Posts tagged ‘President Bush’

Why Do I Think This Penalty Would Have Been Waived on GE or Dreamworks?

Politicians certainly live in their own world:

The Environmental Protection Agency has slapped a $6.8 million penalty on oil refiners for not blending cellulosic ethanol into gasoline, jet fuel and other products. These dastardly petroleum mongers are being so intransigent because cellulosic ethanol does not exist. It remains a fantasy fuel. The EPA might as well mandate that Exxon hire Leprechauns.

As a screen shot of EPA’s renewable fuels website confirms, so far this year - just as in 2011 - the supply of cellulosic biofuel in gallons totals zero.

“EPA’s decision is arbitrary and capricious. We fail to understand how EPA can maintain a requirement to purchase a type of fuel that simply doesn’t exist,” stated Charles Drevna, president of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the Washington-based trade association that represents the oil refining and petrochemicals industries.

I will remind Republicans thought that ethanol is a bipartisan turd, this particular requirement having been signed into law by President Bush.

"All of America's Problems"

I am starting to discover that I am an exception in the blogosphere, which seems to turn its collective noses up at the Olympics.  Well, my family loves to watch the Olympics together, and it is a real event in our house these two weeks.

Anyway, I was watching Bob Costas interview President Bush last night, and he asked a question I would paraphrase as "how is the US going to exercise influence on China given China's increasing strength and all the problems we have in the US."

Now, I am the first one to criticize the US and its government on any number of dimensions, but when one pulls back to an international view, one has to have some perspective.  What are these overwhelming problems we face when compared to the struggle for freedom and/or economic sufficiency in much of the world?  The US media has developed a bedrock assumption that the US is some kind of wasteland in need of total overhaul, when in fact we are the example all the world emulates.  Just look at the images from China -- sure there are a lot of unique cultural differences, but in many ways you see a people trying to be like us.

The US Erects Its Own Version of the Berlin Wall

Though I would not want to trade my income taxes with those paid by Europeans, there is at least one area where the US has the worst tax regime in the world.  The specific area is the double standard the US applied on eligibility of income when other countries are involved.  For citizens of other countries, the US applies the standard that taxation is based on where one earns their income, so citizens of, say, France that are working in the US must pay US taxes.  However, for citizens of the US, the government reverses its standard.  In this case, the US applies the standard that taxation is based on citizenship, so US citizens must pay taxes on their income, even if it is all earned living in a foreign country.  Since most countries of the world apply the first standard  (which is also the standard individual states in the US apply), US expats find their income double taxed between the US and the country they are living in.

But now, it is just getting worse:

Queues of frustrated foreigners crowd many an American
consulate around the world hoping to get into the United States. Less
noticed are the heavily taxed American expatriates wanting to get out "”
by renouncing their citizenship. In Hong Kong just now, they cannot.
"Please note that this office cannot accept renunciation applications
at this time," the consulate's website states. Apart from sounding like
East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the closure is
unfortunately timed. Because of pending legislation on President Bush's
desk that is expected to become law by June 16th, any American who
wants to surrender his passport has only a few days to do so before
facing an enormous penalty.

"¦Congress has turned on expats, especially those who, since new tax
laws in 2006, have become increasingly eager to give up their
citizenship to escape the taxman. Under the proposed legislation,
expatriates surrendering their citizenship with a net worth of $2m or
more, or a high income, will have to act as if they have sold all their
worldwide assets at a fair market price.

"¦That expats want to leave at all is evidence of America's odd tax
system. Along with citizens of North Korea and a few other countries,
Americans are taxed based on their citizenship, rather than where they
live. So they usually pay twice "” to their host country and the
Internal Revenue Service. As this makes citizenship less palatable,
Congress has erected large barriers to stop them jumping ship. "¦[I]t
may have the opposite effect. Under the new structure, it would make
financial sense for any young American working overseas with a
promising career to renounce his citizenship as early as possible,
before his assets accumulate.

This is simply awful, and is another example of fascism in the name of egalitarianism (the fear is that a few rich people will move to tax havens to avoid US taxes).  Add up your net worth - equity in your house, retirement savings, etc - and imagine having to pay 35% of that as a big bribe tax to the US government to let you leave the country. 

Myth Of The Anything But Freaking Stupid Voter

Via Kevin Drum's Site:

Ben Smith puts the fact that 10% of Americans believe that Obama is a Muslim in context:

"Large minorities of Americans consistently say they
hold wildly out-of-the-mainstream views, often specifically discredited
beliefs. In some cases, those views should make them pretty profoundly
alienated from one party or the other.

For instance:

22 percent believe President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance.

30 percent believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

23 percent believe they've been in the presence of a ghost.

18 percent believe the sun revolves around the Earth."

Oh Crap, I Agree With Paul Krugman!

