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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Monday, February 28, 2005

Healthy Brits

When I studied in London some years back I picked up a strep rash on my arm and was forced to go wait in line at the public health clinc. After waiting in line for an hour or so, another student at the University (British student) asked why I wasn't going to the private clinic like all the other American students. In the end I waited and got my antibiotics and recovered. Later I learned through word of mouth not to go back to the British clinic, despite the fact that it was free.

Reading this today reminded me of why free (i.e. Government provided!) isn't always good:

If you're a man diagnosed with prostate cancer, you have a 57 percent chance of it killing you in Britain. In the United States, the chance of dying drops to 19 percent. Again, reports Bartholomew, "Britain is at the bottom of the class and America is at the top."

It must be Bush's fault.

Translating the Transcript

To a national television audience, Delaware's U.S. Senator Joe Biden explained that a broader screening standard is appropriate for vetting nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court "because they're not bound by stare decisis." Translation: Supreme Court Justices are legislators in the judicial branch of government.

Biden likewise detailed his complaint against Justice Antonin Scalia. Biden would not vote to confirm Scalia for Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court because Scalia "thinks there are no such thing as unenumerated rights in the Constitution." Translation: Scalia does not believe in unelected pro-choice legislators in the judicial branch.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Worst Ex President

The debate is still out on whether Jimmy Carter is the worst President ever. Certainly, Carter is one of the worst. However there should be no debate, as this column from yesterday shows, that Carter is undoubtedly the worst Ex-President. Carter is in fact a shame on American history...perhaps the Nero of our time.

I enjoyed this snub from the column most of all:

But something happened along the way to the next election: The State Department declined to endorse Carter's recall referendum observational results, as it had announced it would, and nobody important wanted the Carter Center's business anymore. Carter was conspicuously absent from the dead-serious elections in Ukraine and Iraq recently. Ever the vindictive little man, Carter "participated" in those by sniping at these great human events from the sidelines. For that, President Bush didn't care to call on him to lead tsunami relief either, as he did all other able-bodied former presidents.

Carter should have stayed busy building houses. Since he gave up that job he has moved on to appeasing North Korea (a dangerous failure), to allowing Michael Riefenstahl Moore to sit with him during the Democratic Convention, and to collaberating with leftist leaders around the world with his phony democracy firm (among other things...). In addition, Carter's receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize is one of the biggest shams in the Award's history. Perhaps peace is a relative term, which does not include one's abuse of their own people (that is apparently okay in Carter's mind).

Blogger ssc said...

The Nobel Peace Prize was cheapened because Carter received it while Pope John Paul II has not.

12:24 AM, March 01, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Not to mention (ok, actually specifically TO mention) the late, and much bereaved Chairman Arafat.

2:53 AM, March 01, 2005  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

True about Arafat. Arafat receiving the award is much more egregious than Carter. In fact, Arafat receiving the award is really the punchline of the whole joke. Carter is merely an afterthought.

8:43 AM, March 01, 2005  
Blogger festivus said...

Cheapened? Arafat receiving the Nobel Peace Prize didn't merely cheapen it - it rendered it completely irrelevant. Carter is a knuclehead for sure, but as much as I dislike him, I don't stoop to put him in the same category as Arafat. Carter wants to kill the American spirit - Arafat wants to kill Americans. There's a big difference.

2:06 PM, March 01, 2005  

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Putin Believes the Hype

This is the scariest story I have read regarding the "rest of the world" in a very long time.

If the press was so free in the U.S., Putin asked, then why had those reporters at CBS lost their jobs? Bush was openmouthed. "Putin thought we'd fired Dan Rather," says a senior Administration official. "It was like something out of 1984."

It is one thing to assume that joe public in outher countries is duped by the Farenheit 9/11 types and all the other fables and lies that come out of our media. It is another matter when foreign leaders believe the same hype. Our government needs to seriously fight back against the perpetrators of this slime to prevent obvious lies from becoming fact (see my post below on Agent Orange).

What Magazines Do JAS Types Read?

I thought it would be interesting to ask which magazines JAS readers read? My top four magazines are as follows:

1) National Geographic -- I enjoy the photographs. I also enjoy that most of the stories are written objectively.

2) Reader's Digest -- good, light reading. Recently, there was a good article on coping with stress. It opened with a few paragraphs about the benefits of bird watching. I also like the heroes in action stories.

3) First Things -- mind-bending reading. Being a lawyer, it's good to be forced to think sometime. First Things contains excellent articles about culture, politics and religion.

4) Boy's Life -- My boys get two copies a week so hard to avoid. I always look to the back for the jokes first.

How about you?

Blogger festivus said...

1) National Review. I've been subscribing since early college

2) I'll add another tic to Reader's Digest. Light entertaining reading. Some of it's kinda hokey, and there's not a lot left if you cut out all the ads for drugs (along with the full page of disclaimers), but I like the jokes.

3) Various computer mags and journals. Gotta keep up.

4) The American Experiment Quarterly journal. Good writing from a Conservative Minnesota Think Tank. About to become an all-electronic publication.

5) Occasional airport purchases of: Discover, Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, Commentary

6) ...and I think I'm going to add this to my list soon...

2:39 PM, February 28, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

1) National Review

2) First Things (which some months goes unread)

3) Bon Appetit (which mostly goes unopened, which is a mistake, since the recipes I've tried have been excellent.)

4) Cook's Illustrated (which I used to read cover to cover, but now don't seem to have the time to anymore. And I have enough back issues that I already have too large a backlog of recipes I'd like to try, so I'm letting it drop.)

2:50 PM, February 28, 2005  
Blogger festivus said...

Chris, turn back, if there's still time! Cook's Illustrated is great. You'll find the time to read it. It's on my list as well, as are Food & Wine.

3:02 PM, February 28, 2005  

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Doctor’s office magazines

I was at urgent care for a yet to be diagnosed ailment yesterday for 90 minutes. The magazine choices were essentially, House Beautiful, Time, and People. Having not looked at any of these for at several years, I read them all.

Thing I already knew.
House Beautiful’s sole purpose on this earth is to make you feel crappy about your own house. (Actually, I also once heard it referred as a “gay mag.” Probably correct.)

Thing I learned.
It is much better to have People on a deserted island than Time.
I had forgotten how insipid Time really is. Now, of course, People is insipid too. But,

  1. People doesn’t pretent not to be insipid.
  2. Some of the actress model types I had never heard of (and quite a few I had heard of) are very attractive. Imagine that.
But back to Time. I read one issue (I think) cover to cover. The cover was on twentysomethings who won’t become adults. I swear these articles are written using computer templates. They are all the same, article to article, issue to issue.

Paragraph 1: Personal interest story setting up hypothesis. (In this case, twentysomethings won’t grow up.)

Paragraph 2: Some obscure academic to put this in more global terms.

Paragraph 3: Is this good or bad? Another obscure academic to say’s its bad.

Paragraph 4: Another obscure academic to disagree.

Blah, blah, blah

Conclusion: One thing is for sure, this new trend is here to stay!
Give me People anytime!

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Its probably true that the article on "twenty somethings" not wanting to become adults was first written in babylonian times. Nevertheless cliche always makes for good entertainment if done well.

9:44 PM, February 27, 2005  

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Pittsburgh Paper Blasts Specter

Editorial blasts U.S Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) for suggesting to the Washington Post that the U.S. Constitution obliges President Bush to pre-vet his Supreme Court nominees with Senate Democrats. As the paper back home concludes, "Arlen Specter is a classic political bait-and-switch artist. He chomps the hands that elected and protected him while insisting he's a team player. Specter's antics should be tolerated no more."

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

I guess it is wait and see regarding Specter. There are two things causing the Specter story. First, is the obvious fear of conservatives taht Specter will break all his promises. The second is the obvious love of the liberal media to hope that Specter will break all his promises (and how that hope makes conservatives squirm).

9:47 PM, February 27, 2005  

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First Things First

Here is a quick quiz:

You are a successful lawyer in Austin, Texas, who, as a result of crippling depression, defaults on promises to clients. In the personal and professional maelstrom that follows, your license to practice law is suspended by Texas authorities; your marriage, employment and housing situation all collapse; and you begin to live outside in a secluded, wooded area off of an upscale neighborhood in Austin.

Your first and most pressing priorities are, of course, to:

A. Work day and night with mental health professionals to rebuild the life you once had.

or:

B. Sue the State of Texas to remove a 6-foot granite monument which declares "I am the Lord thy God,” from the grounds of the State Capitol.


