Archive for January 2006

Progressive Hypocracy

Self-described "progressives" on the left have gone nuts over the past several years over creeping legislative and regulatory inroads made by religious conservatives.  Fascism! They are quick to reply.  The government can't tell us what to do with our own bodies, or in the privacy of our own homes!  Abortion, homosexuality?  Hey, that's our choice, its our bodies.  NSA eavesdropping, warrant-less searches?  Hey, those are our private phonecalls made from our private phones.  Searches of private cars without probable cause to enforce seat belt use?  Hey, what a great idea!

Boston Globe columnist Scot LeHigh editorializes against Massachusetts Democrats attempt to micro-regulate personal behavior:

THIS WEEK, the Massachusetts House of Representatives will face a telling test:
Can it resist a progressive Legislature's ever-present impulse toward pesky
paternalism?

The issue is seat belts, and whether the police will be allowed to stop
motorists upon suspicion that someone in their vehicle is not wearing a seat
belt or only ticket them for that grievous offense if they have first been
pulled over for something else.

This is exactly why I am suspicious of progressives and resist making common cause with them, even on issues where we tend to agree.  For while they talk the libertarian talk pretty well when they want to (abortion with its "I should control decisions over my own body" defense being the most obvious example), progressives also have a very strong streak of "we are smarter than you are and sometimes will tell you what to do because it is for your own good".   As a result, for example, progressives support abortion because a woman should make decisions for her body without government intrusion, but oppose the legality of breast implants and vioxx because a woman should, uh, not be able to make decisions for her body without government intrusion (more on this here).

And what decision could be more about my own body than what level of protection I want to afford myself in a vehicle?  If I choose, for whatever reason, not to wear a motorcycle helmet or a seatbelt, who cares?  It may be a really, really stupid choice on my part, but its my decision for my own body, right?  (By the way, I know that some people will make the 'taxpayers pay for your medical care argument', which I dealt with earlier in my post about government health care funding as a Trojan horse for fascism).

But even beyond the issue of individual decision-making, what about the 4th amendment issues?  It is amazing but true that progressives and the Massachusetts legislature, who would never in a million years give the police, the FBI, or anyone under George Bush's chain of command the right to stop a motorist without probable cause to check for evidence of terrorist intent, are actually endorsing that the police have this power to stop motorists without probable cause for freaking seat belt use.  Is this really the alternative we are being offered today - you can choose fascism to stanch the threat of terrorism or you can choose fascism to increase seat belt use? 

I predict that the left may come to regret setting this precedent, as they have come to regret other expansions of government power that their political enemies have used as stepping stones for their own agenda.  A good example is Title IX, which is beloved by the left for using the fact of federal funding to browbeat even private universities into changing their admissions policies, but has been used as a precedent by the right to browbeat private universities into accepting military recruiters.  Government micro-managing of individual decision-making is only fun as long as you and your gang are the ones doing the micro-managing.

I would love to see someone in Washington making a consistent case for freedom of decision-making for individuals when the decision affects only themselves or others with whom they are interacting in a consensual manner.  But I am not holding my breath.

Not to Know it is to Love it

In a recent post, I started to develop the theory that people who are positive to neutral about the regulatory state may be so in part because they don't encounter it - e.g. an employee tends to be sheltered from the mind-numbing body of labor law that regulates his relationship with his employer because more efficient HR departments and payroll companies shelter people from this mess.

By the way, let me digress just one second on the nature of my blogging.  When I said above that it was a theory I started to develop in a post, this does not mean that I sat around for days, came up with the idea, and started to flesh out my well-oiled thinking on the topic in that post.  It means it occurred to me literally while I was typing my post, somewhere between paragraphs 3 and 4.  I use the act of blogging as a way to test-drive my thinking on certain topics, which puts you the reader in the position of something between a intellectual sounding board and a psychotherapist.  I actually spend my time trying to keep my business running -- my college roommate is the only one I know who gets paid to sit around and think deep thoughts.

Anyway, with that out of the way, I can return to the actual point of this post which is to point out that the same attitude of "not to know it is to love it" may well apply to torts and litigation.  All romantic and heroic as portrayed in the media (e.g. Erin Bronkovitch), torts as practiced in real-life seldom so heroic, either in their details or their outcomes.  Here is Bookslut wondering about her opposition to tort reform now that she has witnessed some silly lawsuits in her area of familiarity.  Overlawyered has background on the case in question/

Regulation and Choice

Andrew Ferguson tells the story of federal regulation of toilets (via overlawyered).  The amazing thing about this story is it is just one examples of thousands -- in other words, its not a humorous outlier, it is the rule of how government works today.  It is a common story of technocrats distrusting market signals and individual preferences, hoping to impose a better order from above, but merely resulting in reduced consumer choice and crappy low-flow toilets even in areas of the country flush with water (sorry, couldn't resist).

The grassroots revolt winked out too. Today's toilets are better than the
first 1995 models, though not as good or as cheap as the toilets of our youth.
U.S. consumers in 2006 can thus buy a worse product at a higher price than they
could in 1992, thanks to the government's insistence on fixing a problem that
wasn't there.

With a chill I remember, from the late 1990s, the look a plumber shot me when
I pleaded with him, quietly, to find me a toilet that worked.

``No way,'' he said. ``I'm not going to jail over a toilet.''

It also is yet another example of regulation primarily being supported by incumbents in an industry trying to limit the number of ways potential new competitors can come at them.  The general effect is always to raise prices and reduce consumer choice.  Ironically, consumer groups are often the worst about this.   In fact, it would be interesting to find even one regulation consumer groups have supported that is not primarily aimed at actually reducing consumer choice - i.e. not of the form "consumers shouldn't buy this because we smarter than they are and we think they should not have it."

Static Analysis and School Choice

Below in my first post on the old 1968 edition of The Population Bomb, I said one of the key mistakes of these doomsayers was static analysis, which I described as:

blind projection of trendlines without any allowance for individuals
actually doing something to alter those trends, particularly in
response to pricing signals.  This leads not only to predictions of
disaster, but to the consistent conclusion that only governments
coercing individuals on a massive scale can avert dire consequences for
humanity

A great example of the static analysis fallacy in action today in in the debate on school choice.  School choice opponents often bring out some or all of these arguments:

  • Private schools are often more expensive than public schools, so even with vouchers set at the state per pupil spending, many won't be able to afford private schools
  • Private schools have admissions requirements and testing, such that many students will not be able to meet the cut
  • Private schools are disproportionately religious, leaving few options for secular parents
  • There are no where near enough private schools for the potential demand

Do you see the consistent fallacy?  All the arguments assume that private schools, in terms of pricing, mission, supply, etc., will remain static and unchanged after a voucher program is instituted.  I hate to waste electrons stating the obvious, but the private schools that exist today did not evolve in a vacuum.  They evolved in a world of monopoly public schools, and their nature is based on that reality.  Change that backdrop, and the schools will change.