Paul Krugman, on ethanol:

I'm almost never censored at the Times. However, I was told that I couldn't use the lede I originally wrote for my column
following the 2007 State of the Union address, in which Bush made
ethanol the centerpiece of his energy strategy: "Before the State of
the Union address, there had been hints and hopes that President Bush
would offer a serious plan to reduce our dependence on imported oil.
Instead, however, he took refuge in alcohol."

Well, anyway - the news on ethanol just keeps getting worse. Bad for the economy, bad for consumers, bad for the planet - what's not to love?

Well, I have heard that he was a pretty good economist before he became a political hack.

You Know You Have Been In Government Too Long When...

...you equate the government choosing not to provide a service with that service being banned.  Michael Cannon quotes our Speaker of the House:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's understanding of government's role in a
liberal democracy (and of the veto power) may be worse than I thought. A reporter sends a transcript of a press conference that Pelosi held yesterday, where she made the following remarks:

Oh, [President Bush] used the veto pen to veto the stem
cell research bill.  That was a major disappointment. . . . I remember
that veto very well because he was saying, "I forbid science to proceed
to improve the health of the American people."

Regarding Bush's threatened veto of the Democrats' expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program:

The President is saying, "I forbid 10 million children
in America to have health care." You know from your Latin that is what
"veto" means.

Pelosi should know that there is a difference between the government not funding something and forbidding it.

Academic Arguments for the Imperial Presidency

Well, this, from Opinio Juris, certainly got my blood moving this morning:

The first part of Posner and Vermeule's book offers a forceful
theoretical defense of executive authority during times of emergency.
The book offers a thoughtful and well-reasoned perspective on the
cost-benefit analysis at play when government seeks the optimal balance
between the competing goods of security and liberty. Posner and
Vermeule argue that there is a Pareto security-liberty frontier at
which no win-win improvements are possible. That is, at this frontier
any increase in security will require a decrease in liberty, and
vice-versa. From my perspective, the existence of this security-liberty
frontier appears unassailable.

Given this frontier, Posner and Vermeule then offer their central
argument of institutional competence. They argue that there are few or
no domains in which it is true both that government choices about
emergency policies are not accurate (on average) and
that judicial review can make things better. They further argue that
civil libertarians who subscribe to vigorous judicial review in times
of emergency fail to identify a large and important set of cases in
which government blunders or acts opportunistically during emergencies and in which judges can improve matters

I haven't read the book, and am only just getting through the symposium they are holding.  My first, primal reaction is YUK!  Here are a couple of random thoughts:

  • I don't know if the last statement in the second paragraph is true -- I suspect it is not, or at least is subject to "improve matters" being interpreted differently by each individual.  However, it strikes me that even if the statement is true, checks and reviews by other branches of government still circumscribe executive excesses by their threat.  And the act and/or the threat of review leads to open political debate that can redirect executive actions.  Even GWB, who has pushed the theory of executive powers to new levels, can arguably be said to have modified his management of the Iraq war in response to Congressional scrutiny, even without explicit legislation being passed. 
  • The incentive system in government is for the government and its employees to grab new powers over the populace.  Anything that slows down that process, even in a "Crisis" is a good thing
  • If they want to argue that the Congress is useless as a check because in times of crisis they just become the president's bitch, I can't argue with you.  Just look at how the Democratic majority actions on Patriot Act rollbacks (none) or FISA enforcement (they actually retroactively gave Bush the power he wanted).  But this does not mean we should give up hoping they will try.
  • Government officials love it when they can act with enhanced power and decreased accountability.  If we institutionalize an imperial presidency in times of "crisis" and then give the President the power to declare a "crisis", then you can bet we will always be in a crisis.   Even if checks and balances don't tend to improve civil liberties decision-making in times of crisis, they at least help us get out of the crisis and declare normality again.  Otherwise we would never go back.

The real problem is that a government full of lifetime government employees is never, ever going to make the right choice on the security-freedom curve.  Really, by security, we mean government intrusion, so you can think of this as the government power vs. individual power curve.  And lifetime government employees are always going to choose for more power for themselves.  The problem is not who in government should fix our point on this curve, the problem is that anyone in the government is allowed to fix this point. 

That was what the Constitution was supposed to be for -- an act of the people fixing this point for the government.  The founding fathers were well aware of republics that had processes for slipping into dictatorship in times of war.  Rome was a good example, and eventually demonstrated what happened in this system -- the crisis never went away and you got a dictator all the time with no republic.  The founders explicitly did not write such a capacity for the president into the Constitution.  And it should stay that way.

Hopefully I will have more coherent thoughts after having read more of their work.

Update:  This comes to mind, for example

A recent interview with
Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, suggests that
the administration also feels duty-bound to withhold information when
it might be useful to critics who oppose President Bush's
anti-terrorism policies, since those policies are necessary to protect
national security. But the very same information can"”indeed, should"”be
released at a more opportune time, when it will help the president
pursue his policies....

