Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

"Addition Exposition"

All I have to say is... wow.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Finally, Someone Said It

Someone, somewhere, needed to state the obvious - that if we're serious about closing the deficit we're going to have to STFU and raise taxes. And it's no surprise to me, at least, that that someone is E.J. Dionne:
The debate on the budget is phony, the howling on deficits a charade. Few politicians want to acknowledge that if you really are concerned about long-term deficits, you have to support tax increases.

It goes on from there. Dionne points out that politicians who voted for Clinton's 1993 tax increases were roundly punished for it in the next election - this despite the fact that the '93 tax increases helped pave the way for the only budget surplus we've had in recent memory.

Spending cuts are great, but we're not getting out of this budget mess by spending cuts alone. Even if we get rid of all of our discretionary spending, we still won't close the budget hole - and no one who's serious about policy is suggesting we take even that step. We need a tax increase, and I'll leave it to people smarter than me to determine how taxes can be increased while causing the least amount of pain.

Perhaps Obama's Sudden Love of Executive Power...

...is due to the fact that Office of Legal Counsel chief Dawn Johnsen isn't technically on the job yet?

Johnsen was supposed to be the voice of civil liberties and non-expansive executive power in this administration. Until she gets there, it's no surprise that the OLC hasn't changed things much - it's pretty much operating rudderless.

Senate: confirm her. Now.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Good Luck Finding An Idiot"

There are few words that can be used to describe the awesomeness of this. Just read it and protect your keyboards.

Lock These Bastards Up

OK, legal eagles, how is this anything but legalized theft? The cops have no proof of criminal activity, nothing. Why should they be allowed to take these people's money? What possible justification could they have for keeping it other than "we're taking your money because we can"?

These cops, and cops like them, should be in jail. They're common thieves, pure and simple. They just hide behind a badge.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Guns, the 14th and 9th Amendments, and Liberal Originalism

Seems like a motley crew of ideas, but Ed Brayton rolls them all together in this post. He's responding to a post by Randy Barnett on Volokh that essentially explains why the Heller case invalidating DC's gun laws could be a good thing for liberal jurisprudence in general. The idea is that the case involves an expansive reading of the 14th Amendment's "privileges and immunities" clause which forbids state governments from abridging any rights that the federal government wouldn't be allowed to abridge. When you combine this with the 9th Amendment, it creates a justification for requiring states to respect a whole host of individual rights that aren't specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

Ben and Matt will have to explain what happens in this post beyond that little tidbit. Either way, this seems like a philosophy that could create some sort of liberal jurisprudential movement that could turn the intellectual tide away from the Scalitos of the world. I've often mused that the giant hole in Scalia's theory of originalism - oh, okay, one of the giant holes, let's face it, Scalia isn't exactly Mr. Intellectually Consistent - involves an annoying tendency to ignore the 9th Amendment. Good to see someone with actual legal knowledge is fleshing this out.

I'd like to see the 9th have its day, since it is the most frequently shit-upon amendment in the Constitution (though the 4th is quickly catching up)... this despite the fact that I think it's one of the most important amendments in there...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Adventures in Word Salad

This person is awesome.

I wonder if he sent it from a Waffle House in Hickory...

A Short Response To Ben's Post

Wow, it has been a while since I blogged, hasn't it? I haven't had a lot of time with the trip to New Orleans and all, but I'll get back into the swing of things, I promise. I was actually so far out of the loop in NO that I had no idea what had happened news-wise during the ten days I was out (8 days there, two driving days). I got online, like, twice, and watched TV exactly once (the NCAA selection show, if you're curious). There's better things to do in New Orleans. Like argue with dick FEMA contractors, for example.

Anyway, once I figure out how to download pics from my phone to my computer en masse and then post them on Blogger without it taking up way too much room on the blog, I'll share. But until then, I'll rant about terrorism. How's that sound?

Ben exhaustively analyzes the latest DoJ report outlining the Obama Administration's "war on terror" policies. The general worry is that Obama is continuing the same strategies pursued by the Bush Administration, only with a little candy-coating. Ben explains why this isn't necessarily the case. I suggest you read it.

Anyway, I guess my concern isn't so much with the way in which the "war on terror" is being conducted - it's with the concept altogether. Ben points out that the AUMF against al-Qaeda and the Taliban is tantamount to a declaration of war against them. With the Taliban, and in the context of defending the Afghan government against insurgents, I think this is reasonable. Be that as it may, however, I think that we ought to question whether we should really be treating our conflict with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in general as a "war" at all.

I guess I view terror attacks differently from most. I look at September 11th and I see a crime. A big, gruesome crime, yes, but a crime nonetheless. There's no reason why the American criminal justice system can't deal with the perpetrators of this crime in the same way we dealt with domestic terrorists like Timothy McVeigh and Ted Kaczynski. The same goes for other terrorist attacks carried out, or planned to be carried out, on American soil. Jose Padilla falls into this category; so do the Kenya and Tanzania embassy bombings (remember, our embassies are technically our land).