For example, take the cost issue.  Sure, many private schools are expensive.  The main reason is that private schools have been created in an environment where their customers must have the ability to pay for their kid's education twice.  My kids go to private school, and every month I pay their bill to go to a public school they don't attend (via my property taxes) and then I pay a second bill to the private school they do attend.  As a result, many private schools have high prices, because their customer base can pay.  If the government instituted a special tax so that everyone received a government-funded Yugo, don't you think that the number of inexpensive cars sold by private companies might dry up some?

But private schooling does not have to be expensive.  My kids go to a fantastic school here in Phoenix.  We have moved around a lot, and we have been lucky enough to be able to send our kids to some very good and sometimes very expensive private schools, and I can say with confidence that their school here is both the best and the cheapest!  In fact, the tuition I pay for an education far, far superior to the local public schools is less than what the state of Arizona spends as an average per pupil in the public schools.

The same type of rebuttal can be made to all the other arguments.  Private schools often have tough admissions requirements because the public schools have already staked out the niche for the lowest-common-denominator education, so private schools differentiate themselves by serving an intellectual elite.  But does anyone doubt that if millions of average kids suddenly had $6000 vouchers in their hands, someone would step up to serve the heart, rather than the tail, of the normal distribution?  And I addressed here the huge potential for private school to evolve to serve a diverse range of viewpoints.

Arizona Watch has a nice post on this same topic, including similar thoughts in response to criticisms of school choice:

The statist arguments against HB 2004 are more clearly spelled out in Mike
McClellan's blog
on AZCentral in which he calls HB 2004 "tuition tax fraud." Mike is (surprise
surprise) a public school teacher. Indicative of the quality of public school
education in Arizona, Mike's arguments against HB 2004 are weak, but I'll
briefly refute them here.

1. Private schools can choose who they take "“ many have entrance exams that
will block some students from entering the school.

Mike's correct: private schools can choose the students they accept. Some
students may not qualify for their first choice school. The real point he's
making here is that some students may not have access to private schools even
with the corporate funding "“ that the bill would create a class divide in
education. That's absolutely incorrect. If private schools become affordable to
a significant portion of the population, then more private schools will emerge.
These schools will assuredly serve different market segments. There will be prep
schools, technical schools, art schools, religious schools, atheist schools, and
schools that just provide a decent basic education. There will even be schools
that specifically serve challenged students "“ those students who Mike claims
won't have access to private schooling. The opposite is true. Schools will be
better able to serve a variety of students in a manner far more effecting than
the current one-size-fits-all public school system.

2. Even if they can attend the school, the tuition might not cover all the
costs the student will incur "“ books, uniforms, other fees. If the schools won't
waive those costs "“ and many can't afford to do that "“ the student's family
might not be able to make up the difference.

Certainly some private schools will be more expensive than the tuition grants
can cover. However, many more will design their tuition structure specifically
to stay within the limits covered by the tuition grants. It is absurd to think
that schools would deliberately price themselves out of the market. If the
demand exists, private schools are going to find a way to meet that demand and
earn those tuition dollars.

3. And here's the big one: Republicans apparently believe there are quality
private schools everywhere. They oughta take a more careful look. While Phoenix
and Tucson have plenty of private schools "“ some far too expensive for the
Republican plan, by the way "“ that is not the case in the rest of the
state.

Do you see a trend here? The answer to this last argument is the same as the
answers to the previous two. Tuition grants will create demand for private
schools. New private schools will emerge to meet that demand and collect that
grant money. This is basic economics.

The one concern I have is that statists and choice opponents have many ways to block private schools.  Even with vouchers, zoning and land use laws in many areas have provided a powerful tool to block private school expansion.

By the way, here is one way to test whether people who make these arguments against choice really mean them or are using them to hide the true reasons that they object to school choice:  If they are right, then what are they worrying about?  No new schools will open, no publicly educated kids will be able to afford or meet the admissions standards of those schools that do exist, so nothing will change.  But they seem really worried about school choice, which makes me think that they don't even believe their own arguments.

Great Moments in Muddled Thinking: I

I was excited this week to find a copy of the original 1968 version of Paul Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb."  I have been itching to find such a copy so I can demonstrate just how wrong and wrong-headed his zero-sum limits-to-growth thinking is. 

Now, one may ask, why even bother?  You could argue that thoughtful folks have dismissed Paul Ehrlich and his ilk for years, particularly after Julian Simon owned him in their famous bet.  However, I find two compelling reasons to take the time to fisk a forty-year-old book:

  • Paul Ehrlich and his brethren actually have not been disowned by much of the intelligentsia.  The media still breathlessly reprints Ehrlich's and his cohorts' predictions of disaster, despite the fact that all their past predictions have utterly failed to come true.
  • The fundamental mistakes he makes in his analysis are constantly repeated today.  These mistakes include:
    • Static analysis - blind projection of trendlines without any allowance for individuals actually doing something to alter those trends, particularly in response to pricing signals.  This leads not only to predictions of disaster, but to the consistent conclusion that only governments coercing individuals on a massive scale can avert dire consequences for humanity
    • Zero confidence in humanity - every analysis implicitly contains the assumption that we will never know how to do more than we know how to do today.  Kind of an anti-Kurzweil mentality
    • Zero-sum economics - the common misconception that wealth can only come at the expense of poverty elsewhere.

I have not had a chance to dig into it, but I will leave you with this tasty teaser from the back cover:

MANKIND'S INALIENABLE RIGHTS

  1. The right to eat well
  2. The right to drink pure water
  3. The right to breathe clean air
  4. The right to decent, uncrowded shelter
  5. The right to enjoy natural beauty
  6. The right to avoid regimentation
  7. The right to avoid pesticide poisoning
  8. The right to freedom from thermonuclear war
  9. The right to limit families
  10. The right to educate our children
  11. The right to have grandchildren

Well, that seems to cover it.  Anyone want to bet I don't find anything about property rights in this book?  Gotta go read the book now, since I have so many questions now:  Is it OK if someone kills me with a conventional bomb rather than a nuclear one?  Can I sue McDonald's on the basis that yesterday's lunch was a violation of my right to eat well?  And just how do I force my kids to have sex and procreate?  I can't wait to find out.

