Thursday, June 30, 2005

Let's review: Why are Canadian drugs cheaper?

"Canada cannot be the drugstore for the United States of America," protests Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh. Mr. Dosanjh wants to pass legislation stemming the flow of prescription drugs from his country to ours.

But the Canadian government faces an uphill battle. Today's consumers shop for health care, like everything else, on the global market. It pays to look for drug bargains, since life-saving medication often comes at a steep price.

Companies like Merck and Pfizer spend more than $800 million to develop each new drug. Yet pills are relatively cheap in Canada because the government's universal health system refuses to pay free-market prices. To buy drugs locally, Americans must pay the full price, and then some, to make up for Canada's bullying behavior toward drug companies.

It's time to tell Mr. Dosanjh: The United States will subsidize Canadian drugs no longer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

You have got to be kidding me...

So this is from a while ago (end of May), but I thought you'd all be interested in this (not so) little tidbit from the Liberator Online:

Federal Government Loses $25 billion
“Oops! Sorry, we misplaced $25 billion of your dollars.”
So says the federal government. (Well, except for the “sorry” part.)

As federal budget expert Brian Riedl of the conservative Heritage Foundation reports: “[T]he federal government cannot account for $25 billion it spent in 2003. That's billion with a "b." Federal auditors know that $25 billion was spent by someone, somewhere, on something, but don't know who spent it, where it was spent or on what it was spent.

***That amount is more than the total federal taxes paid by all of the residents in each of 28 states.*** It's enough to fund the entire Department of Justice budget.”Riedl also notes that mention of the loss is “buried in the Department of the Treasury’s 2003 Financial Report of the United States Government [in] a short section titled “Unreconciled Transactions Affecting the Change in Net Position.”

AHHHHH!!

An article on OpinionJournal today appropriately titled "Turtle Bay Tea Party: Kofi Annan wants to "reform" the U.N. again. Watch out for your wallet" is just down-right scary. Here is some of it, but I'd suggest reading the whole thing.

But if there is one item in all Mr. Annan's talk of reform that should provoke distinct horror, cold sweats, and mighty fears over the trajectory of the U.N., it is a small cipher embedded in Mr. Annan's tastefully printed and expensively bound proposal for U.N. reform, "In Larger Freedom," Annex item No. 5(d). That would be the proposal that developed countries contribute 0.7% of their gross domestic income to the cause of "official development assistance."

For the U.S. alone, where gross national income now totals about $11 trillion, that would add up to more than $82 billion per year--by itself more than 10 times what the U.N. has already failed miserably to manage well. And though Mr. Annan does not spell out exactly how such official aid would "officially" reach its intended beneficiaries, the clear implication is that it would go through the "official" U.N.--generating a great gush of cash, with no more need for the U.N. to worry about reform, or Mr. Annan and his successors even to strain themselves sending staffers to lobby Washington, or signing self-laudatory Op-eds.

Sound familiar? It should. It is unnervingly similar to the U.N. arrangement via Oil for Food in which Saddam paid 2.2% of his oil revenues to the U.N. to supervise the program. As long at the deal continued, the flow of funds to the U.N. was automatic. And because the money belonged by rights to the people of Iraq, but Mr. Annan did his U.N. deals not with them, but with Baghdad's tyrant, the effect was taxation without representation. The predictable result was a carnival of graft in which both Saddam and his biggest business partner, the U.N., hoodwinked the general world public and short-changed most of the 26 million Iraqis who were neither family members of U.N. top officials, nor cronies of Saddam.


Investigators are still trying to follow the money from that last U.N. grand scam. To think seriously for even a second about Mr. Annan's plan to levy a percentage tax, of any size whatsoever, on the GDP of the developed world, is a route not to help for the hungry, but to Orwell's "Animal Farm." The European Union seems so far to find this acceptable--perhaps because the continental elite know that once again, America would pay the lion's share of the biggest bonanza that global bureaucracy has ever seen. But the idea ought to inspire Americans, at least, to take those costly copies of Mr. Annan's reform report (round III) and, in the spirit of Boston, 1773, throw a Turtle Bay Tea Party.

John Walton wills money to school choice advocate

Whole story here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Funny

But not ha-ha funny, because it's true.
John Tierney has an article today in the New York Times about Native Americans an the Bureaucracy that is ruining their lives

Today it's a Crow reservation with enough land and mineral resources to make each tribe member a millionaire, yet nearly a third live below the poverty level, and the unemployment rate has reached 85 percent.

What went wrong?

Here's the punchline, but the whole article is pretty interesting and worth reading:

Cutting paperwork means cutting bureaucrats' jobs, a feat that makes killing Yellow-Hair in Blue Coat look easy. No one has yet figured out how to drive a stake through the heart of White-Collar With Red Tape.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

No subject is safe

Now they've ruined math.

