July 2004

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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Kerry Is No Civil Libertarian 

I hear many people supporting Kerry over Bush because of their concerns about civil liberties. They think that the Patriot act, and John Ashcroft, are threatening our civil rights under cover of the War On Terror.

Those who think that the situation would be better in a Kerry administration should take a look at an article up at Reason Online.

It seems as though Senator Kerry has often been on the wrong side of civil liberties issues.

Kerry opposed private encryption without mandatory government backdoors, demonstrating his denial of Americans' right to a private conversation. Ironically, Senator John Ashcroft was on the right side of that issue.

Kerry not only supported, but advocated expanding, asset forfeiture; which allows the government to seize property of innocent people just because someone else might have used it in a crime.

Kerry was a strong supporter of laws like "Know Your Customer" which would have forced banks to spy and report on their customers' transactions. He also was proud of his own contribution to the Patriot Act which purports to fight money laundering by requiring not only banks, but also real estate brokers, travel agents, auto dealers and others to file "suspicious activity reports" against their customers.

If protecting civil liberties is your concern, John Kerry does not appear to be a solution.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Bad Setup 

I'm sure John Kerry thought this was a fun story, but I wonder how many people thought as I did when he asked during his acceptance speech:

Now, I'm not one to read into things, but guess which wing of the hospital the maternity ward was in?

I wonder how many people were thinking, as I was, "THE LEFT WING!!!".

I'm pretty sure that's not the association he wanted people to be making during this speech.

Kerry actually continued...

I'm not making this up. I was born in the West Wing!


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Professional Courtesy 

Apparently, the Democratic National Commercial put a strain on the Boston local economy's ability to handle the extra prostitution needs. So:

For weeks, escort services have plastered advertisements in magazines and on the Internet asking women to work the convention.
Even local strip clubs are putting out the word that more women are needed.

Well, if the fact that there are two Johns on the ticket is any indication, I'm sure they'll have plenty of customers.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

50 Pounds! 

Since starting to diet (low carb) in November I've now lost about 50 pounds.

I now feel quite comfortable with my weight and will just be in maintenance mode from now on (unless I slip and gain too much). I'll eat a bit better than I used to, and exercise a bit more than I used to, but I don't feel the need or desire to lose any more weight or inches.


Friday, July 23, 2004

Are Our Enemies Drugs Or Terrorists? 

Ok, this is getting embarrassing. This makes two posts in a row linking to Brian Doss at Catallarchy.

He makes a point that I've been making since...October 2001, I think.

The War On Drugs is not only objectively bad by itself for many reasons, but now it's actually draining resources that could be used fighting the War On Terror, as well as helping to finance our enemies.

If politicians are serious about the War On Terror, they should declare an end to the War On Drugs right now.

I really don't want to hear anybody tell me about how George W. Bush understands how important the War On Terror is until he makes this choice.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Libertarian Problems 

Brian Doss has an excellent, thoughtful, post up at Catallarchy today, about how dogmatic anti-war libertarians (like those controlling the Libertarian Party) are being dangerously divisive.

As Randy Barnett indicated not long ago, there is nothing inherently unlibertarian about supporting the war in Iraq. There is room for honest, legitimate, disagreement without intoning cultish declarations of heresy.

There are too few libertarians as it is. We don't need to drive each other away.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

UN: Worse Than Useless 

I spent some time this evening reading the United Nations' Press Release concerning yesterday's vote demanding that Israel comply with the International Court of Justice non-binding advisory opinion that Israel must dismantle its security barrier. That opinion was outrageous. It failed to recognize that Israel is at war and has every right to protect itself in this manner.

The fact that 150 nations voted in favor of this myopic unbalanced resolution leaves me little hope that the UN can do anything other than inhibit progress towards peace and against terrorism.

I agree with the Israeli representative whose post-vote statement is partially described this way:

He said that a total disregard of Israel’s “bold initiative” to withdraw from parts of the West Bank and Gaza could only be seen as disengagement by those States who agreed with the text from the reality of the situation in the region. That did not bode well for efforts to achieve comprehensive peace. “We should not be so quick to treat advisory opinions as if they were binding and binding Palestinian obligations were voluntary.”
Israel was not above the law and would continue to review the route of the fence, in order to protect humanitarian law and human rights for those Palestinians living along the route of the security barrier, as well as the lives of those Israeli citizens whose lives it was protecting. But, Israel would nevertheless reject wholeheartedly the attempts to use the law as a political weapon, as if it applied to Israel and no one else. It was outrageous to respond with such vigour to a strategy that saved lives and treat a campaign that took lives with such indifference. By buying onto a “mock narrative” that failed to provide any remedies aimed at convincing the Palestinian side to reverse its catastrophic strategy, he believed the Assembly had compounded the error it had made last December when the opinion had been requested from the International Court of Justice. Both sides were worse for it.

By way of contrast, take a look at the recent decision of Israel's own Supreme Court. The Court seems to have carefully weighed Israel's security needs against the real harm caused to residents affected by the fence. It used a reasonable rule of proportionality to decide in favor of mandating some changes to the fence's route, and against others. This seems to have been a well-considered and difficult decision that is very unpopular with many Israelis.

If the nations of the UN wanted to express their support for reasonable accomodation of affected Palestinians, they should have passed a resolution praising Israel, and its Supreme Court for addressing this issue in such a bold and even-handed manner.