Challenging Every Earmark

Senator Coburn, now with John McCain in partnership, are going to challenge every single earmark in the Senate:

In short, Senators McCain and Coburn announced their
commitment to challenge each and every earmark on the floor of the
Senate. In addition to challenging each and every pork project,
Senators Coburn and McCain will also oppose the inclusion in conference
reports of any earmarks that did not pass either the House or Senate.

As
stated in the letter, the practice of inserting earmarks into
conference reports at the last minute "stifles debate and empowers
well-heeled lobbyists at the expense of those who cannot afford access
to power. Decisions about how taxpayer dollars are spent should not be
made in the dark, behind closed doors."

Good.  And with McCain's backing, it may work.  I say this because, for a variety of reasons, McCain has somehow become the "instant moral authority" of the Senate, bringing instant legitimacy and media attention to any issue he jumps on.  I am not sure, for example, that the egregious Campaign Finance Reform Act would have passed without his imprimatur.

Apparently, the defense de jour by pork-loving Senators is to make the claim that "well, earmarks are trivial compared to non-discretionary spending so let's focus on those larger buckets of cost." 

A couple of thoughts.  First, if the Senate can't control spending on bridges serving 50 people, they are never going to do it on Social Security.  Second, this is very disingenuous, since Congress has had years to address these other issues, and all they have done is increase (via the disastrous drug benefit) the costs of these programmed expenses rather than reduce them.  They gave up mid-stream, for example, on doing anything with Social Security.  Third, now is the time to strike while public attention is focused on these practices.  In particular, the current lobbying scandals put special focus on earmarking, since discretionary spending is order of magnitudes more susceptible to political corruption than are the programmed expenses.

Twenty-Seventh Amendment

I was doing some research for a longer post, and ran across a Constitutional amendment that I did not know even existed.  I had thought the 26th Amendment lowering the voting age to 18 was the most recent, but there is one more.  It was ratified in 1992.  Anyone know what it is? 

Answer below the fold

Continue reading ‘Twenty-Seventh Amendment’ »

Lines Win NFL Championships

You hear a lot of debate about what wins NFL Championships - is it offense, defense, the running game, the quarterback?

Well, if we look beyond what is probably the most important determination of success -- don't have any injuries -- I think the last few games have really proven the importance of having a great offensive and defensive line.  The Indianapolis Colts, the team that supposedly had everything, lost because the Steelers penetrated their O-line at will.  Both the winning teams yesterday won in large part because their lines pushed the other team's around the field. 

Good teams know this.  Bad teams, like our Arizona Cardinals, don't.  At the beginning of the year, the Cardinals were getting a lot of publicity because they had exciting new players at many of their skill positions.  I went to see their 3rd preseason game, and I knew then that they would suck this year, yet again, because their lines got pushed around by Denver's second team.  Denver, by the way, is a great case for building from the lines - for years they have turned no-name guys into thousand yard rushers because of their O-line.  Same this year in Pittsburgh.  The great Cowboys teams of the 90's had Aikman and E. Smith and M. Irvin, but it also had what may have been one of the great offensive lines the league has seen.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals, like many bad teams, feel the need to draft big-name position players that temporarily excite a lethargic fan base rather than really building unsexy offensive and defensive lines.  I mean, for god's sakes, we have drafted like 3 or 5 wide recievers in the first round of the last few drafts.  This team needs EVERYTHING and we are drafting recievers?

Sedona Joins the March to Bureaucracy

Today, the town of Sedona, Arizona joined the ranks of government organizations trying to make business incrementally more difficult.  I operate campgrounds in the Sedona area, and as such I have already registered my business there with:

  • The federal government for social security and medicare taxes
  • The federal government for employee payroll withholding
  • The federal government for income taxes
  • The federal government for federal unemployment insurance
  • The State of Arizona secretary of state and corporation commission
  • The State of Arizona department for unemployment insurance
  • The State of Arizona department of revenue for sales taxes
  • The State of Arizona department of revenue (second time) for corporate income taxes
  • The State of Arizona department of liquor, for liquor license
  • Coconino County tax collector, for property taxes
  • Coconino County health department, for health inspection and certificate

I am sure this list is incomplete, but you get the idea.  I know for a fact that the town already has access to my business information, because they have access to the state department of revenue sales tax database that has all the data they want.  However, I guess so they can feel important -- they want to make sure I have THEIR approval to exist and conduct private transactions with the public as well.  Here is the only rational offered in their letter:

To those businesses operating in the City limits of Sedona:

Help Create Our Economic Future

To Create a viable economic future for Sedona, it is important to know what types of businesses currently exist within the community.  As of January 31, 2006, in order to create a database, all businesses operating in Sedona, or headquartered elsewhere and doing business in Sedona, will need to apply for a business registration.

First, we businesses are already creating Sedona's economic future, and this notion that a couple of people in a small town city clerks office can do anything to add to productivity and economic growth is the worst form of governmental hubris.  Second, though filling out a couple of pages may seem  too small to complain about, we operate in over 200 locations.  Thank God that most of them are in unincorporated area, or we would be filling out hundreds or thousands of pages a year just to help some city clerks with their "database". 

Third, it is interesting to note that Sedona is starting is campaign for their economic future by making doing business there harder.  Sedona reminds me a lot of Boulder, Colorado, where I used to live.  In Boulder, this kind of data request would be the harbinger of some massive new regulation program.  My best guess is that this will be the case in Sedona as well -- this database will be used to justify new regulations and taxes, not less.

I ran corporate planning staff groups at several large corporations.  Every time my staff guys had a new analysis they wanted to do, they often wanted to send out a new requirement to all of our operations managers to report some new data they needed for their project.  As their manager, I tried to be ruthless in defending our operating people, pushing back on my staff guys to find any other way to get the data they need, or to justify strongly the need to ask our folks to report yet another bit of data.  In most cases, the analysis did not justify the work or the data could be acquired some other way, a way that required more work of my staff guys but a lot less from the operating guys who really mattered.  This requests smacks of the exact same thing, except without the adult supervision to push back on their endless data requests.  (Other example here).

This all made me think of this, maybe because my mind works in strange ways. 

The Senate has introduced the "Digital Content Protection Act of 2006,"
a bill that will create "Broadcast Flags" for all digital radio and
television, leading to FCC oversight of all new digital media
technologies from iPods and PSPs to TVs and DVD recorders.

Under the DCPA proposal, digital media technologies would be
restricted to using technologies that had been certified by the FCC as
being not unduly disruptive to entertainment industry business-models.

