Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Ashcroft v. Raich

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard the oral arguments for the medicinal marijuana case Ashcroft v. Raich. You can read Larry Solum's detailed account (he was sitting in the court) of the arguments here and you can read about Angel Raich here. Basically, this is a question of whether the commerce clause gives congress power to regulate, and in effect make illegal, the personal use of medicinal marijuana. For those of you wondering how non-commercial marijuana that is prescribed, home-grown, and privately smoked in California can be deemed to affect interstate commerce, this is the key provision: The federal government can only reach non-economic activity if the state's authorization of that activity would undermine a broader scheme for the regulation of interstate commerce, this rational coming from Jones & Laughlin Steel and Wickard v. Filburn.

The Times doesn't seem too optimistic about the outcome, but people who probably know a little more seemed to be a little more optimistic. Solum says, "One can imagine this case coming out 5-4 either way. Before argument, I would have said it could be 9-0 either way, but if I allow myself the dangerous pleasure of reading the tea leaves, I now think that is unlikely." And Jim Linddren, from the Volokh Conspiracy, reiterates, "It's still a difficult case for the Court, but Randy's argument was strong enough that I now think the odds for his side are almost even."

This case will surely have serious consequences for medicinal marijuana, but it could also have serious implications for federalism in general if the Justices give it a broad ruling. We will not hear a ruling until July 2005; however, we can hope that the Justices continue their recent support of state's rights.

For the record, I really enjoyed how the government ended its argument:

Souter: If the Respondent's argument succeeds then we would have the question whether recreational use would be covered by our ruling. In deciding what the appropriate subclass might be, can't we take into account the health benefits of medical marijuana?

Clement: It would not be a good idea for the courts to second guess Congress.

UPDATE: Randy Barnett's thoughts, "I truly believe that there is no way to rule for the government without essentially limiting Lopez and Morrison to their facts. There will never be another successful Commerce Clause challenge to a federal statute in the Courts of Appeals if the Supreme Court accepts EITHER of the government's two theories: (1) that the activity here is really economic so that Lopez/Morrison does not apply or (2) an exception for regulations of noneconomic activities as part of a broader regulatory scheme that could be undercut unless they are reached applies to this state identified and policed class of activities." [emphasis in original

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Queer? Cheer up.

Josie Appleton says that homophobia worries are disproportionately large:

The head of the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, Matt Foreman, called Bush the most anti-gay president in modern history. But it seems to be historical amnesia, not homophobia, that is the issue here.

Is Bush really worse than Dwight D Eisenhower, who in the 1950s cracked down on the incipient gay subculture that was emerging in postwar American cities? Gays and lesbians were barred from all federal jobs, with many state government and private corporations following suit; and they were the targets of an FBI surveillance programme. Homosexual behaviour was a criminal offence, and until the late 1960s police forces would regularly raid gay clubs and cart off their occupants.

Gays have never had it so good. Thirty-five per cent of the American public support civil unions for gay couples, including the president himself. It was gay marriage that the states rejected, not the legality of gay sex - and the marriage question wouldn't even have been up for debate a few years ago. At the same time that Bush was elected, Dallas County, Texas voted in a lesbian sheriff, hardly a sign of growing southern intolerance. And one of those worrying about a new backlash was 'Jonathan Katz, professor of gay history at Yale University', a title that speaks volumes about the status of gay issues.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

trade sanctions for free trade

From the IHT:

The World Trade Organization on Friday authorized the European Union, Canada and five other countries to impose about $150 million in trade sanctions against the United States in retaliation for an import duty law that the WTO ruled illegal last year. "It's been approved," said Amina Mohamed, the Kenyan ambassador to the WTO and chairwoman of the organization's dispute settlement body, referring to the sanctions. Sanctions could be aimed at a wide range of American exports, possibly including steel ball bearings, cod, shoes and apples. Most would be imposed by Japan and the European Union, which have been the hardest hit by the U.S. law…

Known as the Byrd amendment, after Senator Robert Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who proposed it in 2000, the law hands American companies the proceeds from duties levied on foreign rivals for alleged dumping - selling goods at below-market prices. Seven trading partners of the United States complained that this punished importers twice over: once with the levy and again by giving a financial windfall to their American competitors…

This is very significant," she [Lourdes Catrain, a trade lawyer and partner in the Brussels office of the law firm Hogan & Hartson] said. "It sends a very important message to the United States: Its trading partners are getting tired of the way the United States behaves."


Let's hope Brazil's cotton subsidy lawsuit against the US shares a similar fate.

Maybe in light of the fact that we are in the 11th month of the most prosperous year in human history, we can safely assume that the merits of free trade have been realized, and that trade will only become less restricted and less subsidized.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Happy Thankskeeping!