The Answer Key is: here.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

That makes sense ....

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor made clear this Wednesday while that while separate racial classifications are never permissible following one's admission to state prison (see link); they are a vital (and a constitutionally protected) part of the process of gaining admission to the University of Michigan Law School (see link).

Yeah. That makes sense.

Blogger ssc said...

I heard a University of Minnesota law professor at a legal education course describe each Supreme Court Justice's jurisprudence. For Justice O'Connor, he said he didn't have a clue. He suggested the best predictor of Justice O'Connor's opinions was asking "What would a White, Female, Episcopalian Republican from Arizona do?" I found that this type of profiling explains most, if not all, of her decisions.

1:39 PM, February 27, 2005  

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Friday, February 25, 2005

Perpetual Unemployment

According to CBS Marketwatch, the third french minister of finance has quit in the last year.

Gaymard is the third finance minister in less than a year to resign at a time when France, like Germany, is pushing labor market and other structural reforms to spur lagging economic growth.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin swept away the controversial 35-hour working week earlier this month and has pledged a decline in unemployment this year to 9 percent. On Friday, the French statistics office, Insee, said unemployment rose to a five-year high of 10 percent in January.


Leave it to France to come up with a plan to force people to work less to alleviate unemployment. It is hard to think of a dumber idea. Perhaps punishing people who work hard would be dumber...(wait isn't that the same concept as the 35 hour work week?)

It gets worse in Germany:

Germany is in a worse situation, economists say - unemployment topped 11 percent in January. The jobless rate in the two countries -- the largest economies in the eurozone -- are well above the average of the eurozone, which economists expect to hold largely steady at 8.5 percent this year.

Growth Rates in both countries are equally distressing:

The German economy remains fragile, so our main scenario envisages only 1.5% growth in 2005 and 1.75% in 2006. French and Italian growth is expected to be only slightly stronger at around 1.75% in 2005 and around 2% in 2006.

I am no economist, but these numbers appear to be absolutely abysmal. French unemployment has hovered around 10% for the last 10 years. It is amazing how they are able to sustain their economy and further to continue borrow at rates larger than their growth rate. No wonder France and Germany are foaming at the mouth to sell arms to third world countries - they need every possible Euro.

Borrwing and Spending statistics are very ugly: The French government currently spends 54% of its GDP. Is freedom possible with such spending? In contrast, Britain, where unemployment hovers around 5% spends only 43% (and this is with a labor government).

The falling dollar is not helping France and Germany with their economic problems either. Perhaps the falling dollar is part of Bush's plan to spread freedom throughout the world - particularly to Europe. A falling dollar may just be eough to tip the balance of old Europe into embracing freedom (and free markets) by electing real conservative reformers.

Volokh, Churchill, and Tenure

Eugene Volokh discusses the relation between the Churchill case, free speech and tenure.

He’s right. Tenure is not about free speech, and it is not (mostly) about protecting academic freedom. To me, it has two other principle functions. First, it’s about the equivalent of making partner at a law firm. Departmental decisions in academia are made by the tenured, or senior, professors. In effect, they own the firm. The junior guys are like law associates. This up or out system has the same virtues as it does in a law firm. Young hungry people work very hard to get promoted (or not fired). Second, tenure is a fringe benefit. Knowing you can’t get fired is worth something. At Boston University, the president (Silber) decided tenure was a bad thing and tried to hire tenured economics professors at other universities with big money five year contracts. No one would take the money. Now I’m sure for enough money, they would have given up tenure, but this was more than Silber deemed reasonable. This tells me then that tenure is an efficient way to pay. (It's worth more to the tenure holder than the tenure granter is willing to pay to get rid of it.)

Every now and those on the right mistakenly attack tenure. But nothing requires any given university to have it. If Penn thought it could eventually outshine Harvard by giving up tenure (for new people), it would do it in a heartbeat. So my question to conservative anti-tenure types: What do you have against the free market?

(Disclosure: Since I’m not full time at a university, but a quasi-public institution, I don’t have tenure. )

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Anyone can agree with the basic argument for tenure. However, the Ward Churchill controversy typifies the double standard in American Academia. For example, if Ward Churchill came out and wrote an essay about how only blacks in the World Trade Center attack deserved to die, there would not be a debate about whether Ward should be fired. But good ol' Ward is attacking white America, and in academia, its okay to attack white middle class America because White America needs to be brought down and crushed. Thus, the double standard is allowed.

Ward Churchill is another example as to why being involved in politics is important...tyranny is always right below the surface.

10:02 PM, February 25, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Publius, I think it is an incorrect assertion that if Ward Churchill had said that only the blacks in the WTC deserved to die, he would be canned. Arthur Butz is a tenured associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern University. He is a Holocaust denier - can't get much less politically correct than that. There is always a movement to fire him, but that haven't yet.

8:48 AM, February 26, 2005  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Perhaps, but denying the holocaust or at least minimizing the holocaust has been a recent hobby among the Left. After all, Jews already rule the world, why sympathize with them over the holocaust..... Thus, I would argue that Jew hating is an accepted practice for the majority of tenured Leftist professors (some of them Jewish themselves), while hating gays or blacks is not.

11:24 AM, February 26, 2005  
Blogger festivus said...

Chris, I agree with Publius. In its simplest form, it comes down to what group you choose to attack. Attacks on those who are perceived to be in power (whites, Jews, Christians, Republicans) are fine. Attacks on those who are perceived as repressed or worse, perceived by the Left to be incapable of acheiving success with the help of the Left (various minority groups, Muslims, Oscar recipients) are simply not acceptable.

12:17 PM, February 27, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Publius, and Festivus.

Uncle! I agree. Jew hatred is probably a lesser crime now.

7:05 PM, February 27, 2005  

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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Wealth is good

The deathtoll from the latest Iranian earthquake (6.4 on the Richter scale) now stands at 500, almost certain to rise. The 1994 Northridge California earthquake was a 6.7 (or about twice as strong) was in a very highly populated area and killed 61.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Sickening erosion of freedom

I grew up in the public school system in America believing that democracy and freedom were some of the most important values of our nation. I still believe in this ideology. In fact all American Presidents have believed in it and talked about it. In this century, George Bush is challenging the world and leading the world to try and bring freedom to the darkest places. Nevertheless, some of our so called democratic allies strangely seem to pooh pooh the concept of spreading freedom. Take this recent poll conducted in our northern neighbor:

U.S. President George W. Bush said in his January inaugural address that the United States would work to end tyranny and promote democracy around the world. But only 22 per Icent of Canadians polled thought that would be an appropriate role for the United States.

I used to think that freedom and democracy made common sense. Is my view becoming the minority view around the world? or are people like the Canadians just spoiled brats.

George W. Bush -- Greatest Conservative President

Pending U.S. Supreme Court appointments, I think George W. Bush may become the greatest conservative President we have ever had. First of all, there have been few Presidents that could be thought of as conservative in the modern sense. The 20th Century culture wars did not start until the 1960's. Since then, we have had only liberals and probably two conservatives: Reagan and George W. Both are great by any conservative's standards. But, if George W. hits home runs with his U.S. Supreme Court appointments this term, I think it will be tough not to give him the title "greatest." Reagan had a great first term; but, he appeared tired in his second term. Also, recall, Reagan appointed the two "moderates" on the bench: O'Connor and Kennedy. The best of George W. is yet to come. If he appoints another Scalia or Thomas or two or three of them, he will be the Greatest in my book.

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Well said. However, there could be other clues that may come to light in the near future. For example, although many conservatives have their problems with Bush, it is clear that Bush has rejected leftism and the who European movement of appeasment and Socialism. Bush is recarving out a space for American conservative ideology in the world. He is making it clear to the citizens of the world that there are other alternatives to Chinese tyranny and European leftism.

11:13 PM, February 22, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

If we measure greatest conservative president by how much better off the movement is after he leaves office relative to where it was when he entered office, then the answer is easy. William Jefferson Clinton is the greatest conservative president.

6:20 PM, February 23, 2005  
Blogger ssc said...

Under Chris's test, Jefferson Davis, a Democrat and the first and only American President of the Confederacy, may also be a candidate for leaving office with Republicans and conservatives on top.

9:37 PM, February 23, 2005  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Jefferson Davis or perhaps Andrew Johnson. However, I would argue that the Congress tends to lag behind movements because of redistricting etc... Perhaps it takes about 10 years for the congress to catch up to where the country is going. (Will we see republican Senators from the state of Mass?)!!!!!