Friday, June 24, 2005

No news here

The New York Times editorializes in support of the kelo decision. No surpise though, they got their new building through eminant domain. As Jonathan Rauch reported back in 2002:
The Times is planning to build a new corporate headquarters. The building will be a marvel of contemporary architecture, with 52 stories, dual skins of glass and white ceramic rods, and a small grove of maples outside a rooftop conference room at the summit. Casting about for a location, The Times and its partner, a developer called Forest City Ratner Companies, lit upon Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st streets, in the somewhat grubby neighborhood of the Port Authority bus terminal. The Empire State Development Corp. -- New York's economic-development agency -- promptly condemned the whole site.

Various critics and outside observers say that The Times will get the property for substantially less than its market value. The Village Voice recently quoted a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of real estate finance as saying that the developers were getting "at least a 25 percent discount." The developers dispute the point. Not in dispute is that taxpayers will shoulder several tens of millions of dollars of the project's ultimate cost, and that dozens of businesses, firms, and other denizens will be displaced.

Why is the government stepping in? "This will be an important final piece of the puzzle to revitalize the entire Times Square area," a spokesman for the development corporation told me. A smaller puzzle piece is Sidney Orbach. He and his two brothers own a 16-story office building on the condemned block.

"I would have said this couldn't happen in the United States," Orbach told me recently in a phone interview. He said of his building, "It used to be a factory building, and we totally converted it to an office building. It became a very, very desirable place. We just want to keep the building. We've put a lot of money, energy, and sweat into this." Meanwhile, "I am now sitting with a tremendous amount of vacancy because no one wants to rent space that has a good chance of being condemned."

Around the corner, on Eighth Avenue, is Arnold Hatters. The shop has been on the block since 1960, when Arnold Rubin opened it. His 30-year-old son Mark grew up with the store and is now its general manager. "Having to move is scaring the hell out of me," Mark Rubin says. "This is a gold mine location," near the bus terminal, Pennsylvania Station, and the hat-intensive theatrical industry. Rubin doubts he could afford as large a store elsewhere, and he fears that many of his customers may not move with him.

"As far as I can remember, this has always been our family's breadbasket," Rubin says. "I think it's atrocious that for the sake of a private corporation like The New York Times, somebody has the right to take it away from us." He might understand if the block were being condemned for a city road or hospital. "But no one has explained to me why they have to do this so The New York Times can have a big new skyscraper here."

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Apologies

The opinion in Kelo can be found at http://straylight.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/04-108.ZS.html. Its not up on the Supreme Court page yet.

Eminent Domain Case

For those of you who do not follow the Supreme Court decisions as closely as I do, Kelo v. New London was handed down today, bringing with it a stinging defeat for all private property owners across the country. The facts of the case, very briefly, are as follows: New London, Connecticut, attempted to exercise its eminent domain power by purchasing, then razing, the homes and businesses of several dozen residents in order to make way for a new health club, office building and hotel. Many of the residents' families had lived in those homes for generations. The eminent domain power of local and state governments allows municipalities to appropriate private property to facilitate construction of public works, utilities, and when an area is "blighted." Some of us crazies think that even that is going too far against the rights of private property owners, but such is the law. What today's ruling does, however, is extend the power of eminent domain miles further down the road towards communal living. The Supreme Court ruled that municipalities may take (take is actually the appropriate constitutional word) private property in order to increase the tax base through private development. Here is an example. Your house is in a really prime real estate location in a city with a diminishing tax base. So, the city takes your house and land, then turns around and sells it to a PRIVATE DEVELOPER so he can build luxury condominiums there, thus increasing the tax base, and benefiting the community. According to the Court, localities are in a better position to determine what will benefit the community. That's right - economic prognostication is now a legitimate tool of eminent domain. I wonder whether the 'town' of Berkeley, California, believes that it is 'economically beneficial' to socialize all property, and allow the government to make any and all decisions concerning development? If so, this decisions seems to allow them the right to take (for 'just compensation,' a term with quite a bit of litigation wiggle room) the private property of everyone within the city limits, as long as they believe it will create jobs and increase tax revenue. As Justice O'Connor points out in her dissent (quite a good piece of writing, too, you should check it out when it gets posted at www.supremecourtus.gov), this decision will hamstring small business owners at the expense of large conglomerates. This is a dark day for the 5th Amendment.

More on PBS, NPR

There is an article in the NYTimes today about the possible cut in funds.

The highlight is when they discuss the lobbying being done by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting:

"What bothers me is they're using my tax dollars to lobby the Congress to get more of my tax dollars," said David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian research organization, and a guest on Mr. Lehrer's program on Monday.