You've earned it; it's yours.

Someday you'll work for them

Rupert Murdoch on the immigrants who make us great in today's Wall St. Journal:

In a study on high school students released this past summer, the National Foundation for American Policy found 60% of the top science students, and 65% of the top math students, are children of immigrants. The same study found that seven of the top award winners at the 2004 Intel Science Talent Search were immigrants or children of immigrants. This correlates with other findings that more than half of engineers--and 45% of math and computer scientists--with Ph.D.s now working in the U.S. are foreign born.
. . .
Frankly it doesn't bother me in the least that millions of people are attracted to our shores. What we should worry about is the day they no longer find these shores attractive. In an era when too many of our pundits declare that the American Dream is a fraud, it is America's immigrants who remind us--by dint of their success--that the Dream is alive, and well within reach of anyone willing to work for it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Color me not surprised

Citizen tax returns sneak-and-peek wasn't the only hidden provision in Congress's 3,000-page $388 spending bill.

That should do it, just a little more money

From today's NYT:

CARTAGENA, Colombia, Nov. 22 - President Bush stopped Monday in one of the less discussed corners of the American battle with terrorists, promising President Álvaro Uribe that he would push Congress to add to the more than $3.3 billion that Washington has spent since 2000 to destroy coca crops and support Colombia's battle against Marxist rebels. "This man's plan is working," Mr. Bush said, pointing to Mr. Uribe, who since taking office in 2002 has become the American president's closest ally in Latin America.

Working, you say, hmm:

Over the past three years, rumors of a new strain of coca have circulated in the Colombian military. The new plant, samples of which are spread out on this table, goes by different names: supercoca, la millonaria. Here in the southern region it's known as Boliviana negra. The most impressive characteristic is not that it produces more leaves - though it does - but that it is resistant to glyphosate. The herbicide, known by its brand name, Roundup, is the key ingredient in the US-financed, billion-dollar aerial coca fumigation campaign that is a cornerstone of America's war on drugs.

Not so surprising when you realize that the US coke habit was worth 35 billion in 2000, that's 10 billion more than Microsoft brought in. Incentives are a real bitch.

mmm, capitalism

from newscientist.com:

Anyone planning to ditch their conventional cathode-ray tube TV in favour of a much wider flat panel TV will be spoilt for choice. With the rewards so great for companies who can dominate this market, competition between manufacturers is intense. The result is that flat panel TVs are being enhanced so rapidly that any performance comparisons quickly go out of date.

if only this could happen to all aspects of healthcare...

Laser eye surgery has the highest patient satisfaction ratings of any surgery, it has been performed more than 3 million times in the past decade, it is new, it is high-tech, it has gotten better over time and... laser eye surgery has fallen in price. In 1998 the average price of laser eye surgery was about $2200 per eye. Today the average price is $1350, that's a decline of 38 percent in nominal terms and slightly more than that after taking into account inflation. Why the price decline in this market and not others? Could it have something to do with the fact that laser eye surgery is not covered by insurance, not covered by Medicaid or Medicare, and not heavily regulated? Laser eye surgery is one of the few health procedures sold in a free market with price advertising, competition and consumer driven purchases.

You're telling me, bub

"What is wrong with people nowadays? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities? . . . This is all to do with the learning culture in schools. It is a consequence of the child-centred system which admits no failure and tells people they can all be pop stars, High Court judges, brilliant TV presenters or even infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary effort or having abilities. It's social utopianism which believes humanity can be genetically and socially re-engineered to contradict the lessons of history."

You'll never in a million years guess who wrote this.

Monday, November 22, 2004

More Corruption in the Land of the Hanging Chad

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. But taxpayers from Kansas (and elsewhere in the country) are paying for essential reconstruction work in the wake of three hurricanes. Or are they?
Government aid for Hurricane Frances bought Miami-Dade County residents rooms full of furniture, new wardrobes and thousands of appliances, including microwaves, refrigerators and sewing machines, even though the brunt of the storm missed the county.

...

FEMA paid $4,500 for one resident's funeral, even though the county medical examiner recorded no storm-related deaths.

In six instances, FEMA blamed damage on "ice/snow."

...

In areas with the highest number of FEMA awards, residents told the Sun-Sentinel their neighbors used buckets and hoses to water down belongings and called it hurricane damage.

...

In her ZIP code, FEMA inspectors recorded 257 damaged or broken televisions.

But Martinez, whose TV business sits on a busy Opa-locka intersection, said at most three customers mentioned storm damage.

"As I recall, last month was a pretty slow month," he said. "What a country."

What a country, indeed.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Too late to convert to safety now

In Iran, eating on the wrong day is a fatal error.