Beyond my irritation at this whole broadcast-flag-FCC-power-grab raising its head again, it made me think about people's reaction to regulation.  In general, when people actually run into government regulation face to face, they hate it.  That's why with this broadcast flag issue you tend to see a lot of people who generally profess to be comfortable with big government suddenly freaking out, perhaps because this is the first time, beyond the drivers license office or trying to mail a package at Christmas, they every run into the true face of government.  Most corporations today are pretty good at sheltering customers and employees from the mind-numbing regulation they face. 

To all you guys who are fed up with the FCC, let me assure you as a small business owner:  The Department of Labor, Federal Trade Commission, Social Security Administration, Department of Commerce, and every state, county, and city agency you can think of is at least as overreaching and destructive.

The government:  Not to know it is to love it.

Update:  In the past, I have had a field day laughing at left-of-center groups who scream privacy rights at every occasion but support all the intrusion above.  Most recently, I have taken on NOW and the ACLU over this issue.

Good Editorial on Shadegg

Our local paper today had a pretty good editorial about John Shadegg's run for the speaker's position.  Some of this is just the local paper cheerleading the local boy, but I generally agree with this:

the same party that once hailed the tenets of the "Contract with
America" today judges Shadegg, one of the last remaining advocates of
that contract, an outsider. He is a conservative-minded "underdog" in
the race to lead his party members in the House of Representatives. Can
there be starker evidence than this to explain why Republicans are in
the ethical fix they find themselves in today?

Actually, yes.

Republican abandonment of smaller-government principles only partially
explains the current mess. Their political road to perdition - the
nasty taint of ties to manipulating lobbyists; the corruption-enhancing
business of "earmarking" billion-dollar goodies to each other - is far
uglier in the pubic eye than the ephemeral consequence of those
scandals: the loss of their cost-cutting spirit.

I would only add that I rank the loss of the cost-cutting spirit as a bigger loss than does the Republic.  I do agree that John Shadegg is the best candidate running for the Speaker job.

We Only Want Deadbeats

Frequent readers of this site know that I hold an extreme position on immigration:  I advocate free and open immigration of anyone who wants to come.  I made the case for open immigration here.

So it is not surprising that I am opposed to recent efforts by our Arizona Governor and state legislature to crack down on undocumented immigrants, an effort by the way that feels more like populist pandering than deeply held belief.

But what really befuddles me about our Governor's efforts is the message she seems to be sending.  Take these two positions together:

  1. Last November, Governor Napolitano opposed the passage of Proposition 200, which was aimed at denying state services to illegal immigrants.  And, after its passage in November 2004, she did everything she could to drag her feet on its enforcement
  2. Today, Governor Napolitano is supporting a state-wide crackdown on hiring of illegal immigrants, with a proposal for substantially increased fines and penalties for businesses that hire an undocumented worker.

Taking these two positions together, our governor's position appears to be that she supports immigrants being able to freeload off of taxpayer-funded services and transfer payments, but opposes immigrants being able to work and be productive.  Maybe we can post a big sign down on the border:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning... for government handouts, but please tell your productive workers to stay home.

Update:  The Arizona Republic, though I may bash it from time to time, has been pretty fair to me in publishing my letters to the editor.  The post above was published in their print edition on January 21, and online here (though I thought my title was much better!)

Why I am Not A Constitutional Scholar...

...Because I have no freaking idea how Gonzales vs. Oregon is not exactly the opposite conclusion as reached in Raich  (The Gonzales decision backs state law vs. federal intrusion, while Raich did the opposite).  And on top of that, everyone on the court seems to have switched sides.  Clarence Thomas appears to be confused too.

Save the Coyotes, the Steelers Fans, and the Bagel Eaters

Once and a while, I like to put in a plug for Overlawyered.com, which is a great place to keep up with the wacky and increasingly scary world of jackpot litigation and over-regulation. Just keep scrolling.

Catching my eye is this piece from Canada
, concerning my "extended family":

"A Vancouver woman is suing the city and the B.C. government for
allegedly failing to keep the streets safe after her pet cat was killed
by two coyotes....In a statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court,
[Judith] Webster says she's suffered and continues to suffer from
post-traumatic stress and/or adjustment disorder, loss of enjoyment of
life, and loss of past and future earnings."

Arizona has gotten a lot of press for its shoot to kill order on wild animals in inhabited areas, engendered by a similar suit against the state.  Environmentalists have made common cause successfully for years with the tort bar, but one wonders if these kinds of suits may drive a wedge between them.

By the way, did anyone see that guy in Pittsburg who had a heart attack in a bar when Jerome Bettis fumbled the ball late in the 4th quarter against Indy?  I wonder if he will be suing the Steelers for "post-traumatic stress and/or adjustment disorder, loss of enjoyment of
life, and loss of past and future earnings"?

The other piece that caught my attention was this, from New York:

"Last summer, [New
York City's] health department launched a campaign against trans-fats.
Often used by restaurants and in packaged foods, trans-fats are thought
to cause cholesterol problems and increase the risk of heart disease.
After restaurant inspectors found that 30 percent of the city's 30,000
eateries were using oils that contain trans-fats, the department began
urging a citywide ''oil change.'' Officials sent letters to food
service operators and started teaching workers about trans-fats along
with their required food safety training. The city plans another survey
this spring to measure the results of the project. Officials next want
to tackle portion sizes. Towering pastrami sandwiches, bagels with
gooey schmears of cream cheese and pizza slices that spill over paper
plates may be the city's culinary landmarks, but the health department
says the Big Apple is out of control."

Which makes the NYC health department officials the only New Yorkers I have ever heard complain about getting too much for their money.

Free the Hookers

The other day, I saw Coyote Blog grouped into a category of "conservative blogs".  I know a lot of folks tend to immediately shorthand free market economics to "conservative", but I bristle at the tag, particularly given the knife sticking out of the free economy's back right now with Republican finger prints all over it.  Therefore, I have decided that it is time to take one of those wildly unpopular libertarian stands that will help ensure that I don't get lumped in with Pat Robertson any more, while simultaneously guaranteeing I will never be able to hold elective office or survive a Senate confirmation.

For some reason, perhaps because of the recent Hollywood movie on the topic, there seems to be a lot of talk and concern in the press about white slavery and forced prostitution.  To which the general legislative response is "Let's crack down on prostitution".