Mr. Boaz, a regular listener to public radio, said he believed in the separation of news and state. "The government shouldn't be putting its thumb on the scales in the marketplace of ideas," he continued, adding that public broadcasters could withstand the loss of money that represents about 15 percent of their revenues.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Quick, stock up on 'grassy' lollipops before its too late

Marijuana-flavored lollipops with names such as Purple Haze, Acapulco Gold and Rasta are showing up on the shelves of convenience stores around the country, angering anti-drug advocates. 'It's nothing but dope candy, and that's nothing we need to be training our children to do,' said Georgia state Sen. Vincent Fort, who has persuaded some convenience stores to stop selling the treats. The confections are legal, because they are made with hemp oil, a common ingredient in health food, beauty supplies and other household products. The oil imparts a marijuana's grassy taste but not the high.
They sound pretty gross if you ask me.

Link via FND.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Belles will be ringing

The all-new Liberty Belles blog is up and running. My summer roommate, Lea, has a post on libertarian gender imbalance -- specifically, why aren't more chicks signing on to the Free State Project?

Monday, June 13, 2005

School Choice Debate

There is a School Choice Debate at Legal Affairs between Clint Bolick, President and General Counsel for the Alliance for School Choice (who spoke at Columbia this past semester) vs. Laura Underkuffler, a Professor at Duke Law School. Read the whole thing!

Oh, Canada!

What do Cuba, North Korea, and Canada have in common?

They're the only three nations that ban private health insurance.

Stubborn libertarian takes on TSA

A Keene Libertarian who tried to board a flight carrying nothing but a Bible and a copy of the Declaration of Independence was arrested Saturday at ManchesterAirport. Russell Kanning, 35, was arrested after refusing to comply with security screening procedures and refusing to leave the screening area, according to the Rockingham County sheriff's department. He was charged with criminal trespassing and was being held at the Rockingham County jail. Kanning's wife, Kat Dillon, said her husband has refused to have his bail posted and will remain in jail until his arraignment Monday.
Link via Freedom News Daily

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Everyone Allied Against Government Idiocy

From the UK Telegraph: An Oxford student "was arrested for causing harassment, alarm or distress and fined £80 after asking a mounted police officer if he knew that his horse was homosexual."

Peter Tatchell, a gay rights activist, has taken the student's side.

Mr Tatchell, who has handcuffed himself to Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, in his campaign for homosexual rights, accused the police of grossly wasting their time and resources. "The police are not doing nearly enough to halt genuine violence against gay people and yet they waste their time on this absurd arrest," he said.

Linked from The Corner.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Who pays and how much?

Virginia A. over at the Dems blog goes on a rant about, "2 Americas: The Rich vs. The Super Rich." This is the part that really struck me:

Of course she cited the well known Republican myth that the rich pay more taxes than everyone else. I attempted to bust this myth, explaining that the reason the
upper middle/lower wealthy classes pay high taxes is because the really rich are
paying very little (or nothing at all) in taxes and that corporations are evading their dues altogether.

But Virginia, i have a question for you.

If you believe that the wealthy should pay a larger percentage of taxes, shouldn’t you argue for the system of taxation that is most effective in achieving that goal? Here are two tables from a NRO article that come from the Congressional Budget Office. And, for the record, I went through and checked all the numbers, they are right. Aviod the temptation to dismiss my post because i cite a conservative magazine and just focus on the numbers from the CBO. The first column comes from the 2004 Income Category in Table 3 (2000 law) under “Effective Individual Income Tax Rate” (p. 19) and the third comes from the 2004 Income Category in Table 4 (current law) under “Change in Effective Individual Income Tax Rate” (p. 20) and the middle column is extrapolated by adding the first column to the third (2000 law + difference b/t 2000 Law and 2004 law = 2004 law).



So as many other people love to point out, Bush’s tax cuts give the wealthiest 1% the largest tax break. This point cannot be argued. But look at how the tax cuts effect the tax-burden, which is what we really care about. The data for the first column comes from the 2004 income category in Table 3 (2000 Law) under “Share of Individual Income Tax Liabilities” (p. 20) and the third column comes from table 4 (current law) under “Change in Share of Individual Income tax Liabilities” (p. 21). Again, the second column in the table below is extrapolated from the other two.



Now, I am not making a normative judgment on the tax cuts all, all I am saying is this: If you support, and more importantly, want a system of taxation that is proportionally supported more by the wealthy then by the poor, then what is your argument against the tax cuts for Effective Income Tax (all the other tax cuts aside) seeing how it increased the share of taxes paid by the Top Quintile by 3.8% and decreased it for all other groups?

If you want freedom so badly, you deserve it.

Sound Immigration Policy (Abridged Version): Anyone with the guts and the engineering skills to attempt this:

should be welcomed to the United States with open arms.

(Further: an enterprising headhunter should take the fellow out to lunch, pronto. Can't you just see him working for Chris-Craft? Mattel? The kid in me would love a remote control version of the blue taxi boat.)