A 14 year old boy died on Thursday, November 11th, after having received 85 lashes; according to the ruling of the Mullah judge of the public circuit court in the town of Sanandadj he was guilty of breaking his fast during the month of Ramadan.


Spare the rod, spoil the child.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

No more survivor guilt: America rocks!

Here's a fabulous piece on why Europeans are misinformed about us - they're socialist sheep, generally - and why we should be happy happy happy to live in the land of the free. Author Bruce Bawer has lived in Europe and can vouch for the surprising lack of halos and nuanced wisdom over there. (Note: Bawer seems to be pro-war and anti-gay marriage, etc.... Still worth reading for libertarians!)

I've excerpted the part reviewing NPR commentator Mark Hertsgaard's In The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World:

Hertsgaard compares America unfavorably not only with Europe but--incredibly--with Africa. If "many Europeans speak two if not three languages," he rhapsodizes, "in Africa, multilingualism is even more common." So, one might add, are poverty, starvation, rape, AIDS infection, state tyranny and corruption, and such human-rights abominations as slavery, female genital mutilation, and the use of children as soldiers and prostitutes.
. . .
Though at one point (apropos of American medicine and science) he concedes, with breathtaking dismissiveness, that "We Americans are a clever bunch," he usually talks about his fellow countrymen as if they're buffoons who have mysteriously and unjustly lucked into living in the world's richest country, while most of the rest of the species, though far brighter and more deserving, somehow ended up in grinding poverty.

Heh. The best part is his comparison of European and American mindsets. So follow the link and read the whole thing.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Capitalism is good for animals

Especially the cute ones. You can tell a rich, industrialized country these days by the animals and their prosthetic limbs, hearing aids, glasses....

Scrappleface satirizes the debt

Not so funny when it's true.

At first we thought about cutting spending on bloated federal bureaucracies which strip people of their dignity by trying to solve their problems for them," said one unnamed senator, "but that's hard. So we decided to borrow more money instead."

Library list confiscations? Never happened.

Jeff Jacoby puts John Ashcroft in perspective:

Such loathing of Ashcroft might be understandable if he had done something truly loathsome -- ordered an attack on a religious minority in Waco, Texas, say, and caused the deaths of 70 people. But there is nothing like that in Ashcroft's record. His tenure as attorney general hasn't been marred by scandal or coverup. He has presided over a sharp drop in violent crime and an even sharper increase in federal gun crime prosecutions. The civil rights laws have been vigorously enforced, and more than 500 corporate fraud defendants have been convicted. Above all, there has been no repeat of 9/11 on his watch.

Read the whole thing -- especially if you think Ashcroft is the Antichrist.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Reminder

Debate on "Digital Property Rights" between Prof. Richard Epstein (perhaps the most prominent libertarian legal scholar, from the University of Chicago) and Eben Moglen, of Columbia Law School. Thursday, November 18 at 5:00, at Columbia Law School (116th and Amsterdam).

Should be quite a show...

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

let's hope some good will actually come of this

In Today's NYT:

SALT LAKE CITY, Nov. 16 - In a case that has spurred intense soul-searching in legal circles, a 25-year-old convicted drug dealer, who was arrested two years ago for selling small bags of marijuana to a police informant, was sentenced on Tuesday to 55 years in prison.

The judge who sentenced him, Paul G. Cassell of the United States District Court here, said that he pronounced the sentence "reluctantly" but that his hands were tied by a mandatory-minimum law that required the imposition of 55 years on Weldon H. Angelos because he had a gun during at least two of the drug transactions.

"I have no choice," Judge Cassell said to Mr. Angelos, who seemed frozen in place as the extent of the sentence became apparent.

The judge then urged Mr. Angelos's lawyer, Jerome H. Mooney, not only to appeal his decision but to ask President Bush for clemency once all appeals were exhausted. He also urged Congress to set aside the law that made the sentence mandatory.

Judge Cassell said that sentencing Mr. Angelos to prison until he is 70 years old was "unjust, cruel and even irrational," but that the law that forced him to do so had not proved to be unconstitutional and thus had to stand. The sentence was all the more ironic, he said, because only two hours earlier he had been legally able to impose a sentence of 22 years on a man convicted of aggravated second-degree murder for beating an elderly woman to death with a log. That crime, he argued, was far more serious.



Make a difference, people

Finally, a bleeding-heart cause I can get behind.

Link swiped from Instapundit.com.

Ridonkulous

Turns out that the cool Club For Growth has an equally cool blog with which to beat the status quo about the face and neck. A recent outrage:

A Pennsylvania woman who was struck by a train has sued the rail company - for failing to warn her that trains travel on railroad tracks.

Patricia M. Frankhouser filed suit on Nov. 4 seeking damages in excess of $30,000 from Norfolk Southern Corp.

hmm...