9:51 AM, February 24, 2005  

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Freedom v. Liberty Revisited

Comments below regarding the Chris-SSC debate on "freedom" demonstrate a further need for coming to terms as to the use of the words"freedom" and "liberty."

I believe the Framers used the word "liberty" in the Due Process Clause (i.e., liberty shall not be deprived without due process of law) because liberty is associated with the inability to move or go as you please. When one is arrested or imprisoned, one has lost his liberty.

Freedom is different or at least the Framers thought it so. Freedom is a gift from God not to be abused. Our concept of freedom should not be reduced to mere liberty. We lose something of value when we conflate the two.

For an interesting document on modern notions of freedom, check the Vatican II document on religous freedom. Up until that point, the Roman Catholic Church held the view that religious freedom only applied to the one, truth faith. One did not have a right to worship a false God or religion. But, in the document, the Roman Catholic Church expanded its notion of freedom of religion to include freedom to practice other religions -- without recanting its assertion that Catholicism is the one, true faith.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Conservative Case for a single "President's Day"

As I often do in the mornings, I was listening to Bob Davis on KSTP. There are lots of times that I'd love to call in, but it's just not in my general nature, and usually by the time I might have an opportunity to do so, the topic has changed or I've lost interest.

This morning, one of his topics was his displeasure with the fact that our increasingly politically-correct society had combined Washington and Lincoln's birthdays into a single non-specific "President's Day", ostensibly to keep from putting too much emphasis on a few great Presidents and avoid hurting the feelings of some losers (ahem CARTER ahem). Davis was doing a fine job on this topic until I realized that there is a good conservative case to be made for keeping it the way it is now.

We've had a number of great Presidents - Publius names five below. And while I'd readily admit to putting Washington and Lincoln in a category all by themselves, I think we could (and should) make a strong case for putting Reagan right up there. I'm sure that cigar manufacturers and philanderers the world over have similar thoughts about Clinton. Yet, as much as I like the traffic situation when we have national holidays (which just goes to show that we have WAAAY too many federal employees, but that's a post for another time), we as conservatives cannot in good faith support additional useless federal holidays. As it is, our single "President's Day" is a virtual guarantee that in the future, we won't add additional federally imposed holidays to honor additional great Presidents.

Remember - there's a name for a country where holidays and vacation time have a drastic negative effect on productivity -- "France" -- and no one I know wants to head down that road.

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:20 PM, February 22, 2005  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Then again, the less time spent by our legislatures debating holidays, the safer we and our property will be from the legislatures. Perhaps we should support 365 federal holidays!

1:22 PM, February 22, 2005  

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Guests in Iraq

Columnist David Ignatious recently wrote this regarding the current political climate in Iraq following the election on January 30:

Grand Ayatolla Sistani has privately described the Americans as "the big guest," according to Rubaie. That implies two things - that U.S. troops won't be staying forever, and that while they remain in Iraq, they should be treated with Arab hospitality and respect. That's a formula that would probably work for the big guest, too.

Perhaps people are underestimating the power and ligitimacy the new Iraqi government will be able to grant the United States in the eyes of the Arab World and Democracy haters in Western Europe. If a new Iraqi government, legimitaley elected, grants the status of "guest" to the United States Military, that would seem to change the whole political dynamic of the insurgency. After such a pronouncement, any attacks on the U.S. would be criminal acts and contrary to arab tradition rather than a war against the crusader invader. At this point, the United States would have more "international legitimacy" to be in Iraq than we did invading and liberating France in 1944. What would be the purpose of the insurgency, which some claim is to currently kick out the crusader invader/occupier, if the people have granted the status of guest. Certainly, it won't convince terrorist whose goal is islamic fascism, but, it may influence all the rest.

Greatest President

Its time to chime in with the Greatest Presidents Debate. Here is my list:

1. George Washington - He was first and still deserves to be the greatest. He made the office.
2. Lincoln - He saved the Union and ended the great rift.
3. FDR - He is a liberal, but 4 terms, getting through the depression, and saving the world deserves recognition.
4. Teddy Roosevelt - My controversial pick. TR spoke softly and carried a big stick.
5. RR - Conservative of the century and victor over the commies.

Worst Presidents:

1. Jimmy Carter

Worst Ex Presidents

1. Jimmy Carter

Blogger Lance Rimpi said...

AHEM....

This blog is a feature of the JOHN ADAMS Society. You remember, Adams, don't you -- the nation's Second President and its greaterst Founder?

Co-draftsman on the Declaration of Independence; chairman of the Committee that selected Washington to head the Continental Army; diplomat who negotiated early loans from the Netherlands, which ensured we had a post-Revolutionary country that did not collapse into anarchy; and visionary Father of the American Navy; Adams deserves to be near, if not above, Washington on the list -- and likewise vaulted above the others too.

Similarly, if sturdy character counts, Adams is undoubtedly the highest ranking among the 43 Chief Executives we have had -- a far better man than those we have chisled onto our currency or across a certain Dakota mountainside. (The duplicitous weasal, Franklin Roosevelt, who scores number 3 on Publius' post, drags at the bottom -- with Clinton -- on the personal character scale.)

Professor Ellis, author of a new book on Washington, cheekily remarks that U.S. Presidential history stands from the proposition that Darwinian theory is exactly opposite of what it should be.... If Ellis is right on that score, Adams should at least be number 2 on our list.

Our Society is great because we correctly esteem the gentlemen farmer-lawyer-diplomat-selfless statesman from Braintree, as the very best of our country.

7:51 AM, February 22, 2005  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Certainly John Adams ranks in my opinion higher than FDR in the Service of our country. But, I was doing a list of the five greatest presidents. Adams is deservedly known for what he did not as a president, but as a founding father. In that sense I would put Mr. Madison, Mr Adams, Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Jefferson, and others all above FDR, TR and RR on any sort of greatest patriot list.

8:49 AM, February 22, 2005  

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How to Read the Opposition

Tonight, I took a minute of my time to begin reading a column linked through RealClearPolitics by Joe Klien titled the Blink Presidency. Anyone who reads pundits on a daily basis knows Joe Klien and further knows that he is a liberal. Nevertheless, I don't mind reading liberal commentary if it is well argued and reasoned. Afterall, reasonable people should keep an open mind. However, these days, writers like Joe Klien are so out of touch that they blow it and lose readers like myself in the first paragraph by making statements that are obviously false. Take the first paragraph of his column today for example:

It should come as no great revelation that George W. Bush is a wantonly decisive President. He decides Ariel Sharon is good and Yasser Arafat is evil, even though seasoned diplomats tell him it is not wise to make such sweeping judgments. He decides that Social Security needs to be transformed and that private investment accounts are the way to do it, even though the experts say there is no great crisis and his way won't solve anything. He decides to invade Iraq, with minimal contingency planning.

Here Klien states that "the experts said there is no crisis and his way won't solve anything."

What is Klien talking about here....who are the "official" experts? They certainly don't include Alan Greenspan. The real truth is that this is just a dishonest statement. The kind of statement made by an uncompromising liberal. The kind of statement made by a person who won't even concede facts in a debate. The kind of person whose opinion is therefore worthless.

At this point I just hit back space on my browser and went on to a different column, so don't ask me what Klien means regarding the "Blink Presidency." Perhaps Klien doesn't want people like me to read his article. If so his method worked.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

A long email exchange between Chris and SSC on the meaning of freedom. Feel free (whatever that means) to skip or chime in below.

CHRIS WRITING:

SSC: Last night in your comments (I paraphrase) you said: “True freedom is the freedom to do what you ought to do, not the freedom to do what you want to do.” This statement (which I was informed later came from Lord Acton) taken literally seems to me nonsensical. It is as if one was saying “A true apple is not an apple, but a banana.” Freedom, by definition, is the ability to do what you whatever you want, right or wrong. Being constrained to do what’s right may or may not be the correct way to order society, but it sure ain’t freedom. On the other hand, perhaps taking this statement literally is incorrect. Perhaps what you (and Acton and the Pope) mean when they talk about true freedom is something like “We should value freedom not because it lets people do whatever they want, but because it allows them to choose to do what they ought to do.” One may agree or disagree with this statement, but at least it makes literal sense. It is also quite far from the literal meaning of what I understood you to be saying. Is that what you meant?