Monday, June 06, 2005

RaichBlog

SCOTUSBlog to be RAICHBlog for today. The bloggers include: Ann Althouse, Larry Solum, Mark Tushnet, Eugene Volokh, and David Barron, together with permanent SCOTUSbloggers Marty Lederman and Tom Goldstein.

Raich

For those that don't know me, I'm the president of the Columbia Law School Libertarians. Thought I'd weigh in on Raich, having just read the decision.

This is not a surprising result. Lopez and Morrison, the two cases relied most heavily upon by the respondents (Raich, et al) radically departed from the Constitutional law tract of the last fifty years. Since the New Deal, the expansion of the Commerce Clause has been continuous, extending the power of the federal government into nearly every corner of private life. While this expansion has had some "positive" results (e.g., Heart of Atlanta Motel, which outlawed segregation based on race in hotels), it has also led to the gradual erosion of the original purpose of the Constitution - to maintain the integrity of the States within the grander scope of the national whole. As Marco pointed out, I'm sure Randy Barnett will shortly be posting something that will discuss this to a much greater extent.

What I primarily wanted to talk about is the disappointing fact that Justice Scalia joined with the majority. In the past, Justice Scalia has been a staunch defender of State's rights, and I fully hoped he would continue that trend. His dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, concerning abortion laws in Pennsylvania, trumpeted the value of individual State autonomy, as did his scathing dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, the sodomy law case. Unfortunately, it seems that Justice Scalia only favors State's rights when the State he supports holds his ideological views. I have, in the past, been an exuberant fan of Justice Scalia. On the whole, I believe he is an incredibly intelligent, well-reasoning judge with an amazing grasp of constitutional nuances. Even today, in his concurring opinion, he raises interesting points of law not discussed by the majority opinion written by Justice Stevens. However, I would hold him in far higher esteem were he to abandon his political timbre, and approach questions of law with only the law in mind. Justice Thomas, who is often bashed for following Justice Scalia wherever the later treads, dissented in today's opinion, as did the Chief Justice, and Justice O'Connor. Even had Justice Scalia joined the dissent, Raich was still Justice Kennedy short of winning her case, so on some levels the question is moot. On other levels, though, the question remains omni-important: How should a judge decide a case? When does one apply the law, and accept whatever outcome results, and when does one find the desired outcome, and then apply the appropriate law? Today, Justice Scalia took an enormous step away from integrity, and I can only hope that, if presented with another opportunity in the future, he will rectify his unfortunate mistake.

Raich

The Supreme Court handed down its decision today and ruled 6-3 in favor of the government. Larry Solum summarizes and and links to the opinions here. David Bernstein offers his thoughts here. Keep checking the Volokh Conspiracy, because surely Randy Barnett will be offering his thoughts on the decision soon.

UPDATE: Nick Gillespie: "Supremes to Pot-Smoking Pain-Sufferers: Fuck You"

Friday, June 03, 2005

More on Guantanamo

Here is a good story finding a nice medium between the Bush rhetoric and the leftist rhetoric on Guantanamo.



Using the word "gulag" was out of line, but there are things that need to be fixed at Guantanamo. Obviously, torture is not happening very often, and it has been way over-covered in the media, with most stories actually being false. But even one example of torture or abuse is one too many, and we need to have a much more reasonable debate on the issue.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Howard...

I know that a bunch of articles on this subject have been out in various newspapers, but I don't know if all of you have seen them. You know, the Democrats were warned. A bunch of large Democratic donors wrote anonymous article or were anonymously quoted as saying that they would stop donating if Dean was in command. It's really striking how much better Ken Mehlmen is than Howard Dean. Can we hire Ken as the Libertarian Party Director?

Clean air all around

The 2005 edition of Index of Leading Environmental Indicators notes

Air pollution fell again in the United States to its lowest level ever recorded, but hot air over the subject continued to increase. Long-range world population projections fell, for about the 20th year in a row. Bald eagles, whales, some ocean fish stocks, and U.S. forestlands all showed increases in numbers. And the latest federal study found that wetlands in the United States are at last expanding, reversing three centuries of decline.
Even in China things are looking up:
The good news is that the atmosphere has become cleaner and more transparent,´ says Andreas Macke, a meteorologist at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Kiel, Germany. The collapse of communist economies in the late 1980s and the subsequent decrease in industrial pollutants released in the area was probably a major factor.

Wild and his team did detect continued dimming in some highly polluted areas, such as India, where vast clouds of smog from burning fossil fuels and wildfires darken the sky for long periods each year. But there was a brightening trend in China, despite the country´s booming, fossil-fuel-intensive industry. ´I am surprised,´ says Wild, adding that he can only speculate that the use of clean-air technologies in China may be more widespread and efficient than previously thought.

- Nature, 12 May 2005.
Link via Johan Norberg.