Check out what the next potential Attorney General of the United States said about Cato's new book, Go Directly to Jail: the Crimilzation of Almost Anything:

“The dramatic expansion of federal criminal law in recent decades has made it distressingly easy for prosecutors to ‘make a federal case’ out of matters more properly handled at the state level or by civil remedies. That phenomenon makes it more likely that ordinary businesspeople risk being jailed for run-of-the-mill commercial dealings that traditionally have been handled by contract and tort law. With this timely volume, Cato draws attention to an important—and too often ignored—legal problem.” --Miguel Estrada, Co-Chair, Appellate and Constitutional Law Practice Group, Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher, Washington, D.C.

seems like a good sign to me

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Defining Diversity Down

We at Columbia have witnessed recent blowups among the faculty: weeping over election results, denying uniformity of opinion before admitting it -- to denounce the viewpoints not represented. Earlier today, student activities fees of unknown quantities funded the guest lecture of anti-capitalist gadfly Noam Chomsky. I don't expect the university to invite a Cato scholar next week, let alone to introduce him with the kind of warm endorsement Chomsky received.

Allow me to rant for a moment: In what was quite possibly the most damning, damnable blooper one could expect from a left-wing professor, a tenured radical of Columbia's history department wrote a letter to the student newspaper criticizing an editorial that called for greater (any) political diversity within the university faculty.

The difficulty you [student editors] experienced in thinking of good historians who are, in American terms, conservative, should have led you to ask why that was so. Is it possible that serious scholarly study of history tends to lead a person towards the left?

Note how liberal professors justify the lack of non-Marxists in their ranks. Those other folks (half the country, whatever) are just ignoramuses, and students needn't be exposed to their silly, long-ago debunked views.

Supreme irony: In the same week that The Columbia Daily Spectator ran the history professor's letter -- which bullied student journalists and lashed out at the business school's dean, a free-market economist, for being "an outspoken supporter of the president" -- the newspaper was raising red flags about the dearth of female and minority faculty members. A task force had been formed, it was reported, to investigate charges of racism and gender discrimination.

I have complete faith in the determination of Columbia's administration. Within 5 years, they will have increased the ranks of female and non-white faculty, all of whom read Noam Chomsky and rail against capitalist greed.

Emory professor Mark Bauerlein warns that such an ideological wash (as in the expression, "It's a wash," meaning it's all the same) could lead to a snowballing phenomenon called the Law of Group Polarization.

That law, as Cass R. Sunstein, a professor of political science and of jurisprudence at the University of Chicago, has described, predicts that when like-minded people deliberate as an organized group, the general opinion shifts toward extreme versions of their common beliefs. In a product-liability trial, for example, if nine jurors believe the manufacturer is somewhat guilty and three believe it is entirely guilty, the latter will draw the former toward a larger award than the nine would allow on their own.

I have my doubts about this law's applicability to academia. How much deliberation do leftwing faculty conduct among themselves? "Hey, isn't the minimum wage awfully low?" "Yeah, it's an outrage. Total exploitation of the workers. I was just talking to Arianna about it. Got her to sign a copy of Pigs at the Trough...."

Social Security reform

Tyler Cowen recently posted a roundup up all the talk of social security reform that has been in the blogoshere recently:

Arnold Kling, Brad DeLong, Jane Galt, Matthew Yglesias, Ed Prescott all flirt with various versions of the forced saving idea, typically in the context of social security reform. Should government, even as a second best solution, require individuals to put aside a certain percentage of their funds for retirement?

Tyler's main worry is that we will end up with both a system of forced savings accounts and a secondary welfare safety net behind it. I agree that this seems like a possibility considering that it has happened in most countries that have adopted a system of forced private accounts. But i tend to focus my thinking on rates of return.

Clearly people who got into the system early got a good deal.

Ida May Fuller was the first social security recipient. She paid in a total of $24.75, retired in 1939, lived to be 100 years old in 1975, and in the process collected $22,888.92 in benefits. Ida May is an extreme example but it is true that for current and past retirees benefit increases, a growing economy and longer life expectancy made social security a real deal. It's today's workers and children for whom social security is a raw deal. Even if the system does not go bankrupt, current workers will receive a very poor return on their "investment."

And so this is really my sticking point with the current system: that our generation is basically throwing money into Social Security that not only we wont get back, but don't even have an entitlement to. I agree that a private system has its drawbacks, but i think that those are outweighed by the fact that people might actually be able to accumulate some real money in the process. Not to mention that wealthy people usually live longer than poor people, collecting more benefits in the process.

Here is Cato's proposal, a forced private savings system.

At least Bush has acknowledged that something most be done and made it a priority.