SSC RESPONDS:

Freedom is the power to choose to do the right thing. The habits of sin – greed, lust, etc. -- deprive us of the power to choose to do the right thing. The government needs to encourage freedom (freedom from the habit of sin), discourage the habits of sin and control its consequences. For example, the “Just Say No” campaign against drug use, drug laws, police officers and prisons all encourage freedom (properly understood), discourage the habits of sin and control the consequences of sin. In contrast, laws promoting and regulating abortion promote sin, not freedom, encourage habits of sin and promote sins’ consequences. It seems to me that speaking of freedom outside of the context of right and wrong, to borrow a phrase from the debate last night is ideological, not reality.

CHRIS RESPONDS:

I think I am beginning to see the way you use the term freedom, but I am not quite there. Let's get concrete.

Suppose all the possible actions I can take regarding a particular decision are the letters A,B,C ... Z.

My understanding of the word "freedom" is in terms of choice sets - how big of a subset of {A,B,C, ..., Z} do I get to choose from? (The dictionary definition is
the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints.)
That is, suppose for Joe, it is possible to choose A,B, C, or D but for Mary,
she can only choose B or C (or else the government severely punishes her). In this case, I would say Joe is "more free" than Mary. His "choice set" includes everything
in Mary's choice set, but has additional elements as well.

In this {A,B,C,...,Z} framework, you use the word freedom differently. Suppose action A is the only moral choice. Then when you say "Freedom is the power to choose to do
the right thing" if Joe's choice set is {B,C, ..., Z} you would say he is not free. He cannot choose A. Further, I think if his choice set were {A} you would also say he is not free. He cannot "choose" to do A since he is given no other choice. I suppose you would say that if Joe has any choice set that includes A and any other choice
he is free. (I would not agree with this. If Joe is required to choose either A or Z, thinks Z really stinks but would love to do B, is he free?)

On the other hand, you seem also to use the term freedom to mean "preferring to take action A." That is, you reject defining the word freedom as having to do with the size of your choice set, although that is pretty much the dictionary definition. I think you would say a person when faced with choice set {A,B} who chooses A is free, while a person faced with the same choice set who chooses B is not free, since B is wrong and A is right. I think this is what you mean by "The habits of sin – greed, lust, etc. -- deprive us of the power to choose to do the right thing." But this seems to me to be simply mixing up the language and essentially saying "when I say `free', what I really mean is `moral' or 'not tempted'." Bill Clinton's lust did not make him unfree. He wasn't forced to be an adulterer. He freely chose to sin. Just because he was in the habit of doing so didn't make him unfree.

So again, I'm still confused by, or disagree with, what you mean when you use the term freedom.


SSC RESPONDS:

Look, freedom means free from sin. Sin can possess you. If you are in the habit of sin – let’s say laziness – you’re not choosing to be lazy; you’re just lazy. If you are in the habit of being greedy, you’re not choosing to be greedy; you are just greedy. People become confused about freedom because they do not recognize the possessive aspects of sin. That’s why a conversion experience frees one – frees one from the bondage of sin – to make decisions to be good. Even if you always choose good over evil (a mark of a saint), there are still a lot of decisions to make. We are all intended to be free, but the consequences of original sin prevent us from success. But, it is not a fool’s journey, with prayer, one can still prevail and achieve an eternal life. Again, I think your definition of freedom is unrealistic and an unuseful abstration. For example, it can’t be true that one is “free” to murder another or is “free” not to feed and educate their children? Or, in your example, no one says Bill Clinton was free to commit adultery? Was Adolf Hitler using his freedom when he murdered the Jews? No, of course not. Freedom must be understood as content-based (good-based), otherwise the term is no longer useful. The moral relativists, of course, and apparently the editors of some dictionaries want to make the term less useful. I disagree.

CHRIS RESPONDS:
Look, freedom means free from sin.
No. Freedom from sin means freedom from sin. Freedom is broader than that.
Sin can possess you. If you are in the habit of sin – let’s say laziness – you’re not choosing to be lazy; you’re just lazy. If you are in the habit of being greedy, you’re not choosing to be greedy; you are just greedy.
People become confused about freedom because they do not recognize the possessive aspects of sin. That’s why a conversion experience frees one – frees one from the bondage of sin – to make decisions to be good. Even if you always choose good over evil (a mark of a saint), there are still a lot of decisions to make. We are all intended to be free, but the consequences of original sin prevent us from success. But, it is not a fool’s journey, with prayer, one can still prevail and achieve an eternal life.
Sure. If you are lazy you are lazy and if you are greedy your are greedy. But a lazy person still chooses to lie on the couch all day, the greedy person still chooses not to give to charity and the lustful person still chooses to cheat on his wife. Each is free to do otherwise. They are not free to not want to lie on the couch, not give to charity or cheat. They can't, without a conversion, help their inclinations, their desire to sin. But they don't have to sin.
Again, I think your definition of freedom is unrealistic and an unuseful abstration. For example, it can’t be true that one is “free” to murder another or is “free” not to feed and educate their children? Or, in your example, no one says Bill Clinton was free to commit adultery?
Of course they do. The following would not be out place in an essay for instance:

This country does not legislate consensual sex. Any husband is perfectly free to cheat on his wife. On the other hand, his wife is perfectly free to divorce him for doing so.

Note in this example we both would say both the husband and wife are doing the wrong thing.
Was Adolf Hitler using his freedom when he murdered the Jews? No, of course not.
Sure he was. The problem with Europe was that Hitler was far too free to commit evil acts. That's one reason we went to war.

I think the problem is that in common use the term freedom is used in both a relative and absolute sense. When freedom is used in a relative sense ("More free", "less free"), common usage gives it little or no moral content. I think most people would agree that if I were given the legal right to kill as many Jews as I wanted, that would make me more free, but also that this would be a bad thing. When freedom is used in an absolute sense ("That man is free" or "that man is not free"), common usage gives the term moral content. That is, a man is free if he does not face UNJUST external constraints. So while not having the legal right to kill Jews may make me less free, it does not mean I'm not free.
Freedom must be understood as content-based (good-based), otherwise the term is no longer useful. The moral relativists, of course, and apparently the editors of some dictionaries want to make the term less useful. I disagree.
As argued above, common usage of the term freedom does have moral content when used in a global absolute sense.

You have this perfectly valid concept of "having your head on straight" or "not being a state of wanting things you shouldn't want." My problem is that I think you are hijacking the word freedom to describe it. And this just confuses things. Given your definition, how could you ever interpret the perfectly valid (and true) sentence "God gave men the freedom to reject Him."?

Cheers.


SSC RESPONDS:

Yes, In essence, “God gave man the freedom to reject him” is a heretical thought. God created man to have a free will. God did not cooperate in man’s rejection of God. Man was free to do good or to do no good. When a man chooses not to do good, he is not following God and he is doing no good (the absence of good is evil).

God’s creation is good. Man is free to do no good (which is evil), but then he is rejecting God’s creation, God’s plan, God’s freedom. When man chooses to do good, he is cooperating with God’s grace and participating in God’s gift of freedom.

In this context, a man who commits murder is not cooperating in God’s plan or God’s gift of freedom. He is evil or on a demonic track.

My definition of freedom is the one commonly understood in Christendom now for 2,000 years. The definition you are using is a product of the Enlightenment – undoubtedly intended as a part of the critique of the predominant Chriistian approach. It’s unfortunate that words become politicized footballs. But, Chritianity is so deeply-ingrained in the Western philosophical approach that the promoters of the Enlightement had no other choice but to use the words that were already in use.


CHRIS:

So it’s settled. I’m a heretic.

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

You both participate in ludicrous nuance of the question. We can debate all day whether a man freed from prison is actually free. The left certainly loves the nuance of the word - how can a man be free if he lives an unequal life from his peers.

The debate posed the question of freedom in its political context. Thus, freedom means whether a person has the freedom from bodily and perhaps spiritual molestation to pursue his or her natural rights (i.e., a freedom from fear). Sure we can debate natural rights, but the point is the same.

Freedom to pursue ones natural rights is quite different from the arguments made by Chris and SSC (doing whatever you want to do or doing what ever you ought to do.) After all, not all people chose to vote, but freedom means that you at least have the choice.

3:48 PM, February 21, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

We can debate all day whether a man freed from prison is actually free. Really? When?

4:18 PM, February 21, 2005  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

For example, a man recently released from prison in North Korea is free relative to where he was before. Is he free relative to the man recently relased from prison in the United States. Most would say no. Yet, some would say the man in the United States is not free because he still lives in this horrible racist, warmongering, unequal, and theocratic society.