The reason women get used and abused in the prostitution trade is because the trade is illegal, not because we aren't tough enough on it.  If a woman working at Wal-mart has part of her pay stolen by her boss, or is required to pay sexual favors to hold her job, she has legal recourse, both to the police and to civil court.  In fact, walking into an attorney's office and declaring "I work at Wal-mart and my boss forced me to have sex and stole my pay" would likely result in her becoming a millionaire some day.  On the other hand, a prostitute today who walked into a police station and declared "I work as a prostitute and my boss stole my pay" would likely result in her arrest.  Women get abused precisely because their trade is illegal, giving them no real recourse to the legal system.  Making prostitution legal would give thousands of abused women their first chance ever at freedom from their tormentors.

I think the time is right to revisit the subject of legalized prostitution.  America, for all the talk of a Republican-led theocratic state, has continued to relax itself on enforcing moral norms between consenting adults.  Forty years ago, the majority of Americans opposed legal homosexuality, legalized gambling, and even interracial marriage.  In many states, even tattooing was illegal.  Today, though we still suffer through some tortured ethical logic (e.g. gambling is moral as long as it is on a boat but not on land) these practices are legal in many parts of the country.  Its time to recognize that consensual sex between adults should be legal in all its forms, including those forms where money is exchanged.  By the way, speaking of bizarre ethical logic, today, in most states, exchanging money for sex is illegal EXCEPT if the act is filmed and the film is distributed widely.  Then the sex act for money is no longer prostitution but is pornography, which while frowned upon by many is generally legal.

Interestingly, feminists tend to be split on this issue, in part because feminists tend to split into at least two camps.  The first camp is the libertarian-feminist, who honestly want to empower women, and who try to be consistent to the "women should be able to make decisions for her own body" argument used in abortion and which leads them to support legalized prostitution as well. I can imagine these feminists saying "Hey women out there, if men could
make $500 an hour having sex, does anyone doubt that it would be legal?"

The second camp is the sort of uber-gender feminists, whose agenda is more about molding all women into their idealized female.  These feminists, who seem to control many women's organizations today, have created a whole new kind of morality that women must follow, a morality that seeks to ban breast implants since they are a trivial pandering to male aesthetic norms and to keep prostitution illegal because they see it as degrading to women.   These women use the language of choice in their abortion politics, but they are more about a new form of master-gender (rather than master-race) fascism.

By the way, when I say "free the hookers", I really mean free them.  Several countries in Europe have partially liberalized prostitution, but have reported there is still a lot of sex industry underground.  The reasons is that these countries have applied typical European economic policy to the fledgling industry, meaning they regulated the crap out of it.  Specifically, they tend to put extreme licensing requirements that artificially limit the number of people who can perform the trade legally, much like New York artificially limits the number of cab medallions.  And they get the same result as with cabs in New York - a large gray market is created, and the benefits of bringing the industry out in the open are thwarted.  More on the problems with licensing here and here and here.

More on Surveillance & Detention

I've gotten mail and comments on some of my surveillance- and detention-related posts, particularly this one here, that boil down to "but warrant-less national security eavesdropping is legal". John Hinderaker at Powerline makes this argument fairly compellingly.  To which I can answer, fine, but whether it is narrowly legal or illegal is a topic for partisan blogs who want to score points for or against Bush.  As one of those weird libertarian guys, my intention was to stand aside from the question of legality and instead pose the question of "yes, but is it right?"

Foreigners are People Too

It is interesting that I have to make this point more and more nowadays: Foreignors are human beings too.  For example, this idea that non-US citizens have (or should have) the same rights we do was one I highlighted in my defense of open immigration:

The individual rights we hold dear are our rights as human beings, NOT
as citizens.  They flow from our very existence, not from our
government. As human beings, we have the right to assemble with
whomever we want and to speak our minds.  We have the right to live
free of force or physical coercion from other men.  We have the right
to make mutually beneficial arrangements with other men, arrangements
that might involve exchanging goods, purchasing shelter, or paying
another man an agreed upon rate for his work.  We have these rights and
more in nature, and have therefore chosen to form governments not to be
the source of these rights (for they already existed in advance of
governments) but to provide protection of these rights against other
men who might try to violate these rights through force or fraud

Speech, commerce, property, association, and yes, privacy -- these are all rights we have as human beings, so that the fact of citizenship in the US should not have any bearing on whether our government should respect these rights (except in the case of war, which we get into in a while).

These issues are oh-so-much clearer when we flip our perspective.  For Americans reading this, ask yourself:

  • Does the government of Great Britain (or Russia, or Iran) have the right to wiretap your phone calls at will without warrant or review just because you are not a citizen of their country?
  • Does the government of Great Britain (or Russia, or Iran) have the right to detain you indefinitely without access to a lawyer or embassy if a powerful person in their government declares you an enemy combatant?

If you answered "yes", then recognize that the 1979 capture of the US embassy staff in Iran was probably legal by your rules, as was nearly every other detention of American citizens by another country.  If you answered "no", then you need to be worried about what the US is doing in the name of national security, for certainly both Bush and Clinton, among others, claim(ed) these rights.  And if you answered "no" for all other countries but "yes" for us, presumably because you trust our guys but not theirs, I will admit you have some historical precedent, since the US for all its faults has generally acted more honorably than 99% of the other nations of the world over the last 100 years.  But you do need to think about the meaning of the rule of law, and why its always a bad idea to give good men power that you don't want bad men to have.

By saying this, I realize that am I not only out of step with the US appellate courts (as Hinderaker points out) and with the Supreme Court (at least on the detention issue, since they haven't ruled on the warrant-less search powers) but also perhaps with the founding fathers.  While most of the folks who wrote the Constitution understood the notion of rights that are derived from nature rather than from the state, the Constitution is mute on the laws of the US vis a vis foreign citizens (excepts where it comes to war).  It is interesting to note that the Bill of Rights doesn't make any distinctions between citizens and non-citizens - there is nothing, for example, that modifies the prescriptions of the fourth amendment to apply only to searches of US citizens.  One could easily interpret the Bill of Rights as proscribing the actions of the US government against any person of any nationality.  Anyway, if I am in conflict with the founding fathers, so be it -- the Constitution is a fabulous document as totally ahead of its time as would be having 19th century India put a man on the moon, but it was not perfect.

The Magic Words: National Security

You may notice that defenders of these presidential powers tend to play a little verbal slight of hand (in addition to the one discussed here):  They translate the president's powers as CinC to mean "carte blanch for national security issues".  You hear this slight-of-hand so often, one starts to think its written that way in the Constitution, so it is probably good to remind ourselves what that document actually says:

The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the
United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called
into the actual service of the United States

That's it.  The president can give orders to the military  -- whether that means he can do anything he wants in the name of national security is a whole other issue.  Folks also seem to want to argue that this CinC power cannot be modified or limited in any way, but that's silly.  The third amendment is aimed solely at the limiting the power of the military.   And certainly the folks who first adopted the constitution and the Bill of Rights believed that the 4th amendment applied to the military as well.  In fact, they would have said especially the military.