Catfight at the Chomsky chat

I too endured the Chomsky love-fest. The room was so crowded I had to sit on the floor behind a tripod camera filming Chomsky's every word, no doubt for prime-time viewing on C-Span or that grainy independent socialist station in NYC.

High point: During the Q&A session, an impassioned young student got up to demand an explanation from Chomsky for why he supported sanctions against Iran ten years ago, and why he hasn't "supported workers' rights." He cut her off, sneering, "This is the Spartacus [socialist group] line, isn't it? Yeah--we're all tired of this."
(I for one didn't know the Sparties had deemed Chomsky not-leftist-enough, and looked forward to hearing his rebuttal. It never came.)
Then Professor Jeffrey Sachs, leading enviroDemocrat who'd organized the Chomksy lecture, ran up to the podium and told the girl to "just sit down."
Talk about suppressing dissent! Not that I mind; nothing's funnier than infighting among the ranks of the loonies. And when Sachs ordered the Spartacus girl, a student paying a bundle to attend events like these, to shut up, he gestured to the next person in line to ask a question (while the girl was still speaking). Next in line: yours truly.

Sightings at Chomsky Event

Walking down the stairs in the Faculty House today after lunch, I passed by a very crowded room where that paragon of enlightened thought, Noam Chomsky, was giving a talk. Guess who I saw in the audience as I peeked through the glass doors? None other than CCL President Marco Zappacosta, who must be commended for his bravery and sense of duty in the face of what must have been a load of nonsense. In the few seconds that I looked at him, Marco didn't yawn once!

May we expect a full report of the event, Mr. President?

PS: Unrelated, but do not miss U. Chigago Law Prof. Richard Epstein in a debate on "Digital Property Rights" this Thursday, November 18, at 5:00pm in the Law School.

Monday, November 15, 2004

There's no pleasing some people

Despite all that Fidel Castro's Cuba did to "direct resources to the benefit of the poor majority" and despite Cuba's dazzling "contributions to health and welfare in poor and suffering countries, absolutely without precedent" (more Noam Chomsky wisdom here), some Cubans just aren't feeling the love.

Chomsky and his MIT students must be appalled at the irrationality of people born in a socialist paradise who jump ship and beg for asylum in the nearest sink-or-swim capitalist jungle:

- 1960: Former Cuban Agriculture Minister Raul Chibas, a close associate of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, flees with his wife in a motorboat.
- 1965: Castro's sister Juanita leaves by plane.
. . .
- 1993: About 34 Cuban athletes defect to Puerto Rico during a tournament.
- 1993: Singer Albita Rodriguez and her band refuse to return home following a U.S. trip.
- 1993: Castro's daughter Alina Fernandez Revuelta defects.
- 1995: Baseball pitcher Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez flees and becomes star pitcher with the New York Yankees.

. . .
- 2003: Five dancers with the National Ballet of Cuba slip away during a U.S. tour and ask for asylum.
- 2003: Athletes Janerky De La Pena, Michel Brito Ferrer, and Charles Leon Tamayo defect at the World Gymnastics Championships.
- 2004: Forty-three members of a dance troupe performing in Las Vegas seek asylum in one of the biggest mass defections of entertainers.

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal takes a look at one often overlooked voting bloc:

"When 9/11 happened, I thought President Bush was so wonderful because he brought the country together. He began the war on terrorism, which I strongly support."--Michael Winn, 62, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.

"Right now, the No. 1 issue is terrorism. I watched John Kerry waffle on that issue. I'm not comfortable with that."--James Warren, 41, of Overland Park, Fla.

"I base my vote mostly on national defense and economic issues, like taxes and free trade. Basically, I'm a small government kind of guy. The only area I want government to be strong is national defense and law enforcement."--Chris Taylor, 42, of New York

"I believe in the flat tax. You can't overtax someone for being successful. I support privatizing Social Security for people 40 years old and older. I'm for school vouchers."--Ben Barkai, 24, of Washington

These men have two things in common: They voted for Bush. And they are gay. The quotes come from the Washington Blade, a gay newspaper.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

State-funded schools, TV stations... they're equally successful

As in, not very.

German households are bracing for another increase in mandatory television fees next year, but it probably will not be as much as was feared.
. . .
All households with a television have to pay the fee. Thanks to their more broadly attractive programs, private television networks are supposed to be in a better position to finance themselves solely through advertising.

Most Germans probably don't even tune into the less "attractive" junk. Yet they're forced to pay - more and more - to keep it afloat.

WMD found in VP's trousers

Viewer discretion advised.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

NY Times exposes Walmart

In a shattering weekend expose ("What Wal-Mart Knows About Customers' Habits"), the New York Times reveals Wal-Mart's dirty little secret: instead of randomly choosing products and their quantities for inventory stock, the low-price megastore makes a concerted effort to please local customers.