Was William Wallace, as portrayed in the movie Braveheart, fighting for a freedom that we understand. Certainly he was not fighting for a one man one vote society where the ruler is from an elected body. However, as displayed in the movie, he was fighting for his right to pursue certain human rights (such as marriage in the tradition of his society, which had been altered by the English.) One could imagine that Wallace would also expect the right to dissent to an eventual Scottish King without fear of bodily harm....with a benevolent monarchy of course!

4:37 PM, February 21, 2005  

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Driven, But Not Taken for a Ride

On Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court concluded that the Iowa Legislature's refusal to grant drivers licenses to illegal immigrants to the United States "is rationally related to the legitimate state interest of 'not allowing its governmental machinery to be a facilitator for the concealment of illegal aliens,'” and therefore is constitutional.

The entire opinion may be viewed from this link.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Agent Orange Myth

During the pre-debate discussions last evening, I overheard a reference to Agent Orange. Perhaps the blogosphere should take it upon themselves to finally uncover the media fraud that is Agent Orange once and for all.

Agent Orange is one of the biggest lies in liberal journalism history. The fraud is so big that even skeptical conservatives and opponents of the MSM have fallen for the fraud and continue to discuss Agent Orange as fact rather than fiction. I have written several times to Hugh Hewitt after Hewitt has perpertuated the Agent Orange Myth and encouraged him to read Stolen Valor, a great work which exposes many media frauds about the Vietnam War. Unfortunatley, there is no word whether or not Hewitt has taken my advice.

The MSM should have gotten a hint regarding the Agent Orange myth from the recent poisioning of Ukrainian President Vicktor Yushchenko. According to sources Yushchenko was recording as having the second highest ever recorded level of Dioxin, the supposed dangerous substance in Agent Orange. Yet, it turns out that Yushchenko only suffered a bad case of Acne:

The massive quantities of dioxin in Yushchenko's system caused chloracne, a type of adult acne produced by exposure to toxic chemicals that left his once-handsome face badly disfigured, hospital dermatologist Hubert Pehmberger told The Associated Press.
Chloracne can take up to two to three years to heal, but Dr. Nikolai Korpan, the physician who oversaw the Ukrainian politician's treatment, said Yushchenko is "fully capable of working."


Did you see this headline...BULLETIN: YUSHCHENKO POISONED BY MASSIVE QUANTITIES OF AGENT ORANGE; SUFFERS BAD CASE OF ACNE.

Of course not. That is because the left wing meda cannot admit that there is no proof that exposure to Agent Orange ever killed anyone or caused any material increase in cancer rates.

In fact, Agent Orange does not have near the concentration of Dioxin that showed up in Yushenko. And in instances where large concentrations of Dioxin has been released there has been no proven instance of an increase in cancer.

Stolen Valor also discusses the famous "Ranch Hands," the unit in Vietnam that actually distributed Agent Orange. John Thomas at the Mckenzie Institute sums it up here:

If any Vietnam Veterans had come down with problems related to Agent Orange, it would have been the high living "cowboys" of the Ranch Hand project — the US Airmen who actually sprayed the stuff. Flying at near-stall speeds about 50m above ground level, these servicemen took a lot of ground-fire. Indeed, one of their aircraft — known as "Patches" -- is in the Air Force Museum in Dayton Ohio. Often, they ended up coated in Agent Orange when they sprayed it or had it sluicing around their ankles after being shot-up again. Moreover, at initiations for new members of their Squadron, both the newcomers and the older veterans would drink a glass of the defoliant.

Over 1,174 of the 1,206 veterans of this squadron have participated in a careful 20-year study of the results of their exposure to Agent Orange. Net result? The Ranch Hand group continues to have the same mortality rate as their control group of 1,293 similar men — and both have a lower mortality rate than the average American Male population. The only real difference in rates of those ailments associated with dioxin, despite massive exposure to Agent Orange, was that the Ranch Hand vets had a slightly higher tendency to display problems related to heavy drinking — something many of them engaged in as young servicemen on a nerve-wracking duty.


Read More.

I encourange everyone to pick up a copy of Stolen Valor and encourage the blogosphere to go back into history in uncover more frauds committed by the mainstream liberal media.

Who Won Debate on All Peoples Yearn For Democracy?

I attended last night's debate and had a good time. But I do have to protest the chairman's announcement that the negatives prevailed on the evening's resolution: All Peoples Yearn for Democracy. As I recall it, all the people who voted on the evening's resolution were yearning for democracy -- this is in itself a proof of the evening's resolution. Although there were more negative votes than affirmatives, the people who were voting clearly outnumbered those who were abstaining. On that basis alone, the affirmatives won and democracy marches on!

Blogger festivus said...

Ah SSC, surely you realize that participating in a democracy is signficantly different that yearning for that democracy. I occasionally wash dishes and change diapers. I yearn for neither.

My recollection was that those voting against the resolution outnumbered those voting in favor of the resolution by almost a 2-1 margin.

5:18 PM, February 17, 2005  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

As Mr. Greener stated, all people yearn for democracy, they just don't know it. Although I often seek to find some nuance to oppose the illustrious SSC, the only nuance here is to support SSC and the Resolution.

Let us not parse words or lawyer the resolution. Of course all peoples yearn for democracy. Who here can claim they yearn to live in a society of fear with no political rights or political freedoms. Democracy is freedom to speak out, it is freedom from fear, it is the freedom to persuade your fellow man to change or revert to tradition. Democracy is the only means to escape a temporal evil. Certainly we all yearn to escape evil.

As Mr. Greener stated...yes, the Alpha male may rule the colony of chimpanzees, but is it fair to say that the others who live in fear of the Alpha male do not yearn to participate in choosing which banana tree to climb.

Those in the negative need their heads examined. They need to reexamine the human condition or perhaps put themselves at the mercy of an Alpha male.

10:08 PM, February 17, 2005  
Blogger ssc said...

Again, I will repeat my case. Festivus and Publius show they yearn for democracy by participating. Of course, Festivus and Publius want their own way -- don't we all. But, they use reason (and humor) to persuade us for the common good. This is democracy properly understood. Participating in democracy is a proof of yearning for democracy.

9:45 PM, February 18, 2005  

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Casinos, Indians and Beer

Last night, after the debate caucus, a group of us retired to Brit’s Pub as is traditional (actually we went to Sweeney’s. Lying about where we go is also traditional). There I argued with Craig Westover and TFB from Jo's Attic about Indian casinos and whether the state should be involved with gambling. As I am wont to do over beers, I wasn’t as clear (or polite!) as I should have been. So here, upon the sobriety of day, is why I think we should license non-Indian casinos.

All sorts of goods and services have bad effects on people around those that use them. Economists call these effects “negative externalities.” Some of these products (say, heroin) are believed to have such large negative externalities that we just make the product illegal. Others, like alcohol, we make legal but regulate and tax heavily. The tax has two good effects. One, it lowers overall consumption of the product in question (by raising its price) and thus lowers the overall negative effects on others, and two, it raises revenues for the state, allowing them to lower taxes on things we actually want to encourage, like earning income. There is nothing inherently illogical about believing casino gambling is more like heroin than alcohol and thus the proper policy is to simply ban it.

However, we don’t really have that choice. Distributed throughout Minnesota are little pockets of sovereign Indian territory where the state can neither outlaw nor tax casino gambling, and thus there now exist enormously profitable casinos. These enormous profits are due directly to the fact that the state of Minnesota outlaws casino gambling on those portions of Minnesota for which it has jurisdiction to do so (everywhere but the Indian lands). It is exactly what would happen if alcohol were illegal everywhere but on Indian lands. The tribes would just rake in money.

If the negative externalities of casino gambling were felt only within a few miles of each casino, the current situation wouldn’t be so bad for the state. The tribes would be reaping the benefits of these huge profits, but also paying the costs in terms of the negative externalities. But this simply isn’t so. Whatever negative externalities there are (the effects of gambling addictions and so forth) are felt far and wide. So in the current situation, the state feels all the bad effects of casinos, but leaves all the profits to the tribes. It’s pretty near a worst case scenario.

We must take as given that whether we like it or not, and whether we allow non-Indian land casinos, most Minnesotans will live within a short drive of a casino. We simply can’t stop this. By selling licenses to open casinos on non-Indian land, the state can at least recapture the monopoly profits of the tribes with little increase in overall gambling and the ensuing negative effects. Doing otherwise simply leaves the tribes with millions (billions?) of unearned monopoly rents.

Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

CRAIG WESTOVER RESPONDS:

Best argument I've heard for casino gambling. But the real question is . . . . My comment --

Sound economic argument, but you left out one key point of the battle over beers last night, and that is the form of casino gambling that is favored.