See, declaring "war" on a criminal enterprise like al-Qaeda makes no more sense than declaring "war" on the Mafia, and the "war on terror" isn't a real war any more than are the "war on poverty" or the "war on drugs." But the parallel with the "war on drugs" is instructive. Anyone who reads Radley's blog as regularly as I do recognizes the corrosive effect that the treatment of drug enforcement policy as a "war" has on civil liberties and police accountability. In the name of the "war on drugs," we've legalized wholesale theft, for God's sake (see: asset forfeiture), not to mention untold police thuggery and Fourth Amendment-breaking. We shouldn't assume that treating our attempts to bring terrorists to justice as a "war on terror" would be any less damaging to civil liberties in the long run.

So when Ben points out that civil liberties fans ought not to be as worried about Obama's policies as, say, Glenn Greenwald, he's probably right, but the source of my worry isn't Obama's policies specifically. My worry is in the AUMF itself - when we decided to declare war against what was essentially a criminal enterprise, we turned what ought to be a primarily criminal justice matter into a primarily military one. And my worry is in the language we use to discuss this whole affair - we need to bring terrorists to justice, but we don't need a "war on terror."

Of course, there's clearly a legitimate military component in the battle against terrorists. After all, the 9/11 perpetrators were hiding out in a country - Afghanistan under the Taliban - that was never going to agree to extradite them, and this is unacceptable. A better AUMF would have stipulated that the military's role was to bring 9/11 perpetrators and their co-conspirators onto American soil where they could be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, as well as to remove regimes that refuse to turn over those suspected of terrorist activities against us. I have no problem with holding Taliban POWs captured on the battlefield until the Taliban is defeated. But terrorists themselves should be treated as common criminals, since that is essentially what they are, whether or not they're politically motivated.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Go Ahead, Go "Galt"

There's been some buzz recently on the Internets about businessmen, entrepreneurs, and other assorted monied types "going Galt." Jesse Taylor talks about it here, and McArdle (especially her comments boodle) deals with it here.

John Galt, of course, is the jackass from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged who decides to just say "fuck you" to society and its stupid rules and leave it behind, taking all those he refers to as the "productive" people - by which he means inventors, entrepreneurs, executives, etc. - with him. (I haven't read the novel, just the Wikipedia page, so I'm probably oversimplifying here. I'm sure Jacob will correct me sooner or later.)

Of course, the problem with this idea is that it assumes that the upper echelon of society is irreplaceable. That is, if someone who would sell widgets decides to leave society instead, no one will sell widgets. This is foolish - of course someone would end up selling widgets if people wanted to buy widgets. In a society of 300 million people, it's somewhat fallacious to assume that profitable market niches would go unfilled because someone decides to abandon said niche.

As for inventors - if Edison hadn't invented the light bulb, do you honestly think we wouldn't have incandescent light right now? Of course we would. Someone else would have come up with the idea. If Bell hadn't invented the telephone, Gray still would have done so. If Google didn't exist, Yahoo would be dominating the internet advertising market (possibly with a slightly different algorithm, but whatever).

Put differently: what do you suppose would happen if, say, upper management of Google were to bail en masse? Here's what would happen - middle management would start running the company. And current programmers (and a few MBAs from outside) would become middle management. And Google would hire a bunch of programmers. The pyramid would remain in place - there would just be a change of cast.

So you know what? If you top-dogs want to "go Galt," that's fine by me. Get your bitter asses outta here. You leave, and someone else will gladly take your job. And someone will take that person's job. And someone who's currently unemployed will take their job. In fact, with the labor market as slack as it is, rich people "going Galt" and taking themselves out of the labor market might be the best job creation program of them all!

Conservative Brits: Legalize It

The well-respected British conservative/libertarian magazine The Economist (in my opinion the best world news source out there) argues in favor of legalization of all drugs, calling it the "least bad" option. They note that it's not a desirable outcome - just the one that does the least harm compared with various models of prohibition.

Note that they don't just favor legalizing marijuana or the less dangerous ones. They want it all legalized, taxed, and regulated. Their argument is extremely convincing (of course, convincing me of this point is not hard to do). They've been arguing this for the past 20 years, but there's reason to believe that now that the country with the world's 13th largest economy has become a war zone, people might be willing to listen.

The world needs U.S. leadership in this endeavor, though - it's mostly our willingness to fund anti-drug efforts in producer countries that keep drugs illegal through much of the rest of the world (this is certainly true of Latin America). Obama has political capital up the wazoo right now - what better way to use it than to end the misery of the war on drugs?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

It's Good To Be The King

OK, this is friggin' hilarious.

Seriously, why do Republicans feel the need to apologize to a giant bag of hot air like Limbaugh when they give him the disrespect he has worked so hard to earn? Wouldn't marginalizing idiots like him be good for the GOP?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Federalism +1

More good news from the Obama camp:
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is sending strong signals that President Obama - who as a candidate said states should be allowed to make their own rules on medical marijuana - will end raids on pot dispensaries in California.

Asked at a Washington news conference Wednesday about Drug Enforcement Administration raids in California since Obama took office last month, Holder said the administration has changed its policy.

"What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing here in law enforcement," he said. "What he said during the campaign is now American policy."

OK, I'll file this under "I'll believe it when I see it," or when I don't see it for a while as it were, but there's reason to be cautiously optimistic here. If it does happen, great. It's not complete transfer of drug policy control to the states, which I think desperately needs to happen, but it's a pretty good start. The question now becomes: what will Obama and Holder do when the inevitable happens and some state repeals its law against marijuana altogether?

(I'm taking bets on what state will be the first. My money's on Oregon.)

Spotted on Brayton.