And then further, to the issue of eavesdropping international calls:

It's
pretty clear McConnell's real concern is that debating this issue
endangers national security because it threatens to prevent the
president from doing whatever he thinks is necessary to fight
terrorism. Hence Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on
Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, is not at
all exaggerating when he observes, "He's basically saying that
democracy is going to kill Americans." And not just democracy, but
constitutional government of any kind, since anything that interferes
with the president's unilateral decisions with respect to national
security (which is whatever he says it is) is going to kill Americans
too.

Earmark Reform

President Bush today, among other proposals, advocated earmark reform in a WSJ Op-Ed piece.  Great, though I would have thought his adult supervision on this issue with the Republican Congress last year would have been more effective.  Also, I would like to turn his attention to a novel Constitutional device called a "veto" that he already has at his command to handle pork-laden bills.

Dead Cat Bounce

I don't usually report on the minutia of politics or polling, mainly because it bores me to tears, but I had to make this post because it lets me use one of my all-time favorite terms.  Bush's recent rise in the polls reminds me very much of that great investment term "dead cat bounce."  (If it falls far enough, even a dead cat will bounce).   I've always suspected that many of the technical analysis used on Wall Street to analyze stock trends could be applied to political polls, since they encompass some of the same group distributed consensus building.   I can see it now, Paul Kangas reporting that President Bush is experiencing a break-out to the upside...

By the way, are there really people who change their opinion about the war, about the president, about how they will vote on a weekly basis?  It sure seems like there are 5-10% of Americans who blow around with the wind.  I don't mean change your mind once, like changing your mind on the war.  I mean back and forth every week.  Otherwise, how does one explain the fluctuation in the polls, particularly when the amount of the fluctuation is outside the error range?

Greatest Onion Issue, Five Years Later

Few people in September, 2001 were willing to try to get us laughing again.  One notable exception was the Onion, which produced what was probably their greatest issue.  In particular, this is still dead-on five years later:

In a televised address to the American people Tuesday, a determined
President Bush vowed that the U.S. would defeat "whoever exactly it is
we're at war with here."...

Bush is acting with the full support of Congress, which on Sept. 14
authorized him to use any necessary force against the undetermined
attackers. According to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), the
congressional move enables the president to declare war, "to the extent
that war can realistically be declared on, like, maybe three or four
Egyptian guys, an Algerian, and this other guy who kind of looks
Lebanese but could be Syrian. Or whoever else it might have been.
Because it might not have been them."...

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the war against terrorism will be different from any previous model of modern warfare.

"We were lucky enough at Pearl Harbor to be the victim of a craven
sneak attack from an aggressor with the decency to attack military
targets, use their own damn planes, and clearly mark those planes with
their national insignia so that we knew who they were," Rumsfeld said.
"Since the 21st-century breed of coward is not affording us any such
luxury, we are forced to fritter away time searching hither and yon for
him in the manner of a global easter-egg hunt."

"America is up to that challenge," Rumsfeld added....

Gramm said that the U.S. has already learned a great deal about the
details of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and
Pentagon, and that a rough psychological profile of its mastermind has
been constructed.

"For example, we know that the mastermind has the approximate
personality of a terrorist," Gramm said. "Also, he is senseless. New
data is emerging all the time."

Uh, Oops

Via the Consumerist:

When Greenpeace mobilized to protest nuclear energy at a recent appearance by
President Bush to promote his nuclear energy policy, they forgot to fill in all
the boiler-plate.

From the Greenpeace anti-nuclear-armageddon flier. Capitals and brackets are
theirs:

    In the twenty years since the Chernobyl tragedy, the world's worst nuclear
    accident, there have been nearly [FILL IN ALARMIST AND ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOID
    HERE]."

LOL.  By the way, I am not sure why those paranoid about global warming would refuse to reconsider nuclear power.   In that article, i pointed out that a different regulatory regimed would greatly reduce costs and actually enhance safety:

If aircraft construction was regulated like nuclear power plants,
there would be no aviation industry.  In the aircraft industry,
aircraft makers go through an extensive approval and testing process to
get a basic design (e.g. the 737-300) approved by the government as
safe.  Then, as long as they keep producing to this design, they can
keep making copies with minimal additional design scrutiny.  Instead,
the manufacturing process is carefully checked to make sure that it is
reliably producing aircraft to the design already deemed safe.  If
aircraft makers want to make a change to the aircraft, that change must
be approved with a fairly in-depth process.

Beyond the reduction in design cost for the 2nd airplane of a series
(and 3rd, etc.), this approach also yields strong regulatory benefits.
For example, if the actuation screw for the horizontal stabilizer is deemed to be of poor or unsafe design
in a particular aircraft, then the government can issue a bulletin to
require a new approved design be retrofitted in all other aircraft of
this series.  This happens all the time in commercial aviation.