If the question is “Resolved -- Minnesota should be open to a private casino industry,” then you have an argument in the affirmative. The social consequences argument is the negative argument.

However, if the question is “Resolved -- Minnesota should open a state-run (state-partnered, bid for limited license) casino(s),” then the issue ceases to be an economic issue and becomes a question of the legitimate role and authority of government. That is the question the way Pawlenty is currently framing it.

For the negative --

1) Government has no legitimate authority to enter into a business that competes with private business. I’m not talking about Indian casinos, but about entertainment businesses in general and more broadly any business competing for discretionary dollars.

2) Government has no legitimate authority to set license fees or tax rates arbitrarily. Fees should be commensurate with the costs incurred by the state to regulate a business for the protection of Minnesota citizens, not as a profit center. Casinos should be taxed at non-discriminatory rates compared to other like entertainment venues.

3) The state has a legitimate compelling interest to limit casino licenses, but not for the purpose of creating a supply shortage and a bidding war for those licenses.

4) And finally, it is totally unethical and an abuse of power to offer the Indian tribes a guaranteed monopoly (selling legislation) in exchange for a percentage of their profits, which the state is not legally allowed to extract through fees and/or taxes.

The validity of your argument depends upon which debate you are having.

CHRIS’ RESPONSE:

I agree about it being a dumb idea for the state to actually operate a casino. But that is only because it is usually a dumb idea for the state to actually operate anything that can be outsourced. There’s nothing about a casino, as opposed to some other business, that makes it better or worse for a state government to operate.

1) Government has no legitimate authority to enter into a business that competes with private business.
Bad idea, but no legitimate authority? Why not?

2) Government has no legitimate authority to set license fees or tax rates arbitrarily and
3) The state has a legitimate compelling interest to limit casino licenses, but not for the purpose of creating a supply shortage and a bidding war for those licenses.
The state taxes alcohol for dual legitimate purposes: to hold down consumption and raise revenue. The state could achieve exactly the same outcome by auctioning licenses to sell the amount currently sold and not taxing at all. The auction prices would capture the revenue raised by the taxes. These are simply two ways to skin the same cat. Holding down consumption of gambling services by limiting the number of licenses is legitimate precisely because of the negative externalities associated with gambling.

4) And finally, it is totally unethical and an abuse of power to offer the Indian tribes a guaranteed monopoly (selling legislation) in exchange for a percentage of their profits, which the state is not legally allowed to extract through fees and/or taxes.OK. Let’s do the following. Auction the right to open a casino just outside the border of each Indian casino. If the tribe wants to bid on the license, it is free to, and can certainly then simply hold on to it, thus keeping its local monopoly. No coercion and no threats, but the state gets a big portion of the monopoly profits currently going to the tribes.

8:05 PM, February 17, 2005  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Economics cannot be the only driving force to supporting a Casino. After all, shouldn't we view indian casinos as "temporary ills." It will be much easier in the future to shut down a few indian casinos than it will be to shut down a vast market of multiple private enterprises that would employ tens of thousands.

Perhaps it is better to merely tax the jeepers out of the indian casinos rather than build our own. This way the state can reap the returns of the casino monopoly, while at the same time moving towards a policy of ending indian casino gambling. For goodness sakes, get the indians to build computer chip factories instead.

10:18 PM, February 17, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Publius: This whole controversy is due to the fact that we CAN'T tax the casinos. They are on sovereign Indian land.

You write "Economics cannot be the only driving force to supporting a casino." If by that you mean money, then I agree. There are lots of non-monetary costs to casinos (broken lives due to gambling addictions and so on.) My point was that since everyone can take a short drive and get to a casino now, and there is nothing we can do about this, these effects are here no matter what we do. Given this, we might as well get the money.

I could be convinced by a MORAL argument. Suppose for instance, the Federal Government decided we couldn't stop the tribes from opening brothels on their lands and the Indians were raking it in from that. Does that mean we should license brothels near the Indian lands to get some of the profit? I would say no, but only because prostitution is so vile that I don't want the state to have anything to do with it, even if it is giving up a huge amount of money by doing so. But I don't think gambling, and I haven't heard anyone here argue, that casino gambling is nearly as morally wrong (or morally wrong at all) as prostitution.

8:00 AM, February 18, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

CRAIG RESPONDS (AGAIN)

I agree about it being a dumb idea for the state to actually operate a casino. But that is only because it is usually a dumb idea for the state to actually operate anything that can be outsourced. There’s nothing about a casino, as opposed to some other business, that makes it better or worse for a state government to operate.


Whoa, Chris, you’re making a couple of “conservative” mistakes. “Limited” government or “smaller” government is not the same as “outsourced” government. Government outsourcing to private industry a function it has no legitimate authority to perform is neither limited nor smaller government. While they may be nothing different about running a casino, the real question is “why should the government operate any business in competition with private enterprise?”

1) Government has no legitimate authority to enter into a business that competes with private business.
Bad idea, but no legitimate authority? Why not?


The high-sounding reason is “Government derives it’s just power from the consent of the governed,” which means the governed cannot consent to government any power that they themselves do not have as individuals.* As individuals, we have no power to coerce those we compete against. On a practical level, image the government opening a department store in the Mall of America that didn’t charge sales tax and undercut competitor’s prices, while at the same time raising the general sales tax. On another front, think about being in the commercial alternative-rock radio station owner, paying personal and corporate tax to the government who uses those funds to fund a Public Radio station that directly competes for your market.


[*Let me anticipate an off-topic argument -- government can tax, but individuals cannot. Are you one of those nuts who believe in no taxes at all? My answer is “no.” Although individuals cannot tax others, but individuals can charge others for services provided. That power is consented to government and the form of payment to government is taxes.]




2) Government has no legitimate authority to set license fees or tax rates arbitrarily and
3) The state has a legitimate compelling interest to limit casino licenses, but not for the purpose of creating a supply shortage and a bidding war for those licenses. The state taxes alcohol for dual legitimate purposes: to hold down consumption and raise revenue. The state could achieve exactly the same outcome by auctioning licenses to sell the amount currently sold and not taxing at all. The auction prices would capture the revenue raised by the taxes. These are simply two ways to skin the same cat. Holding down consumption of gambling services by limiting the number of licenses is legitimate precisely because of the negative externalities associated with gambling.


This is the “throw a brick though your window with a note attached offering window repair service” model. Unlike alcohol, there is no legal off-reservation gambling now. Consumption = zero. There is no need to reduce consumption. Thus, the only reason to allow gambling is to increase revenue. But by auctioning limited licenses, the state is creating an unnatural monopoly. There is also a federalism question. At the state level, licenses should be open to achievement by all -- the state licenses physicians, but anybody who puts in the time and effort can obtain a license. It should be left to municipalities to determine how many casinos they would allow under an open private system.

4) And finally, it is totally unethical and an abuse of power to offer the Indian tribes a guaranteed monopoly (selling legislation) in exchange for a percentage of their profits, which the state is not legally allowed to extract through fees and/or taxes.OK. Let’s do the following. Auction the right to open a casino just outside the border of each Indian casino. If the tribe wants to bid on the license, it is free to, and can certainly then simply hold on to it, thus keeping its local monopoly. No coercion and no threats, but the state gets a big portion of the monopoly profits currently going to the tribes.


Your solution does not remove the coerce nature and abuse of government power. Let’s establish a sales tax free mall just down the block from existing malls and let people bid on the property. If Rosedale wants to keep its business, it can bid on the property. Make any sense?


CHRIS: I will leave Craig with (almost) the last word, except for this. Indian casinos are not private business. They are businesses run by a competing sovereign government.

10:42 PM, February 18, 2005  

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"I am a forum-shopping child molester ... Not a cad!"

Reuters last week reported what has to be the craziest story of the year. It notes that England's highest court ruled that film director Roman Polanski will be permitted to give evidence in an English court via video link from a Paris hotel room, in support of a case that Polanski has against Vanity Fair magazine.

Polanski wants to sue the magazine for libel in England because that nation's statute of limitations on libel claims is longer than that in France; but Polanski does not want to travel to England for the proceedings, because he also wants to avoid extradition to the United States on charges of child rape. In addition to a more permissive libel statute, England also has an extradition treaty with this country.

If that situation was not strange enough, Polanski's claim is that he was libeled by a 2002 Vanity Fair article that incorrectly claimed that the famed firm director propositioned a woman in a New York restaurant while he was en route to the funeral of his actress wife, Sharon Tate. Tate was murdered in 1969.

