gems from Ledyard's piece:

I want a society in which people are as happy as possible and in which each person's happiness counts equally. That should be the philosophy for our age, the guide for public policy and for individual action. And it should come to replace the intense individualism which has failed to make us happier.

So we, as individuals, should have no right to pursue happiness as we see fit, for it may infringe upon "each person's happiness counting equally". Our "guide for individual action" should count each persons happiness equally, and thus if there are four people at work who's desire is that I impale myself on a fencepost (and I assure you, there are at least that many), then I should do so, as in weighing each person's happiness equally, I am greatly outnumbered.

Better still, this should be our guide for public policy. It shall be the government's job to legislate that each of us live our lives in a way that will make the most others happy. And these omniscient, all-powerful individuals will use the powers of force and taxation to ensure that we do.

In any society, richer people are happier than poor people. Yet as a western country becomes richer, its people overall do not become happier. The reason for this is that over time our standards and expectations rise to meet our income.

So the solution, clearly, is to have lower standards and expectations. If only we were all happy eating sparrows which happened to fall from the tree in our straw huts while crapping in chamber pots fashioned from half a coconut - THAT would be truly heaven. And before you give me that "I'm not suggesting we go back to that" line, remember that we WERE there as a species once upon a time, and if people like yourself were making our decisions for us, that's precisely where we would be today. If the likes of you had presented this theory of government in 1776, you'd have written this article by tallow candle light with a quill pen for an audience of yourself and ten of your neighbors - IF you could find the time between trips out back to chop more wood for the fire.

People work, in part at least, to improve their status. But status is a system of ranking: one, two, three and so on. So if one person improves his status, someone else loses an equal amount.


income taxes discourage work. Most economists consider this a disadvantage. They say that when someone pays £100 in taxes, it hurts more than that—it has an "excess burden"—because of the distortion away from work. But without taxes there would be an inefficient distortion towards work. So taxes up to a certain level can help to improve the work-life balance of citizens and thus increase the overall sense of wellbeing in a society.


So if the human status race is dysfunctional—from the point of view of the overall happiness in society—it makes sense to reduce freedom a small amount through taxation policy.


if we work harder and raise our standard of living, we first appreciate it but then we get used to it. Research shows that people do not adequately foresee this process of habituation, or fully realise that once they have experienced a superior lifestyle they will feel they have to continue it. They will in effect become addicted to it. Once again, the standard economic approach to addictive spending is to tax it.

Oh.... my... god.... This guy is actually using the "We all starve equally" argument to SUPPORT confiscatory tax policy??? (It's at this point that if Boudreaux had not sufficiently prepared me, my monitor would have been busted, and I would likely be on my way to the hospital to have my broken hand looked at.)

But you think that's it? Don't be silly. There's more... much more... this guy's rich.

We should be sceptical of institutions which give greater weight to rank, such as performance-related pay (PRP). The idea of PRP is that by paying people for what they achieve, we provide the best possible system of incentives.

"From each according to his ability..."

Divorce and broken homes are ever more common. Research shows that the children of broken homes are more prone to depression in adulthood. To protect children, the state should act to try to make family life more manageable, through better school hours, flexible hours at work, means-tested childcare, and maternity and paternity leave. Parenting classes should also be compulsory in the school curriculum and an automatic part of antenatal care.

Yeah, cumpulsory parenting classes are the secret to happiness.

And, now angered to a state of frothing madness, I jump ahead to the conclusion of Ledyard's article:

So my hope is that in this new century we can finally adopt the greatest happiness of humankind as our concept of the common good. This would have two results. It would serve as a clear guide to policy. But, even more important, it would inspire us in our daily lives to take more pleasure in the happiness of others, and to promote it. In this way we might all become less self-absorbed and more happy.

And thus is declared the war against individualism. Make no mistake, these are not the rantings of a lonely madman, they are the credo of a great number of statists throughout the globe, who would legislate our commonality and conformity to eliminate differences and aspirations that lead to unhappiness. Enter Bodreaux's incisive analysis:

People like Layard, I dare say, have in their heads some image of government much like that of an all-powerful, all-benevolent deity. See a problem, turn government loose on it. Sure there are countless administrative details that must be chosen, implemented, and monitored when government tackles a problem, but we can trust the good motives, the democratic spirit, and administrative-law judges to somehow, sort of, well-enough typically kinda ensure that these dull but all-important details are dealt with wisely. And government being mostly good, we need not fear that it will abuse its power.

And of course, he's completely correct. These people DO hold government as their religion. They worship unquestionably at its altar, attack those who question their beliefs, and require no proof of its efficacy to sustain that belief. And, of course, as with all religions man has practiced through the ages, a large number of the adherents of statism have done unspeakable harm in it's name.