One can see how this might make nuclear power plant construction
viable again.  Urging major construction companies to come up with a
design that could be reused would greatly reduce the cost of design and
construction of plants.  There might still be several designs, since
competing companies would likely have their own designs, but this same
is true in aerospace with Boeing, Airbus and smaller jet manufacturers
Embraer and Bombardier.

And a while back I linked to a story on how the ultimate fallout from Chernobyl was not nearly as bad as was feared.  That article said in part:

Over the next four years, a massive cleanup operation
involving 240,000 workers ensued, and there were fears that many of
these workers, called "liquidators," would suffer in subsequent years.
But most emergency workers and people living in contaminated areas
"received relatively low whole radiation doses, comparable to natural
background levels," a report summary noted. "No evidence or likelihood
of decreased fertility among the affected population has been found,
nor has there been any evidence of congenital malformations."

In
fact, the report said, apart from radiation-induced deaths, the
"largest public health problem created by the accident" was its effect
on the mental health of residents who were traumatized by their rapid
relocation and the fear, still lingering, that they would almost
certainly contract terminal cancer. The report said that lifestyle
diseases, such as alcoholism, among affected residents posed a much
greater threat than radiation exposure.

An Absurd Demand

Today, Microsoft came under fire from a number of activists:

Activists today accused Microsoft of spending all of its time focusing on software.  "All they want to do is write code for operating systems and applications".  Activists were complaining that Microsoft does not invest any of its huge profits into alternatives to software and operating systems.  "They have not invested one dime in trying to come up with computing technologies that don't require operating systems or business applications."  Activists also accused Microsoft of not investing in any alternative computational approaches, such as abacus research or mechanical calculators.

Makes no sense, right?  Well, that's because I made it up.  But I did not make this up, which is essentially the exact same charge, just against a different target:

Unlike
other major oil companies that essentially acknowledge the very real
threat of global warming and the need to transition to renewable energy
and off of a finite, non-renewable resource such as oil, ExxonMobil is
using its profits and its power to continue to keep this country
addicted to oil, as President Bush has noted," Hoover said.

ExxonMobil cares only about drilling for more oil, Hoover alleged

You hear this stuff all the time.  But why are the major oil companies responsible for investing to obsolete their own business?  Why are they obligated to invest in things like wind farms or whatever that they know nothing about?   Did we demand that railroads invest in aircraft research?  Do we require cable companies to invest in DirectTV?  For all of its size, ExxonMobil represents a tiny fraction of World GDP -- if all these alternative energy ideas are such great opportunities, let the other 99.99% of the world economy take it on.  Besides, do these guys who think that XOM is evil incarnate really want them controlling the next generation of energy production?

By the way, I thought this was hilarious:

"We
believe that ExxonMobil -- primarily through its former president and
CEO, Lee Raymond -- has been involved in conceiving of and then
promoting the invasion and occupation of Iraq," Reed said. "When the
Iraq war was being cooked up, we think ExxonMobil was in the kitchen."

I love the "we believe" part.  I am sure that half these folks also "believe" that aliens are alive and well in Area 51 and that George Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks.  Would it be too much to ask to bring some facts to the table?  Or how about even a motive?  I could maybe come up with a motive if the US invaded Nigeria, since Exxon has assets at risk there that are threatened by rebels and general chaos, but Iraq?  Since Iraq's output was limited before the invasion, invading Iraq only served to put more oil on world markets, which would depress rather than raise prices and profits.  In fact, if there was really an evil genius oil company pulling the strings of government to maximize their own profits, UN-sanctioned Iraq would be just about the last oil producing country in the world you would want your government puppets to invade.

Today XOM has its annual shareholder meeting, and if you ever want to see a great parade of barking moonbats, buy yourself a share of XOM and attend.  Lee Raymond caught a lot of grief for his compensation package, and it did seem overly generous to me, but I am not an XOM shareholder right now so its not my concern.  I will say that having seen one of the XOM shareholder meetings and the ridiculous grief the CEO must endure for a day, my guess is that the XOM CEO would likely knock several million dollars off his comp. package if he could call in sick today.

Libertarians Adrift

While it comes as no surprise to me, Republicans are making it official:  After dallying with small government notions in the eighties and nineties, under George Bush they are refocusing themselves on statism.  Going forward, Republicans see themselves locked in an arms race with Democrats over who can spend more and advocate more statist controls.

This news comes to us via conservative David Brooks, via Volokh:

[Brooks] rejects Bartlett's charge that Bush has betrayed conservatism. According to
Brooks, "Bush hasn't abandoned conservatism; he's modernized and saved it." As
Brooks tells the story, "conservatism was adrift and bereft of ideas" until
President Bush came along.