The claim raises the fascinating legal question of how the magazine's assertion that Polanski is, well, a boorish pig, could possibly reduce the reputation of a man who has evaded (for more than a quarter-century) extradition on claims that he drugged, raped and sodomized a 13 year old girl. See, the California indictment.

Only in Europe.

A living wage, now! Well, for everyone but our employees ....

David Horowitz's site "Discover the Network" has this amusing summary of how the rabidly left Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) works assiduously for a living wage to be paid by all employers, except it, of course:

According to the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) report, “ACORN employees . . . are routinely forced to work alone at night in dangerous neighborhoods. Female ACORN employees report being sexually assaulted while attempting to work under these conditions. ACORN has refused requests from nighttime employees in dangerous neighborhoods to work in pairs” (Ibid.) Evidently, ACORN leaders do not wish to incur the expense of paying two workers where one will suffice – even in cases where physical safety demands it.

ACORN’s miserly treatment of employees sounds a discordant note in a group whose trademark issue is crusading for a “living wage” for all Americans. EPI notes that ACORN’s standard wage of $5.67 per hour ($18,000 per year for organizers working 54 hours per week) is “less than half the level demanded by many proposed `living wage’ ordinances that ACORN supports. In some states, such as California and Oregon, this level is below the state-mandated minimum wage.”(Ibid.)

ACORN actually sued California in 1995, attempting to argue in state court that California should exempt ACORN from its minimum wage laws. Why? Because “the more that ACORN must pay each individual outreach worker, . . . the fewer outreach workers it will be able to hire,” ACORN lawyers argued in a brief. (Ibid.)

That is indeed the problem with minimum-wage laws. They force businesses to lay off workers. Under ordinary circumstances, ACORN dismisses this argument as capitalist propaganda. But when faced with the prospect of having to pay its own workers a “living wage,” ACORN adopted the “capitalist” argument lickety-split. The presiding judge was unmoved. ACORN lost its case in California.

See the complete profile of ACORN at this link.

As shown above, the Discover the Network (a "Guide to the Political Left") site is really a worthwhile read for JAS Members.

Monday, February 14, 2005

John Adams Society Debate - 2/16/2005

Jeffrey A. Sloan - Chairman
Christopher Phelan - Secretary
Marianne S. Beck - Chief Whip
Kenneth Ferguson - Chancellor

We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. - George W. Bush

DEMOCRACY IS ON THE MARCH. In the not too distant past, all of Eastern Europe, Spain, Portugal, Taiwan, South Korea, and most of Latin America were governed by various unelected thugs, kleptocrats, murderous generals, and egomaniacal sociopaths. Now these places have elections, representative government, and freedom. But why is this so? Do we owe it all to Jimmy Carter and election monitors?

In fact, there is indeed something deeper going on. Democracy fulfills the universal desire of peoples to govern themselves. To be free men, not slaves. This yearning is evident in the velvet revolutions in Eastern Europe, the orange revolution of Ukraine, and the purple fingered defiance of brave Iraqis dodging mortar fire and death threats to wait in lines Jesse Jackson would characterize as election rigging if they had been in Ohio.

ON THE OTHER HAND, the yearnings of the human heart can be hard to measure. From all outward appearances, many peoples seem to prefer order and see democracy as messy. Give them a strong leader, bread on the table, and timely trains, and they will gladly give up this abstraction, democracy. While some yearn for Athens, others prefer Sparta.

THE CHAIRMAN, who yearns for nothing but a crash course on Robert’s rules of order, has called for a debate to settle the question:

RESOLVED: ALL PEOPLES YEARN FOR DEMOCRACY

The Debate will be held on Wednesday, February 16, 2005 at the University Club, 420 Summit Avenue, in Saint Paul. The Chancellor will preside over drinks beginning at seven o'clock p.m. The debate will begin at half past seven. While there is no dress code for attendance, gentlemen who wish to speak must wear a tie; ladies should adhere to a similar sartorial standard. For those gentlemen who arrive tieless yet wish to speak, fret not: the Purveyor of Ties will keep on hand at least one of his quite remarkable ties for just such an eventuality. Questions about debate caucus procedures or about the John Adams Society itself may be directed to the Chairman at (612)709-1168 or the Secretary at (612) 204-5615.

www.johnadamssociety.org

Saturday, February 12, 2005

A Simple Fix for Medicare Drug Coverage

It's looking like the Medicare drug benefit is a financial disaster, costing several times more than the initial estimates and transferring more of our national wealth from the current young and middle aged to the current old. So here's a quick fix, which could be phased in. Any senior gets any drug they want for free, as long as its patent has expired and is otherwise not hugely expensive, and they buy from the cheapest supplier of that drug. (Patents are for 20 years from the date of patent filing. But because patents must be applied for before the start of the clinical trial process that demonstrates drugs to be safe and effective, the effective life of drug patents tends to be 7-12 years.) After the patent has expired, drug profits are pretty low. It's hard to argue that its a civil right to have the latest and greatest from the evil drug companies.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A dose of their own medicine

Senior U.S. District Judge William Acker Jr., a federal judge in Alabama, has told Yale Law School he won't accept its graduates for clerkships because the school blocks military recruiters from campus.

Judge Acker, a Yale graduate himself, explained his decision in a letter to the law school's Dean Harold Koh.

Acker wrote that he was exercising the same freedom of speech that the faculty claims is violated by enforcement of the Solomon amendment, which requires schools to provide access to military recruiters or lose federal funding, including student loans.

In response to the faculty's position, Acker said Yale Law School students need not apply to work for him. See article.

Bravo, bravo Judge Acker!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Transition Costs

Repeat after me: “There are no transition costs to reforming social security. There are no transition costs to reforming social security. …”

Pundits on both sides of the aisle are referring to the huge “transition costs” of going from the system we have now, to one where a portion of your payroll taxes go into private accounts. The argument is as follows: If you let young workers put 1/3 of their Social Security payroll taxes (4% of their salaries below the earnings cap) into private accounts, as Bush will propose, where are we going to get the money to pay current retirees? Won’t we have to borrow it? (Yes.) The sum of all that accumulated borrowing until these young workers retire is what is usually referred to as the transition cost of going from our current system to Bush’s reformed system, and this is a huge number.

But these aren’t real costs at all. If you need to retool a factory to produce minivans instead of golf carts, those are real costs. But SS transition “costs” are just artifacts of bad accounting.

The problem with the way government accounting works is that unlike every company in America with regard to pension promises, Social Security promises don’t “count” as government debt. But suppose they did, as they should. Next, consider two workers, worker A who agrees to have 1/3 of his payroll taxes go into a private account, in return for giving up 1/3 of his benefits, and worker B who opts not to have a private account, and thus keeps all of his benefits.

Every year worker B works, all of his payroll taxes go to pay current retirees, but his promised benefits go up as well, increasing government debt if these promises are counted as they should be. On the other hand, every year worker A works, 2/3 of this payroll taxes go to pay current retirees, but his promised benefits go up only 2/3 as much as the first worker since he has given up 1/3 of his benefits. So properly accounted government debt, so far, only goes up 2/3 as much for worker A. Now add in that we have to borrow 1/3 of worker A's payroll taxes to pay current retirees (since 1/3 of his taxes are going into his account instead of to pay current retirees) and government debt increases by the same amount for both workers. But again, official government debt only goes up for worker A since for some crazy reason we don’t count Social Security promises as debt.

So far this argument only says there is no cost to reform. Is there a benefit? The basic idea is that the option to have this private account is worth something. Thus young workers should be willing to have their benefits cut somewhat in return for the right to have these accounts. Thus there is a chance for a win-win here.

Finally, there is a big macroeconomic gain from private accounts. I don’t consider my 401k deductions to be a tax on my income. While it’s true I don’t get this money in my paycheck, I see my account increase. If my employer where to stop matching contributions, I would consider this a pay cut, even though my take home pay would remain the same. On the other hand, I see my Social Security deductions as simply a tax. The macroeconomic gain then is to turn the 12% Social Security tax into an 8% Social Security tax. This encourages work. Another win-win.

UPDATE: Although it predates it, this post answers Professor Bainbridge's question 2.

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

I agree with your argument. But the critics who point out the alrge transition costs are basing their argument on the fact that future workers after 2042 will not receive 100% of the promised benefits. Instead future workers will only receive 73% - 65%. Based on this assumption, there is no contingent debt out there to assume in the computation because the future shortfall will not be made up.