I commend the nations that showed the moral awareness to oppose the awful resolution that was passed:

Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, United States

I don't recall having heard of Palau before, but I feel better about it right now than I do about most other countries.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Terror In The Skies 

In case you're one of the five people who haven't read this yet. Go do it.

Glenn Reynolds links to other interesting related posts here.

I'm sure there are many more in the blogosphere by now.

UPDATE: It seems like it really was a Syrian band of musicians. There are still important security lessons for us, though.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Wild Comment Thread 

Over at Catallarchy, there's an interesting comment thread. It started from a perfectly reasonable question from Jonathan Wilde:

The blogosphere has been abuzz about Steven Landsburg’s article that claims that studies show that the minimum wage does not really affect unemployment.
My question is this: how would you design a study to determine whether or not the minimum wage affects unemployment?

But, the comment thread has spun into a long discussion that shows some interesting differences among libertarians (about political action, moral theory, and more). Here's part of a comment of mine:

I think that ideas matter.
Even if most individuals don’t actively investigate issues (rationally), better ideas tend to dominate worse ones in the long run and eventually spread throughout the culture.
If we disengage from the battle of ideas because we think the moral case is the only one that matters and what other people care about is “beside the point”, then seductive, bad, ideas will gain support and dominate policy.
I don’t just want to be right. I want things to get better, too.

Check it out!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Federal Marriage Amendment 

I've blogged about this before.

I'm happy that this failed so dramatically today.

I have no idea whether or not Karl Rove's calculations are correct about whether this stupid, symbolic, waste of time will help Bush and other Republicans more than it will hurt them; but it's depressing to think that it might help them more. I've learned to expect very little wisdom or principle from politicians, but it's a shame that so many of my fellow citizens motivate them to act this way.

On the bright side, I join Jacob Levy in saying "Yay John Sununu!"

I wish we had more senators who were reasonable on both economic issues and issues like this one.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Voting Clarification  

While responding to a comment in the Why Not Vote Libertarian? post, I realized that I probably didn't make my reasoning clear enough in that post and thought I'd clarify by posting Daryl's comment and my response here:

Count me as another (small "L") libertarian who is going to vote for Kerry. My rationale? Divided government. Gridlock seems to work best by working least. And, since it's almost a foregone conclusion that the GOP will retain one or both houses in Congress, the only hope for divided government is Kerry.
I agree that gridlock is a valid reason to prefer Kerry. With a Republican congress he, like Clinton, will probably get little of his preferred economic agenda passed; and the actual outcome won't be too bad.
However, I think there are other, more compelling, reasons to prefer Bush (War on Terror, tax policy, Court nominations, etc.).
But, my main point is that it isn't a logical or ethical necessity to vote for the outcome you prefer. Wanting an outcome and voting are different things. You might want to express your preferred outcome with your vote, but you don't have to. I don't feel a need to do that.
You shouldn't really expect your vote to determine the election, so you should think hard about what you do want your vote to do. What kind of expression do you think justifies the effort of casting a vote? I think expressing my preference for libertarianism is a better use of my vote than expressing which of the major candidates I hope will win.
My preferred outcome of the election is that Bush barely wins, but loses (and wins) several states by a smaller margin than the number of libertarian votes. That might encourage both parties to take libertarian positions more seriously. I think that libertarians splitting their votes between Bush and Kerry will do nothing to help move this country toward libertarianism.
Your Mileage May Vary.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Michael Muqtada al-Moore? 

Steven Den Beste has an interesting post comparing the influences of Muqtada al-Sadr, and Michael Moore.

One amusing speculation (which I've heard a few times recently) is this:

If one was particularly cynical, one might entertain the suspicion that Moore secretly hates the left, and is laughing twice as hard. Not only is he getting filthy rich off them, and laughing all the way to his bank, he's also helping to engineer their marginalization, and laughing all the way to their political destruction.

I don't think that Moore is that clever. But, if he were, that's just the impression he'd want me to have of him...

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Lileks Fisks Moore  

James Lileks seems to have finished reading this book, and decided to fisk this contemptible article that Michael Moore wrote for the LA Times on July 4.

Enjoy it.

I hope that once we have serious Artificial Intelligence, Lileks will be able to license a product that will add an optional Lileks-Fisking commentary to everything we read, watch, and hear.

I'd buy it.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Why Not Vote Libertarian? 

Jacob Levy has posted on the Volokh Conspiracy about why he intends to vote for John Kerry, rather than following his former custom of voting Libertarian.

Levy is a sharp guy and I respect his opinions very much. I also agree with him about the shortcomings of Bush and the looniness of Badnarik (the Libertarian candidate).

However, I think he's overreacting to his distate for Bush's failings by imagining that a Kerry administration would do better on either domestic or foreign issues. I'm incredibly skeptical of that.

I also don't accept his rationale for not voting Libertarian. As I've said before, we shouldn't vote because we expect to decide the election. We should vote to express what we're for. And, despite Badnarik's confusion about the war (and many other things), I think that it's generally the case that Levy would prefer that policies move more toward the libertarian position; and that's what I think a Libertarian vote expresses more than anything else.

The Kantian position that he expresses about willing the universalization of his vote just doesn't make sense to me. But, if he enjoys expressing that idea, then I suppose it makes sense for him to vote that way.

I'm still voting Libertarian.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Happy Birthday, America 

I just want to wish everybody a happy Fourth of July.

May the principles of the Declaration, and the human liberty they inspire, continue to flourish.