Almost single-handedly, Bush reconnected with the positive and
idealistic instincts of middle-class Americans. He did it by recasting
conservatism more significantly than anyone had since Ronald Reagan. He rejected
the prejudice that the private sector is good and the public sector is bad, and
he tried to use government to encourage responsible citizenship and community
service. He sought to mobilize government so the children of prisoners can build
their lives, so parents can get data to measure their school's performance, so
millions of AIDS victims in Africa can live another day, so people around the
world can dream of freedom.

"Government should help people improve their lives, not run their lives,"
Bush said. This is not the Government-Is-the-Problem philosophy of the mid-'90s,
but the philosophy of a governing majority party in a country where people look
to government to play a positive but not overbearing role in their lives.

Barf.  The last sentence contains a pure contradiction:  There is no way for government to play any role, positive or negative, without being overbearing, at least to some.  There is no way for the government to improve some lives without running others.

Despite what politicians may argue, the government has only one unique quality no one else can match.  They are not uniquely smart, or uniquely capable, or uniquely compassionate, or uniquely efficient, or even uniquely able to run large organizations.  Their only unique capability is to deal with people by force, and to use force and the threat of force and imprisonment to compel individuals to do things they would no choose to do themselves.

This unique ability to use force is necessary to the government in fulfilling its core roles of protecting us from the use of force from outside our borders (military) and protecting its citizens from the use of force or fraud by other citizens (police and courts).  When the government uses its unique ability to coerce in other spheres, there are always winners and losers.  That is because by definition the government is using force to cause an outcome or a decision that people would not have made on their own, based on their own self-interest and of their own free will.  So when politicians blithely say things like "help people improve their lives", what they ALWAYS mean is using force to compel someone to do something they would not have to do in a free society.   

For this reason, there is no such thing as having the government "play a positive but not overbearing role in their lives".  The best you can hope for with such an activist government system is to hope that the government plays a net-positive role in your life, while being overbearing to others.  Which pretty much sums up why politics are so high stakes today - if government is about sacrificing one group to another, I want my guy in there so he can be overbearing to some other group for the benefit of mine.

I dealt with these same themes a couple of days ago in this post, where I said "the entire Republican and Democratic platform each boil down to 'we
support government intervention except where our major donors oppose
it'".  My summary statement on the full range of government interference with free individual decision-making is here.

Update:  While Marginal Revolution is still optomistic for libertarians, they point out that "progressives" see the opportunity now for real expansion of socialism in this country

Democrat Matt
Yglesias writes
:

If you did have a progressive president, there's no longer a
particularly large amount of popular resistance to expanding the activist state.
Even most Republicans don't especially care about small government.

GWB the Spending Champ

President Bush has passed even Lyndon Johnson for the title of worst spender in the last 40 years.  While it is probably not a surprise that real military spending has grown an outrageous 8.8% per year during his tenure, it is amazing to see that domestic spending has grown 7.1% (yes, that's real, excluding inflation) per year.  Absolutely shameful.  More here in this Cato report (pdf).

Revised data released during the summer by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provide analysts the ability to make side-by-side comparisons of the spending habits of each president during the last 40 years.1 All presidents presided over net increases in spending overall, though some were bigger spenders than others. As it turns out, George W. Bush is one of the biggest spenders of them all. In fact, he is an even bigger spender than Lyndon B. Johnson in terms of discretionary spending.

It is interesting to note that Bill Clinton, who drove Republicans into a frothing hatred, can rightly be classed, along with Reagan, as one of the two most fiscally conservative administrations in 40 years.  Granted the Republican Congress kept him honest on spending and carved off his roughest edges (e.g. Hillarycare) while Reagan had to fight his Congress tooth and nail, but this spending record in the Clinton years combined with his passage of NAFTA and welfare reform make him a far better free market defender than either of the Bushes that bracket him.  I wonder if, in turn, liberals who are driven into a frothing hatred for Bush, will someday come to appreciate the work he has done for them in expanding the size of government and slowing the pace of free trade.

Alien and Sedition Acts Return

I fear that this administration has effectively reenacted the much-hated Alien and Sedition Acts of the early 19th century.  Using the "war" on terror as its excuse, the Bush administration is rapidly expanding its ability to grab and hold people indefinitely without charge or trial.  This is not a huge surprise -- many presidents have tried to do similar things in time of war or in reaction to internal security threats.  Much of the Patriot Act was originally proposed by Bill Clinton, after all.

What is new is that the courts and the opposition party are letting him get away with it.

The Sept. 9 court ruling concerning Jose Padilla, an
American citizen locked up in a military prison in South Carolina for
three years, is a case in point. The ruling should send shockwaves
through the American public since the decision seriously undermines
constitutional rights.