The Right Way to do Searches

Here is how we have generally interpreted the 4th amendment:  The legislative branch sets the ground rules, as followed by the Administration.  The administrations selection of targets is reviewed by the Judiciary (warrants) and is also subject to later review at trial (via the admissibility of evidence).  What we try to avoid is allowing the same person to set the rules, choose the target, and perform the surveillance, all in secret and without outside review.  The problems with the NSA wiretapping program is not that it is wrong per se, but that it may violate this process.  The administration is claiming the right to choose the target and perform the surveillance under the own rules and in secret with no possibility of review.   

Declaration of War Needs to Mean Something Again

If there is any part of the constitution that has really gone by the wayside in the last 50 years it is the provisions around declaration of war.  Over the past decades, president's have claimed the power to move forces into action, not just defensively but offensively, without a Congressional declaration of war.  And Hinderaker sees the declaration of war, or the Authorization to Use Military Force
(AUMF) as irrelevant to the legality of warrant-less national security
searches.  He is arguing that the President in his CinC power may search without warrant if it is substantially to fight an enemy.  And, absent an AUMF or a declaration of war, who decides if a group or nation or person is an enemy?  why, the President does.  And, who determines if a surveillance is necessary to fight this enemy? Why, yes, the President does as well.  And who reviews these decisions to make sure the President hasn't chosen to search or wiretap, under the pretext of national security, communists in Hollywood, Martin Luther King, or a self-generated "enemies list" -- no one, I mean, no Administration official in this country would ever do those things, would they?

I have increasingly come to the belief that the AUMF, or declaration of war, is supposed to mean something. (I am not a Constitutional scholar, and don't want to hear about how I don't understand such and such precedent* -- this is my own interpretation).  If one goes back to my first argument above, that all people, not just citizens, are constitutionally protected from our government searching or detaining them without warrant, then the declaration of war is that formal step that is necessary to free the CinC from these restrictions vis a vis a certain named and defined enemy.  The declaration of war, or AUMF, is effectively then the mass warrant, that gives the president the right in his role as CinC to attack those folks with our troops and detain them and spy on them, etc.  And even then, this is not without limit, since none of us are very happy with the Japanese detention precedent in WWII.  This view of the declaration of war is more consistent with the original notion of separation of powers than is the "administration can do anything to protect national security" view.  It allows the President pretty free reign to fight an enemy, including the types of tactics under dispute, but only after the body the founders considered the most sober had approved the war and the enemy (by sober I mean as envisioned by the founding fathers, and not as demonstrated in recent supreme court nomination hearings).

This obviously makes a declaration of war a BIG DEAL, which it should be, rather than just a set piece vote ratifying what the president seems hellbent to do anyway or a statement of moral support, along the lines of a "we support the troops" resolution.  It means that the Congress, god forbid, actually needs to treat the vote with some responsibility and understand the implications of what they are voting for, or else modify the AUMF or articles of war with specific limitations of scope.  And it means Congress needs to think twice and maybe three times before authorizing war against something as nebulous as "A Qaeda" or "terrorism".  And it means that GWB probably is doing nothing illegal, at least in the programs as discovered, but it doesn't mean that the courts or Congress can't change that in the future.

* Constitutional scholars live and die by the great god "precedent", and certainly the legal system would be thrown into disarray if court decisions did not provide precedents for later decisions.  All predictability in the system would vanish.  However, it is more than OK from time to time to go back to the original words of the Constitution to see if the march of serial precedent has somehow taken us off course.  I often liken this to a copier machine.  If you take a plain piece of paper, and copy it, and then copy the copy, and then copy that copy, etc. through twenty or thirty generations, you will end up with a paper that is supposed to be a copy of the original, but in fact is covered with spots and other artifacts that were not on the original.  A series of court precedents can also create such artifacts that can only really be identified not from looking at the last precedent it was built on, but going all the way back to the original Constitution.

Great Coburn Press Release

This came to me via email a few minutes ago from Tom Coburn's office:

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) today called on Senate and House leaders from
both parties to make the elimination of earmarking, or pork politics, the
centerpiece of any reforms considered in the wake of the Jack Abramoff
scandal.  Abramoff has described the appropriations committees, and, by
extension, the appropriations process, as an "earmark favor
factory" in which influence and votes are bought and sold.   

"Congress does not need to reform the lobbying industry as much
as it needs to reform itself.  The willingness of politicians to abuse the
appropriations process through earmarking has caused the explosive growth in
the lobbying industry and encouraged the excesses illustrated by the Jack
Abramoff scandal.   It is not enough for our leaders to propose
reforms that might promote the appearance, but not necessarily the practice, of
ethical behavior," Dr. Coburn said. 

"For the American people, the Abramoff scandal is only beginning to
connect the dots between politicians, individual earmarks, lobbyists and
campaign contributions.  Behind each of the 14,000 earmarks Congress
approved last year is a story that many politicians will not want their
constituents to hear.  If Congress fails to enact meaningful reforms that
attack this climate of corruption at its source the public will, and should,
take reform into its own hands in November.

Keep up the good work.  I hope he doesn't find a horse's head in his bed.

Journalists and Enron

Remember Enron?  One of the aspects of the Enron case that the media latched on to was the document destruction at Arthur Anderson, destruction AA claims was routine but prosecutors and many in the media tried to classify as obstruction of justice.  So I thought this bit from Reason was interesting:

For decades, newsrooms have
shredded or thrown away notes some time after using them both to save space and
to prevent prosecutors like Fitzgerald from demanding them as part of an
investigation. This "routine expungement is a longstanding practice in many
news organizations," says Sandra Davidson, a professor of communications law at
the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

Hmmm, sounds familiar, huh?  The article goes on to point out the obvious - that the Sarbanes-Oxley provisions rushed into law and cheer-led by most journalists may come back to bite the media:

And for the press, the "obstruction of justice" provision [of Sarbanes-Oxley]
may cover more than just withholding notes from the government once an
investigation has begun. It may also endanger the common practice of routinely
destroying notes to protect anonymous sources.... Sarbanes-Oxley, because it
covers document destruction even "in contemplation" of a federal investigation,
could apply to the press's "routine expungement" practices, scholars say. "If
you're destroying documents to prevent them from being subpoenaed," says
Rotunda, "you have a risk that a vigorous prosecutor will think of that as
obstruction of justice."