And that's not the worst part of the grisly scene uncovered by the Times. Wal-Mart doesn't just cater to customers' wants; it tries to make money.

A week ahead of [Hurricane Frances's] landfall, Linda M. Dillman, Wal-Mart's chief information officer, pressed her staff to come up with forecasts based on what had happened when Hurricane Charley struck several weeks earlier. Backed by the trillions of bytes' worth of shopper history that is stored in Wal-Mart's computer network, she felt that the company could "start predicting what's going to happen, instead of waiting for it to happen," as she put it.

The experts mined the data and found that the stores would indeed need certain products - and not just the usual flashlights. "We didn't know in the past that strawberry Pop-Tarts increase in sales, like seven times their normal sales rate, ahead of a hurricane," Ms. Dillman said in a recent interview. "And the pre-hurricane top-selling item was beer."


Thanks to those insights, trucks filled with toaster pastries and six-packs were soon speeding down Interstate 95 toward Wal-Marts in the path of Frances. Most of the products that were stocked for the storm sold quickly, the company said.

Such knowledge, Wal-Mart has learned, is not only power. It is profit, too.


Chilling.

First they came for the Big Macs

The UK finally cracks down on fearsome babykillers -- like chocolate and potato chips ("crisps").

Junk food adverts will be banished beyond the 9pm watershed [in] an attempt to fight Britain’s obesity crisis, it emerged tonight. A ban during children's TV had been widely expected when the Government produces its health White Paper next week. But Health Secretary Dr John Reid is set to go further after Ofcom figures showed 70% of viewing by children aged four to 15 takes place between 6pm and 9pm.
. . .
Salty soup, breakfast cereal and even fish fingers could be caught up in the ban.

Wouldn't it be simpler just to ban automobiles and bikes, forcing everyone to walk the pounds off? Du-uh.

Oh-- and you're next, smug Segway-people.

global warming and its discontents

Ron Bailey over at reason.com writes:

Well, maybe. Once a particular notion becomes conventional wisdom, evidence and stories confirming that conventional wisdom are easily accepted and published—and reported in the media. Those that contradict the prevailing views have a much harder time getting a hearing. Either global warming has hardened into conventional wisdom in the climatological community, or mounting scientific evidence shows that humanity is in fact warming the world at a dangerous pace.

Make sure you don't just get swept along by conventional wisdom and read the article...

Friday, November 12, 2004

"The United States is a leading terrorist state."

Surprise, surprise: Noam Chomsky is coming to Columbia for a lecture on Tuesday 11/16 at in the "president's room" of the Faculty House. Please arrive promptly at 1:00 pm to ask him the hard questions.

Stefan Kanfer has the lowdown on the (appallingly) most-quoted living author:

For Chomsky, turn over any monster anywhere and look at the underside. Each is clearly marked: MADE IN AMERICA. The cold war? All America’s fault: "The United States was picking up where the Nazis had left off." Castro’s executions and prisons filled with dissenters? Irrelevant, for "Cuba has probably been the target of more international terrorism [from the U.S., of course] than any other country." The Khmer Rouge? Back in 1977, Chomsky dismissed accounts of the Cambodian genocide as "tales of Communist atrocities" based on "unreliable" accounts. At most, the executions "numbered in the thousands" and were "aggravated by the threat of starvation resulting from American distraction and killing." In fact, some 2 million perished on the killing fields of Cambodia because of genocidal war against the urban bourgeoisie and the educated, in which wearing a pair of glasses could mean a death sentence.

[Chomsky:] "When you come back from the Third World to the West—the U.S. in particular—you are struck by the narrowing of thought and understanding, the limited nature of legitimate discussion, the separation of people from each other."

One wonders how such an enlightened individual can stand living here, as he has for the past 70-odd years. But then, anti-capitalists never quite get around to leaving the U.S.

A commodity in itself

Always refreshing, always . . . Capitalism.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

What about Naderites? They must have thick skins.

Michael Savage was right. Big-government liberalism is a mental disease.

According to Florida mental health professionals, the following symptoms have been identified in John Kerry voters since Nov. 3 and are signs that one should seek help from a licensed mental health clinician. Although therapists report that patients so far have uniformly identified themselves as Kerry supporters upset over their candidate's concession, they urge that the trauma is not necessarily unique to Democrats.

Feelings of withdrawal
Feelings of isolation
Emotional anger and bitterness
Loss of appetite
Sleeplessness
Nightmares
Pervasive moodiness, including endless sulking
Excessively worried about the direction of the country.


James Taranto concludes that "if American liberals are such emotional weaklings that they go all to pieces over the loss of elections, thank goodness we don't have to rely on them to fight a war."

But hey, the ones I've been up against are pretty darn tough.