A federal appellate court ruled that constitutional rules
that apply to the police do not apply to military personnel.... The federal
government has been given a green light to deprive Americans of their
rights to due process. No arrest warrants. No trial. No access to the
civilian court system. You may not be able to see it on television, but
this court decision is the equivalent of a legal hurricane-and it is no
exaggeration to say that this is a level 5 storm with respect to its
potential havoc for civil liberties.

Federal agents arrested Padilla at O'Hare International
Airport in Chicago just after he arrived on a flight from Pakistan. The
feds claim that Padilla fought against U.S. troops in Afghanistan,
escaped to Pakistan and returned to the United States to perpetrate
acts of terrorism for al-Queda. Instead of prosecuting Padilla for
treason and other crimes, President Bush declared Padilla an "enemy
combatant" and ordered that he be held incommunicado and interrogated
by military and intelligence personnel.
Padilla has not yet had an opportunity to tell his side of
the story. For two years the government would not even permit Padilla
to meet with his court-appointed attorney, Donna Newman. Newman has
nevertheless defended Padilla's rights, arguing that the president does
not have the power to imprison Americans without trials.

Bush has not made any dramatic televised address to the
country to explain his administration's attempt to suspend habeas
corpus and the Bill of Rights, but his lawyers have been quietly
pushing a sweeping theory of executive branch power in legal briefs
before our courts.

I actually am fairly radical on this - I don't think the fact that he is a citizen or not should even make a difference.  Citizenship does not confer rights, and governments don't hand them out -- rights are ours based on the fact of our existence.   While some of the rules of due process may change for non-citizens, just the fact that they are from a different country doesn't give us the right to lock them in a room indefinitely.  This is why I support free and open immigration - there is no reason why a person born in Mexico should have fewer rights to contract with me for a job or a home than an American citizen.  The right to associate, to contract, to agree on wages, to buy a particular home, all flow from being human, not from the US government.

So I wouldn't support Padilla's treatment if he was a Iranian citizen and I certainly don't support it for an American.  Yeah, I know, he may be a bad person.  But we let bad, dangerous people out of jail every day.  Our legal system is structured based on the premise that it is worse to lock an innocent person away than let a guilty person go free.  Its a trade-off that we have made for hundreds of years and I for one am pretty comfortable with.

I also get the argument that we are at war -- in Iraq.  If someone is captured in Iraq, that may be another story.  But Chicago is not in the war zone, by any historic definition of that term (unless you want to use WWII Japanese internment as a precedent, which I doubt).  Just calling it a "war on terror" does not make Chicago a war zone any more than declaring a "war on drugs" makes Miami a war zone where suspected drug users can be put in jail without trial.  Perhaps if Bush could get Congress to officially declare war, he might have firmer legal footing, but I don't think that's going to happen.  As I wrote here:

Yes, I know that there is a real risk, in fact a certainty, that
dangerous people will be let out on the street.  But that is the bias
of our entire legal system - the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard
and other protections of the accused routinely put bad people back on
the street.  We live with that, because we would rather err in putting
bad people back on the street than in putting good people behind bars
for life.  Give them a trial, deport them, or let them go.  Heck,
airdrop them into Paris for all I care, but you have to let them get
due process or go free.

Sure, terrorists are using our free and open society against us, and its frustrating.  But what's the alternative?  I just don't think there is a viable alternative which says that we should destroy our open society in order to save it.  We've got to learn to be smart enough to work within the rules, and it may be that we have to expect that in the future our freedom comes at some statistical increase in the danger to ourselves (by the way, isn't that exactly the trade-off we have enforced on Iraq, without even asking them -- citizens are much freer that under Saddam but at  an increased risk of terrorism?).

By the way - where the hell is Congress?  Stop grandstanding in confirmation hearings and get to work reigning this stuff in.

Fight Arizona Pork

President Bush's call for Katrina spending to be offset by budget cuts has spurred a blogosphere effort to identify local pork urge Congress to cut the pork.  I am 98% behind this effort (the missing 2% being that the effort is spurred by a desire to spend the money somewhere else, rather than sending it back to taxpayers where it belongs).  Glenn Reynolds post that got the ball rolling is here.  His followup posts are here and here.  I will note the irony that I recently compared Don Young (of Alaska bridge to nowhere fame) to Huey Long (of multiple bridges to nowhere fame), given that we are looking to cut Don Young's pork to help Huey Long's old stomping ground.