My First Half Marathon

Today I ran my first half marathon, at the PF Chang's Rock and Roll Marathon here in Phoenix.  It was fun through about mile 9, and mostly sucked after that.  I am pretty excited that I got through it, though right now I am ready for Kurzweil's singularity because this body definitely needs to be replaced.  My sister runs full marathon's and I laughed when she told me she bandages her nipples and Vaselines her thighs for the race.  Now I wish I had done it too - beyond the joints and muscles those are the two spots that are chafed pretty raw right now.

My time?  Well it was 2:27:20 for 13.1 miles, which is pretty lame since it translates into a blazing 11 minutes per mile, but it does qualify as my personal best!  Update:  They have the stats up on the Internet, so I now know that I finished 10,345th place out of 18,536 finishers, so I seem to have finished just outside of the medals (lol).  By the way, my two sisters both ran the full marathon in Houston on the same day, so combined with my marathon-lite the coyote sibs ran 65.5 miles on Sunday.

I Have Mixed Feelings on This

Via Instapundit, comes this story of the Pennsylvania legislature declaring vendetta on local media:

Team 4 has a voicemail recording of Democratic State Rep. Tim Solobay,
of Canonsburg, saying that state lawmakers are preparing an all-out
assault on the media. Solobay hints that the first volley is a bill
that would start charging sales tax on all advertising in Pennsylvania.

Solobay left the voicemail message for editor Cody Knotts, who works at The Weekly Recorder, in Claysville, Washington County.

In
the message, Solobay says, "But you know, for the most part, the
majority of the legislative feeling about the media right now is if
there's something they can do to screw them, you can imagine it may
occur."

Apparently, the legislature is pissed the media embarrassed them last year over a pay raise:

Like many newspaper editors in Pennsylvania, Knotts wrote prolifically
last year about the 16 percent pay raise that lawmakers took, and then
gave back under heavy media pressure.

Then, last month, he
learned of a bill in Harrisburg that would hit the media hard --
lifting the sales tax exemption on advertising, along with some other
services.

If true, this is clearly a disgusting abuse of power, but probably only unique because someone was willing to actually admit the tit for tat.

However, I am left with mixed feelings.  The media generally cheer-leads every tax increase, and is the first to join the bandwagon of slamming corporate profits and poo-pooing corporate "fat-cats whining about tax increases that cut into their huge profits" - you know the drill.

So I am less than sympathetic when I hear a media guy saying this:

Knotts said the plan would cause some businesses to stop advertising.

"We
don't have a big profit margin," said Knotts. "We're sitting at around
3 or 4 percent, maybe, and it's going to cut that down to where we're
losing money and then how can we stay in business."

Media executives in Pennsylvania, including those at WTAE-TV, have been lobbying lawmakers to kill the advertising tax.

Guess what - my profit margins in camping are thin as well, and my customers get hit not only with the 6-8% sales tax you are probably facing but also lodging taxes as high as 14%.  I have never ever seen a media outlet in any city or state in which we operate oppose a lodging tax increase.  Or take oil companies, who media companies revel in slamming.  Oil companies make average margins in the 5-8% range, but get hit with sales and gas taxes as high as 30% or more.  Or what about Wal-mart?  Wal-mart has margins in the 3-4% range - have these media companies ever opposed sales taxes at Wal-mart? (hah!)  So after supporting every tax you saw come along and slamming every other business as greedy profiteers, excuse me if I don't cry many tears when you get hoist on your own petard.

Dumb Laws

Radley Balko seems to be going state by state, listing recent stupid legislation.  Keep scrolling.  Some examples:

  • Introduced by Sen. Jerry P. Rhoads on January 6,
    2006, to designate the portrait of Daniel Boone entitled "Gateway to
    the West," by Kentucky native David Wright, as the official portrait of
    Daniel Boone.
  • Introduced by Rep. Mitchel B Denham, Jr on January
    3, 2006, to exempt from sales and use tax straw, wood shavings, and
    sawdust used in agricultural or equine pursuits.  (this is from Kentucky, which happens to be the state that required me to have a license to retail eggs).
  • Remote control toy boats may soon be required to
    obey the same speed limits as lifesize watercraft. Bonus points to the
    lawmaker who introduced this one for invoking "the children" in urging
    its enactment.
  • Rep. Richard Morris of Seabrook wants to require elementary schools to teach proverbs.

This is Typical

The left was rightly ticked off a while back when the Bush FDA went against the scientific panel's recommendation and refused to approve the Plan B morning after pill for over-the-counter-sales.  But as I discussed here, the typical political response of our two political parties to such abuses of government power is NOT to reduce the government's power, but to try to redirect the abuses for their own ends. 

So, in this case, the left now is not necessarily upset that the FDA is using non-scientific criteria for approving drugs, they are just upset the FDA is not using their pet non-scientific criteria:

Now an interesting article in the Baltimore Sun
suggests that some left-wingers are also hinting that ethical concerns
should be included in FDA regulatory decisions. In a poll last fall,
the Pew Initiative on Food and Agriculture found
"a strong majority (63 percent) of Americans believe government
agencies should include moral and ethical considerations when making
regulatory decisions about cloning and genetically modifying animals,
with 53 percent feeling that way strongly."

Liberal bioethicist, Daniel Callahan, co-founder of the
Hastings Center in Garrison, N.Y., says that he is leery of having the
FDA rule on moral issues, but thinks that it might want to consider the
financial impact of approving new drugs on the health care system.
Presumably, the regulators might decide that a drug is too expensive
and refuse to approve it although it is safe and effective. The problem
is that deciding to withhold a drug from patients because regulators
think it's "too expensive" is a moral judgment. If the government
doesn't want to pay for an expensive drug that's OK, but why should
regulators forbid consumers, who might want to pay for it on their own,
access to drugs that are safe and effective?

Carol Tucker Foreman, director of food policy at the Consumer
Federation of America, points out that the FDA has already taken into
account non-scientific concerns in some of its regulatory system. For
example, she notes that the FDA requires that irradiated food be
labeled even though there is no scientific evidence that irradiation harms human health. The reason for the labels is that activist groups like Public Citizen
managed to scare some consumers into demanding them in the early 1990s.
Now the question is should the FDA be pushed further down this slippery
slope of non-scientific regulation?