(Disclaimer: None of the above necessarily represents the views of the Columbia Libertarians as a whole; rather, I'm just spewing forth my own opinions.)

Go, Glenn, Go!

Larry Kudlow says either Glenn Hubbard or Martin Feldstein will succeed Alan Greenspan as Fed Chairman. Here's why Hubbard is our man (though it will be a great loss for Columbia Business School):

With the help of Hubbard, Vice President Cheney, and a number of economic advisors outside the administration, lower taxes on individual income, small business, investor dividends, and capital gains were embraced by the president and signed in the tax bill of June 2003. The results have been stellar.
In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Hubbard emphasized the positive results of lower marginal tax rates on work, saving, and risk-taking, linking lower “success taxes” to entrepreneurship and innovation. Once again, his steadfast and unyielding support of supply-side tax reform commends him strongly for the Fed job.

Hitchens: refreshingly all-over-the-map

He danced on Reagan's grave. Loathed Clinton. Accused Mother Teresa of shady accounting practices. Called Ariel Sharon and Henry Kissinger "war criminals".

But apparently there is a public figure Christopher Hitchens can tolerate, even respect. Or is he just trying to irritate former colleagues at The Nation?

George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he--and the U.S. armed forces--have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled. The demolition of the Taliban, the huge damage inflicted on the al-Qaida network, and the confrontation with theocratic saboteurs in Iraq represent huge advances for the non-fundamentalist forces in many countries. The "antiwar" faction even recognizes this achievement, if only indirectly, by complaining about the way in which it has infuriated the Islamic religious extremists around the world. But does it accept the apparent corollary--that we should have been pursuing a policy to which the fanatics had no objection?

Read the whole thing. It's fascinating -- but then, I say that about everything penned by Hitch.

Nick Gillespie's Event Reminder

Don't forget to attend our first major event of the semester, and bring a friend or two!

Wednesday, November 10 at 8:00 pm, in Greene Hall #102, Columbia Law School.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Unwinding the LP Campaign Spin

An article by my friend Emiliano Antunez, who once run for mayor of Miami:

The idea is not to abandon the fight (or sell out to the major parties), but to look at our position in a realistic light (without spin) and determine our course of action from that point on. We should stop chasing political windmills or looking at our party through rose colored glasses. The work on the 2006 and 2008 elections begins now, and the firmer implanted the party is in the realities of politics, the more success it will enjoy in those elections. If the Libertarian Party (through its members) does not come to the realization of the political facts, it and its members will be eternally damned to an insignificant political existence.

Jesus and the FDA

More on the controversial appointment to the FDA panel on women's health policy, from a TIME Magazine article:

Though his resume describes Hager as a University of Kentucky professor, a university official says Hager's appointment is part time and voluntary and
involves working with interns at Lexington's Central Baptist Hospital, not the
university itself.

good lord... please rid me of my headache

President Bush has announced that he will appoint Dr. W. David Hager to head up the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. He wrote, with his wife Linda, Stress and the Woman's Body, which puts "an emphasis on the restorative power of Jesus Christ in one's life" and recommends specific Scripture readings and prayers for such ailments as headaches and premenstrual syndrome. Oh, he also wrote As Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now.

Well, at least we saw this one coming.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Amend the amendment?!

No more "right to keep and bear arms"? *Sniffle* I could never play tennis again.

A recent Gallup poll shows 36 percent of adults favor a law banning "the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons."

I'm guessing most of these people have never seen a gun and -- luckily for them -- don't have to use one for protection. Why doesn't some bold gun group distribute firearms to store owners in a rough part of town and chart the decrease in hold-ups? That would be totally rad, dude.

Update: My mom just heard Grover Norquist on the radio talking about the Right's "leave us alone" coalition. Sounds like what he wrote about right before the election:

This "leave us alone" coalition doesn't demand validation. Gun owners oppose gun control; they don't demand "gun stamps" or that public school children read "Heather Has Two Barrels."

"If a terrorist bites you, you become one."

Heh.

Can libertarians be G-philes?

NRO's Jonah Goldberg is monopolizing the funny, as usual:

One might ask if the Democrats really want to place so much emphasis on "ignorance" of the base as a defining difference between the parties. By all means let's break out the number-two pencils and pit the homeschoolers, tractor drivers, and Sunday-school teachers against the voters who wouldn't have shown up at the polls lest they miss a chance to meet P-Diddy.

There are other complaints as well. Take the two leading liberal columnists at the New York Times, Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman. As we all know, one's a whining self-parody of a hysterical liberal who lets feminine emotion and fear defeat reason and fact in almost every column. The other used to date Michael Douglas.

Unfortunately...

Don Boudreaux over at Cafe Hayek brings up an interesting point:

But many (most?) people deify the state--deify it mostly because they regard it to be somehow uniquely representative of society or somehow uniquely important to society's welfare. It is neither.