Porkbusterssm

Edward at Zonitics has already identified one of the most visible chunks of AZ pork, that is our earmarks in the recent highway bill.  These include nearly five million for a couple of pedestrian bridges, plus hundreds of millions for a rail system to run empty trains to compete with our empty buses.  Why does the rest of the country need to pay for Phoenix's growth?  Heck, we just took the money the feds saved us on this junk and spent it subsidizing a stadium for the Cardinals, for god's sakes.   I will note that of the mere 8 people who voted against the highway bill, 2 were from Arizona, including my 3rd district Congressman John Shadegg and libertarian Jeff Flake.  Flake, consistent with his libertarian principles (or in retribution for them?) represents the only district in the country without an earmark in the highway bill.

So, to push the ball forward, I will add another bit of Arizona pork.  I wanted to include some items form the energy bill, but I can't find a state by state impact.  But I can find, thanks to the environmental working group, a nice summary of farm subsidies to Arizona.  Here is a summary for the most recent year they have data:

Rank Program
(click for top recipients, payment concentration and regional rankings)
Number of Recipients
2003
Subsidy Total
2003
1 Cotton Subsidies   1,339   $103,125,972
2 Subtotal, Disaster Payments   1,966   $11,915,428
3 Env. Quality Incentive Program   254   $5,619,853
4 Wheat Subsidies   1,018   $5,192,003
5 Dairy Program Subsidies   128   $4,925,610
6 Livestock Subsidies   1,460   $3,050,869
7 Corn Subsidies   514   $1,500,291
8 Barley Subsidies   729   $660,236
9 Apple Subsidies   17   $271,523
10 Wool Subsidies   1,219   $259,616

And here is the same data but cut by recipient, with just the top 20 included:

1 Colorado River Indian Tribes Farm Parker, AZ 85344 $2,102,881
2 Ak-chin Farms Maricopa, AZ 85239 $1,499,278
3 Gila River Farms Sacaton, AZ 85247 $1,406,582
4 Catron Cotton Co Tonopah, AZ 85354 $1,156,539
5 Tohono O'odham Farming Authority Eloy, AZ 85231 $1,078,480
6 Bia Sacaton, AZ 85247 $1,064,062
7 Eagle Tail Farming Partnership Buckeye, AZ 85326 $1,045,584
8 Tempe Farming Company Maricopa, AZ 85239 $947,811
9 Fort Mojave Tribe Mohave Valley, AZ 86446 $938,843
10 P R P Farms Buckeye, AZ 85326 $899,098
11 G P A Management Group Tempe, AZ 85284 $893,672
12 Gin Ranch 94 Buckeye, AZ 85326 $889,764
13 H Four Farms III Buckeye, AZ 85326 $863,086
14 Brooks Farms Goodyear, AZ 85338 $861,762
15 Green Acres Farms Buckeye, AZ 85326 $812,583
16 Martori Family Gen Ptn Scottsdale, AZ 85260 $788,150
17 Falfa Farms 95 Queen Creek, AZ 85242 $779,426
18 Associated Farming 92 Laveen, AZ 85339 $749,947
19 A Tumbling T Ranches 95 Goodyear, AZ 85338 $709,455
20 Rogers Brothers Farms Ptnshp Laveen, AZ 85339 $706,305

I don't know all these folks, but I can say that all of the first three have extremely profitable casinos they operate.

I am writing my letter now to the my Congressman and Senators, and will post a copy as an update when I am done.  The ubiquitous NZ Bear has a data base he is building of pork identified.

Technorati tag:  .

Yalta

GWB seems to have riled lots of folks up over his reference in a recent speech to Yalta.  If you have read any of the comentary from the left, you might be imagining he said all kinds of wild things.  I read much of the commentary before I ever read Bush's words, so I was prepared for a real gaffe.  After reading his speech, I was left wondering if those attacking Bush heard the same speech.  Here is the key paragraph:

As we mark a victory of six days ago -- six decades ago, we are
mindful of a paradox. For much of Germany, defeat led to freedom. For
much of Eastern and Central Europe, victory brought the iron rule of
another empire. V-E Day marked the end of fascism, but it did not end
oppression. The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of
Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful
governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow
expendable. Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of
stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of
millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the
greatest wrongs of history.

I am not sure how you can disagree with this.  I think the US owes Eastern Europe a big appology for selling them out at Yalta.  Now, one can argue that we had some reasons for our actions at Yalta.  First and foremost, we were exhausted from the worst war in history, and no one had the energy to gear up for a new confrontation.  Also, one can argue that it may be 20/20 hindisght that causes us to be more aware of Soviet hegemonic intentions than the actors at the time might have been (though certainly Churchill was fully cognizant of the dangers).  But, no matter how you cut it, small countries like Latvia were wiped out of existance and handed over to the Soviet Union by the Yalta agreement, and Bush's audience was made up of people still stung by this.  I think the comparison to Munich is very apt - the US post-WWII was exhausted and was more than ready to suspend disbelief and hope that appeasing Soviet territorial ambitions would head off a fresh confrontation no one had the will to fight.  Reason's hit and run has a nice roundup and further analysis.