The labeling for irradiated foods is stupid but fairly harmless, but the suggestion to hold life-saving drugs off the market if they are deemed too expensive by some bureaucrats is obscene.  I would suggest you run away screaming from anyone who suggests that this is a "moral" decision.

Dark Days for Free Speech

Nearly every day brings new evidence of what a threat to free speech campaign finance "reform" laws have become.  I found this bit from Brian Anderson very depressing, but not surprising:

Consider what's going on in Washington State as an early warning.
Early in 2005, the Democrat-controlled legislature passed"”and
Democratic governor Christine Gregoire signed"”a bill boosting the
state's gasoline tax a whopping 9.5 cents per gallon over the next four
years, supposedly to fund transportation projects. Thinking that their
taxes were already plenty high... some citizens organized an initiative campaign,
as Washington law allows, to junk the new levy: No New Gas Tax.

Two popular conservative talk radio hosts, Kirby Wilbur and John
Carlson, explained why the gas tax was bad news and urged listeners to
sign the 225,000 petitions necessary to get the rollback initiative on
the November ballot, though they played no official role in the
campaign and regularly featured on their shows defenders as well as
opponents of the tax hike. With the hosts' help, the petition drive got
almost twice the needed signatures, but the ballot initiative, strongly
opposed by labor unions, the state's liberal media, environmental
groups, and other powerful interests, narrowly lost.

Meantime, however, a group of pro-tax politicians sued No New Gas
Tax, arguing that Wilbur's and Carlson's on-air commentaries were
"in-kind contributions" and that the anti-tax campaign had failed to
report them to the proper state authorities. The suit sought to stop
NNGT from accepting any more of these "contributions" until it
disclosed their worth"”though how the initiative's organizers could
control media discussions or calculate their monetary value remained
unclear. The complaint also socked NNGT with civil penalties,
attorneys' fees and costs, and other damages...

The real target of the suit was clearly Wilbur and Carlson, or, more
accurately, their corporate employer, Fisher Communications. If NNGT received the "contributions," that meant Fisher had sent
them by broadcasting Wilbur's and Carlson's support for the initiative.
Washington law limits contributions in the last three weeks of a
political campaign to $5,000. Depending on how one measured the dollar
worth of on-air "contributions," Fisher could thus face big fines and
criminal sanctions if it let Wilbur and Carlson keep talking about the
gas tax. "Thankfully, Fisher assured us that we could keep
talking about the subject on the air, and we did," Wilbur says. The
judge ruled in favor of the pro-tax pols, though he finessed the $5,000
limitation problem by ruling only on the "contributions" that occurred
prior to the campaign's last three weeks.

I find this offensive.  And expect similar "in-kind" donation logic to be coming to a blog near you.  And while Democrats may short-sightedly cheer as long as this logic is applied against conservative talk radio, this "in-kind" logic is a Pandora's Box that will be very hard to close.  For example, lets say my wife's reading club organizes 200 women to go out to a 3-hour rally to support Hillary Clinton.  In doing so, the club just mobilized 600 "man"-hours for Ms. Clinton, which at $10 an hour, which is a low value for a professional person's time, is worth $6000.  Have they violated the law?  Or, lets say a lawyer who normally bills $300 an hour spends all day Saturday and Sunday marching in a rally for George Bush.  Is he over the limit?

We are in the absolutely terrifying and historically unprecedented position of having had Congress pass a law that no citizen (except a few media people and a few government licensed political groups) can criticize a member of Congress by name within 60 days of an election.  And the Supreme Court signed off on this travesty!

Uh oh

Via Jonathon Turley in the USAToday (via Cathy Young)

Despite my agreement with Alito on many issues,
I believe that he would be a dangerous addition to the court in already
dangerous times for our constitutional system. Alito's cases reveal an
almost reflexive vote in favor of government, a preference based not on
some overriding principle but an overriding party.

In my years as an academic and a litigator, I
have rarely seen the equal of Alito's bias in favor of the government.
To put it bluntly, when it comes to reviewing government abuse, Samuel
Alito is an empty robe.

It is at times like this that I find the confirmation process's excessive fixation on abortion to be tremendously irritating.  Alito's judicial philosophy vis a vis executive power is much, much more relevant to the nation and the vitality of the Constitution than is his opinions on Roe v. Wade, particularly given that every President tries to increase the power of the executive branch, but they tend to be most successful in times of war and crisis, which is exactly the times the Court needs to be most vigilant about chopping them back (this is my executive branch as kudzu political theory).  And don't even get me started on Joe Biden using 27 of his 30 minutes to listen to himself talk, further demonstrating that he learned how to ask questions from Sean Hannity.

Update:  I should have linked to this past post, which humorously explains the fixation on abortion.

National Review Endorse Shadegg

The National Review has endorsed our own North Phoenix Congressman John Shadegg for the Speaker of the House.  I second the motion.  Though we don't always see eye-to-eye on some of the "social" issues, Shadegg is one of the few consistent voices for small government left in Congress.

Congressman John Shadegg
of Arizona has jumped into the House majority-leader race. He is a
decided underdog and is taking a personal risk by voluntarily giving up
his leadership slot as head of the Republican Policy Committee to
pursue the majority leadership. But fortune favors the bold, and so do
we. At a time of an ethical crisis, when the Republican majority often
seems to have lost direction, John Shadegg is the right man to clean
house and restore the GOP majority to its core principles. We endorse
John Shadegg for majority leader.

No one doubts Shadegg's talent or his principle. While all three
contenders have conservative voting records, Shadegg is a member of the
class of 1994 who never lost the conservative, reformist spirit of that
watershed year. He voted against No Child Left Behind, and, more
recently, against the prescription-drug bill. He has warm personal
relations with the conference's moderates, and is a fresh face at a
moment that cries out for one.

Update:  I am in full support of this statement:

We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come
close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do
agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs
to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack
Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.

We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact
advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than
simply influence Members.

But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with
privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms
including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence
operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase
openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations
and in the appropriations process.

As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more
candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the
entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We
hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent
conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope
all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new
media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.

Beyond this statement, I will say that until the government gets out of the game of distributing spoils, of sacrificing one group to the interests of the other, of taking from one person and giving to another, and of controlling how we as individuals make decisions in every aspect of our lives, corruption will never go away in government.  Some men will always be willing to bribe and cheat to use the government to get over on other men, and their victems will be forced to do the same to defend themselves.

Just An Interesting Story

No political point here, just an interesting story about a subject I knew nothing about.  B-movie critic Joe Bob Briggs writes in Reason (from 2003) about the strange history and financial success of the venereal disease exploitation movie (really).