No one laughed when John Kennedy charged his fellow Americans to

Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your
country.

Whether you agree with all, part, or none of this famous political line, it seems normal. When he belted it out, the just-inaugurated 35th President didn't sound foolish.

Suppose, though, that Orin Smith, President of Starbucks, were to proclaim theatrically in a telecast public address "Ask not what Starbucks can do for you. Ask what you can do for Starbucks."

He'd be taken for a fool. And rightly so. People do not exist to serve Starbucks; Starbucks exists to serve people. That's its only justification for existence. The same is true for every other firm and private institution.

Why do we treat government differently? Why do we treat the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC, as someone more than--someone somehow greater than--the chief executive of one branch of one level of government in the United States? Neither the President of the U.S. in particular, nor the government in general, is anything more than human. All government officials--from the President to my mail carrier--are subject to the same human weaknesses, limitations, and temptations that afflict the rest of us.

It's too true: people see the state as something that is much more than merely the sum of its parts, maybe that's why people continue to overestimate its power...


Update: Reading Choice

In an earlier post I wrote:
Clocking in at over 400 pages and no pictures (other than those on the
cover), the book [Choice] will seat on my shelves until after finals, methinks...

I was wrong on two counts: (1) The book does have pictures. One of the essays is in fact a comic strip by Peter Bagge, entitled "Observations from a Reluctant Anti-Warrior." (2) A book like this is not meant to collect dust. The other night over dinner, in a rapt of cultural consumption, I read the following:

The last one had a passage that impressed me, perhaps because I usually have a strong visceral reaction against Keynes:

REASON: In Letters to a Young Contrarian, you talk about how it was libertarians -- specifically Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan -- who did the most to end the draft by persuading President Nixon's special commission on the matter that mandatory military service represented a form of slavery. Is it the contrarians from unexpected ranks that enact real change?

Hitchens: Absolutely. Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Friedman used my mantra correctly by saying the draft would make the citizen the property of the state. To argue against them, however, I'll quote someone whom neither of them particularly likes, but whom I think they both respect. John Maynard Keynes said somewhere -- I think in Essays in Persuasion -- that many revolutions are begun by conservatives because these are people who tried to make the existing system work and they know why it does not. Which is quite a profound insight. It used to be known in Marx's terms as revolution from above.


Sunday, November 07, 2004

Marriage...

"Marriage is sacred--instead of arguing about whether legislatures or courts are going to define it this way or that, it's time we recognized that governments don't have the authority to define it at all. If it's not the place of churches, mosques, and synagogues to pass laws, then it certainly isn't the place of politicians to say what's sacred."

Indeed.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Eminent Domain

Here is an article over at Reason talking about eminent domain. And remember the bit about houses having to be blighted before they could be taken, well:

the city is not even pretending Fort Trumbull was blighted. Instead, it says the promise of more jobs and tax revenue is enough to justify taking the land--a rationale that has become increasingly popular since the Michigan Supreme Court endorsed it in 1981.

scary...

Choice in the Mail

My copy of Choice: the best of Reason just arrived in the mail. I got it free, with my renewed subscription to the magazine. Clocking in at over 400 pages and no pictures (other than those on the cover), the book will seat on my shelves until after finals, methinks...

But, if we do get that book club thing going, I promise to do the assigned reading. Howsaboutit?

evangelical christians, or lack there of

I don't know about you, but I am tired of hearing that the christian right swayed the elections. And so i was happy to read this from Andrew Coyne:

True, it found the largest single block of voters identified "moral values" as the "most important election issue" -- a much cited factoid -- and that 80% of these respondents voted for Bush. But that hardly makes this election a triumph of theocracy. In the first place, "largest single block" turns out to mean 22%, meaning 78% of voters -- including two-thirds of Bush voters -- named some other issue. Second, the pollsters only managed to elevated "moral values" to number one by dividing up the other issues into subcategories. Thus "Iraq" and "Terrorism" are treated as separate issues, though grouped together as, say, "national security" they would have claimed the top spot, with 34% of the total. Likewise "taxes" and "economy" were named by a combined 25% of voters. Had "moral values" been split into "abortion" and "gay marriage," the spin would have been rather different.

Read the whole thing, and thanks to clara for the pointer.

And it begins...

I first off would like to thank Damian for setting this all up and I hope that all of you contribute to this blog with plenty of posts and links. Let it begin...

To Blog is Divine

If you are a member of the Columbia College Libertarians (click here for info on how to join), email me at ddn2005@columbia.edu and I will send you instructions on how to sign up so you too can post here. Happy blogging!

The CCL Blog is About to Go Live

Indeed it is, my friends. In no time at all the blog will be off to the races. Ha!