The only explanation I can come upfor the uproar is that FDR, like Reagan and Kennedy, has an incredibly powerful though informal legacy protection society that leaps into action at even the smallest attempt to besmirch his historical halo.  In this case, Bush rightly does not even mention FDR; however, since FDR was the main advocate for pandering to Stalin at Yalta (against Churchill's vociforous but ultimately ignored objections), his defense forces feel the need to jump into action.  I would have hoped that with 3 generations separating us from FDR, we could finally look at him objectively.  He fought a fabulous war, in some sense carrying the whole free world on his shoulders for four years.  But he fumbled the peace, though, and screwed up at Yalta.

UPDATE:  Professor Bainbridge has this nice quote from Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga a few days before Bush's speech:

In Latvia ... the
totalitarian occupation ... of Nazi Germany was immediately replaced by
another "“ that of Stalinist totalitarian communist Soviet Union and was
one that lasted a very long time. The day we shall be commemorating
does have double significance and by coming to the Baltic States
President Bush is, I believe, underscoring this double meaning of these
historic events. 60 years ago when the war ended it meant liberation
for many, it meant victory for many who could truly rejoiced in it.

But for others it meant slavery, it meant occupation, it meant
subjugation, and it meant Stalinist terror. For Latvia the true day of
liberation came only with the collapse of the Soviet Union as it did
for our neighbours Lithuania and Estonia.

Sounds a lot like what Bush said.  Seems like Bush is in pretty good touch with the sentiments of the Latvian people he is speaking to.

 

We Won't Respect You in the Morning

Again, small government libertarians like myself, who held their nose and voted Republican in the last election, have been used.  From the NY Post today:

THE Republican promise of smaller,
less-intrusive government is getting harder and harder to believe.
Especially when a more plausible plot line is unfolding every day: that
the GOP has put aside the ideals of Reagan and Goldwater in order to
pursue a political strategy based on big spending.

For the latest, check out a report just released by the
libertarian Cato Institute that tells a striking story about just how
out-of-control spending has gotten under President Bush.

Cato finds that:

* Bush has presided over the largest increase in federal spending since Lyndon Johnson.

* Even excluding defense and homeland security spending, Bush is the biggest-spending president in 30 years.

* The federal budget grew from 18.5 percent of the Gross
Domestic Product on President Bill Clinton's last day in office to 20.3
percent at the end of Bush's first term.

Add to that Bush's massive Medicare prescription-drug
benefit, expected to cost $720 billion-plus over the next 10 years.
(The money for that new entitlement, the first created by a president
in a generation, will start flowing this year.)

It is not in the least bit comforting to have my suspicions confirmed by Cato, whose whole report is here.  Bring back divided government!  I will take Reagan-Democrat Congress or Clinton-Republican Congress over this any day.

 

Its Kyoto Day

Today (OK, its the 16th now, so yesterday) is apparently the start date for the Kyoto Treaty.  You can find examples of my skepticism about the costs and benefits of the Kyoto treaty here.  I won't go back over all that stuff here.

The Washington Post article linked above includes the usual misstatements about global warming, and is fisked here.  I particularly liked this line (emphasis mine):

...by uniting the vast majority of the world's nations, Kyoto could equally be the harbinger of an international model that rewards pollution-cutting innovation and pushes countries and companies to pursue cleaner forms of growth

The implication being that the US is the odd man out of a global consensus.  But then read further:

The pact, ratified by 141 nations, limits emissions from 35 industrialized countries

See the consensus problem?  Yes 141 nations ratified it, but only because 106 of them didn't have to do anything and were exempt.  In fact, they were exempted because the framers of the treaty knew that these countries would not ratify the treaty unless they were exempt. 

I also enjoyed the implication in the article that America's withdrawal from the treaty is solely based on the stand of President Bush.  You very seldom see any mention that the Senate voted 95-0 NOT to sign Kyoto until it was substantially amended, changes that have never been made to the treaty and never will be.  This occurred years before GWB became president.

Litigation a Growth Business in Florida

Why am I not surprised to hear this from a Florida attorney.

"Litigation is the No. 1 growth area. It's always recession-proof," said Peter Prieto, executive partner of the Miami office of Holland & Knight, in an interview.

If only our economy was litigation-proof. We operate in Florida because there are a lot of great recreation opportunities there - you can't transport them out of state. I am not sure why anyone else who could move their business out of Florida actually stays there.

Jeb gets a lot of press for being smarter than his brother George W., but George made a lot more progress on tort reform than Jeb has in his state.

courtesy of overlawyered.com

UPDATE#1

The world's whales, porpoises and dolphins have no standing to sue President Bush . Umm, I guess this is good news, though on the other hand what does it say that this even came up before a Circuit court of appeals (the ninth, of course).

UPDATE#2

Fixed link