This argument is of course a bunch of crap because no current critic is going to admit that they plan to cut the benefits and not provide these benefits in the future. Thus a critic who argues that there are transition costs must also be arguing that they will cut benefits in the future. In accounting lingo Congress should admit that a reserve needs to be assumed for the shortfall after 2042 and increase the nationaal debt. Then you could charge the current transition costs to that reserve.

I think this is what you mean...correct?

I have an alternative idea on restruction SSI. I will post later.

9:48 AM, February 10, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Publius,

I don't think we agree. I mean there are no transition costs period regardless of whether after 2042 we cut benefits or not. How one labels and accounts for future promises and whether one partially breaks future promises (by paying only a portion of benefits) are completely separate things. The supposed transition costs come completely from the fact that Bush's reform moves liabilities from a category that doesn't "count" (Social Security promises) to a category that "counts" (government bonds). This is true whether we assume we are going to pay full benefits after 2042 or only partial benefits after 2042.

Those who are saying there is no crises are right on one dimension. If we simply assume that we are going to cut benefits by whatever level is necessary to make inflows equal outflows when the system runs out of money, then Social Security will never become broke. But at this point one would have to question using the word "Security" in the name of the program.

10:19 AM, February 10, 2005  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

It seems that we agree...

If one were to argue that no change is going to be made to the Social Security System and that starting in 2042 retirees will receive 75% of their benefits then the transition costs indeed are an additional expense. Further, I agree that the transaition costs are a misnomer because no one can honestly argue that we will just stary paying people only 75% starting in 2042.

In a sense the "transition cost" argument is a straw man because critics leave out the fact that the same cost if not more will be required to make up for the short fall. Thus, an honest critic of transition costs would have to admit that benefits would be cut but for the transition costs (leaving taxes aside of course).

11:25 AM, February 10, 2005  

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Outlaw Justice

The news this week contains details of how two, long-time incumbent state Supreme Court Justices have been found breaking the law.

The first and most remarkable was the capture of Ohio Supreme Court Justice Alice Resnick, who was apprehended while driving erratically in a state-owned vehicle en route to Columbus. While waiting for the results of her blood-alcohol test, Resnick complained to Ohio State Troopers that she would not have had such difficulties if, as she had frequently urged, Justices of the Supreme Court were assigned state troopers as drivers, as it is with Ohio's Governor. But perhaps such arrogant blather can be explained by the fact that she tested a .21 BAC -- twice Ohio's legal limit. See link.

Until recently, Resnick was a liberal cause celebre, for her anti-free speech views in judicial races -- and even traveled to Minnesota in 2002 to urge judicial incumbents here to craft ethics rules that crowd out their political competitors.

In a second story, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Thomas G. Saylor Jr., was caught trying to smuggle a pocket knife on to an airplane, after airport screeners had once pulled him from the security line with instructions that he make other arrangements for shipping the knife. See link.

So what is the most important quality in a jurist? Modesty.

Now more than ever.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Support group for Lileks Fisking needed...

As a fan of Minnesota's own James Lileks and an admirer of good heckling, I get double enjoyment when James makes one of his rare fiskings of some drivel he finds particularly worthy. Today's was quite good and got me thinking. James is oh so good at taking these articles apart piece-by-piece, I've got to wonder what mental effects it has on the victim. I'm waiting for a support group to be set up.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Is Iraqi Fear Subsiding?

How glorious it must be for Iraqi citizens to see the fear society they have lived in for so long start to subside. Perhaps the election last week contributed more than we may realize. Today's Washington Post has an article that claims fear is in retreat. Perhaps most interesting is this qoute:

Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the interim finance minister and a powerful figure in the Shiite-led coalition expected to dominate Iraq's new National Assembly, contends that the elections created a sense of solidarity that helped dissolve an Iraqi aversion to trusting neighbors, a habit ingrained during the Hussein era. He said "People know their neighbors now. They know they are on the same front as their neighbors -- they all went out and voted..."

It would seem odd from our vantage point to think seeing a neighbor at the same polling place would be of any consequence. But for Iraqis who have been living in fear for more than a generation, discussion of such things with neighbors is still probably taboo. After all, how can you really know whose side your nighbor is really on...therefore, why discuss politics at all.

However, if you saw your neighbor voting in last week's election, then you know, with no doubt, whose side he or she is on and that there is no doubt. Further, you may have also seen your neighbor's neighbor at the same polling place. Last week 8 million Iraqis found out they were on the same side. What a glorious feeling.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Bush can win Social Security Reform

The liberal media is already out to kill GW's plan to reform Social Security. On NPR this evening I heard a report on the matter and National Peoples Radio said "...Democrats oppose Bush's plan because it will reduce benefits for younger workers..." It seems to me that Bush's whole point is to avoid cuts in benefits. Perhaps NPR knows this too, but it matters little because they are opposed to Bush.

Bush can win Social Security if he is able to convince older voters that their program will not be altered. Bush needs to convince the AARP to support his reforms. It will be a long haul because the Democrats and MSM will be out in force lying through their teeth about any proposed reform..essentially scaring old people.

Younger workers are already in the bag: 1) Most younger workers do not believe at this time they will receive any benefits; 2) Younger workers no what 401ks are and understand these concepts; 3) the problem for younger workers is so distant its hard to imagine any younger worker (other than the socialists) getting upset about the plan.

I actually think Social Security reform will be easier than current predictions. It will be easier because 2 workers paying for every 1 retired worker is a nasty fact that is easy to understand for any age.

Despicable

I am sure mostl of you by now have seen this quote from today's Washington Post story on the SOTU Speech:

The emotional highpoint of last night's event came near the end when Bush introduced the parents of a U.S. Marine from Texas, Sgt. Byron Norwood, who was killed in the assault on Fallujah, Iraq. As Norwood's mother tearfully hugged another woman in the gallery, the assembled senators and representatives responded with a sustained ovation, and Bush's face appeared creased with emotion.

Maybe I am overreacting, but this seems like despicable bias... Anyone who watched the SOTU knows the context of that hug. Read more about it here.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Oh, the irony...

How ironic is it that Nancy Pelosi (NANCY PELOSI!!!) claims that President Bush hasn't done enough to keep WMDs out of the hands of terrorists. Isn't she one of the most outspoken opponents to our involvement in Iraq? Regardless of the existance of them now, the reason we went there in the first place was for WMD. I don't recall her saying at that time that the WMD weren't there - she just disputed the method Bush chose to ensure that Saddam Hussein didn't use what we all thought they had.

If Pelosi and Reid are the best the Dems have, they are in biiiiiiig trouble.

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

At this point the Dems should just have Barak Obama give all their speeches. Pelosi and Reid are worthless.

9:29 PM, February 03, 2005  

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

What will Democrats do Now?

This article by Mark Brown is telling of the debate some Democrats may be having at least with themselves after the last 18 months of negative news about Iraq. The election that took place this past weekend was a shock to most people, even to those who expected success. It was a shock because like the Iraq war in general, success seemed to be teetering in the balance. It was a shock because the early news about the election was bad and that the election itself began to snowball as the evening progressed. It was a shock because after 18 months of constsnt negative news about how Iraq is a war zone and unsafe for anyone, it made no logical sense that 8 million people would all of a sudden vote in the face of death. Finally, it was a shock because no one was prepared or expected the images and stories of the people themselves lining up to vote. Some pundits promised dancing in the streets after the fall of Baghdad; few materialized. However no one expected Iraqis to dance in the streets with purple fingers after the election in defiance of the terrorists; this we got. In fact it is these images that trigger the guilt in all of us (even Democrats) for taking freedom for granted. We should all think of the purple fingers the next time we think about skipping to the polls As Mark Brown states:

But after watching Sunday's election in Iraq and seeing the first clear sign that freedom really may mean something to the Iraqi people, you have to be asking yourself: What if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong?

Perhaps this quote is even more telling of where we have been. Supporters of the Iraq policy have dismissed many stupid statements as hog wash, as merely debate points or talking points; or a way to get around the truth. We all know the arguments: "Bush and his Hliburton buddies want the oil." But, perhaps supporters of the war should come to grips with a realization of this statement that SOME opponents of the war honestly did not believe that President Bush had honorable intentions in Iraq. That they honestly believe that Bush only wanted to enrich himself. It sounds crazy, but humans are a crazy lifeform.

If so, we should welcome their change of hearts and new found support for freedom. If not, we should despise Democrats for the snakes they are.