Friday, July 30, 2004

Fisking Ralph Nader – Lessons from the Blogsphere
The purpose of this series of posts will be to provide links from the blogsphere that critique many of the positions taken by the candidacy of Ralph Nader. In this election, many are not satisfied with either of the major party candidates. However, voting third party as a protest vote is truly a wasted vote if the alternative candidate is not an improvement over either of the major party candidates. I believe this is the case for the candidacy of Ralph Nader. In the posts below (which will be added over the next week or two - and if you have a tip or an argument you are welcome to submit it until then - trust me, I'll need help) I will go step by step through the issues on Ralph Nader, and why he is not a suitable third party candidate. Mind you, the entire platform will not be deconstructed, as I am not, for example, an expert in Health Care policy and do not feel comfortable wading into that morass. However, there are several issues where I deeply disagree with Mr. Nader, and I will lay out my reasons why below
(To the Table of Contents)

Keep in mind this is a work in progress. It will not be completed immediately, and I may change the dates and times of the post on a whim in order to get it flow properly. I also appreciate feedback in getting some of the arguments to work more smoothly.
Table of Contents
Preface: What is All of This Anyway?
I. Intro – Voting Third Party Is Not Throwing Your Vote Away
II. Issues Where I Agree With Nader
a) Equal Rights for Gays and Lesbians
b) An End to the War on Drugs — Responsible & Rehabilitation Focused Drug Policy
III. Issues Where I Disagree with Nader or Feel He Isn’t Being Honest
a) Affirmative Action
b) Restoration and Expansion of Civil Liberties & Constitutional Rights

c) Reform of Corporate "Personage" Rights — Corporations Should NOT be Entitled to the Rights of "Immortal Individuals"
d) Fair Tax Where the Wealthiest and Corporations Pay their Share — Tax Wealth More than Work; Tax Activities We Dislike More than Necessities
e) Fair Trade that Protects the Environment, Labor Rights and Consumer Needs
f) A Federal Budget that Puts Human Needs Before Corporate Greed and Militarism
g) Creation of More Jobs by Investing in America's Future — Invest in Americans
I. Intro – Voting Third Party Is Not Throwing Your Vote Away
(Back to Nader Table of Contents)

One of the biggest reasons why many are afraid to vote for Nader is the idea that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush. Or maybe a vote for Kerry. Since Nader can’t win, and one of these candidates can, many argue that voting for Nader is equivalent to voting for a candidate who cannot win.

One problem with this argument is that it assumes that you might care about who wins. If you agree with Bush on Foreign Policy but Kerry on the Environment, you might be indifferent between the two. If so, voting for Nader will not harm your interest.

If voting your conscience gives you happiness, there can be a subsequent situation where you could vote for a third party candidate – if the overall differences between the candidates is small the happiness you receive from voting third party could outweigh the unhappiness you would receive if your slightly-preferred-major-party candidate loses. Realize this is not the differences on each issue, rather the OVERALL differences when your preferences on all the issues are summed together. Still, many would urge you to take caution – because it is easy to underestimate the differences between the candidates.

Even if you underestimate the differences between the candidates, you can only blame yourself if your vote will decide the election, which is highly unlikely. First, since the election is decided by states, and many states are not contested, there is a better than even chance that result of your state is preordained, and your vote will not come close to affecting the outcome. Second, even if you live in a state that is in contention, the chance that the election will come down to your single vote is infinitesimally small. Third, in the event that the election does come down to only your vote, there will be a recount anyway, taking the onus off you.

This analysis can be critiqued in two ways. First, if you convince enough other people to vote for Nader, your vote might matter. Second, if everybody thought this way, then not enough people would vote for your preferred candidate to win. The first argument is strong, but only applies to a very few number of people that have sway over the votes of over 100 people, so I will not attack it. The second argument quickly falls apart – at the moment you cast your vote, you don’t have control how other people think, only how you will think. Even if you could control how other people think, this would not be a problem for you, because making everybody vote their conscience is your desired long-run goal anyway.

Other Good Discussions From the Blogsphere and Web on this Issue
With Parties, Three's A Crowd
TechCentral Column (well, its sort of the blogsphere)
A letter to Nader urging him not to run
A website with links against the Nader Candidacy
(next section)
II. Issues Where I Agree With Nader
a) Equal Rights for Gays and Lesbians

(Back to Nader Table of Contents)

Ralph supports equal rights for gays and lesbians, including equal rights for same-sex couples. He opposes President Bush’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages as adults should be treated equally under the law on this matter. Ralph believes that by attempting to mandate inequality Mr. Bush is leading the country in the wrong direction.

Thanks to the strong influence of thinkers such as Andrew and Kathleen Sullivan, I agree wholeheartedly with Ralph Nader on this issue. I am not saying that I am homosexual, or that I approve of it (the first is not true, the second is irrelevant), but rather that what goes on in the bedroom of grown adults is none of my business, nor the states business. Getting married by the state is not the same as being married by an imam, rabbi, or priest. If the state wants to be involved in marriage, fine, but leave the door open to all, regardless of their sexual preference.

(Next Topic - Ending the Drug War)
b) An End to the War on Drugs — Responsible & Rehabilitation Focused Drug Policy
(Back to the Nader Table of Contents)

The drug war has failed – we spend nearly $50 billion annually on the drug war and problems related to drug abuse continue to worsen. We need to acknowledge that drug abuse is a health problem with social and economic consequences. Therefore, the solutions are – public health, social services and economic development and tender supportive time with addicts in our depersonalized society. Law enforcement should be at the edges of drug control not at the center. It is time to bring some illegal drugs within the law by regulating, taxing and controlling them. Ending the drug war will dramatically reduce street crime, violence and homicides related to underground drug dealing.

I have no complaints with this position of Ralph Nader’s.

(next section)
III. Issues Where I Disagree with Nader or Feel He Isn’t Being Honest
a) Affirmative Action

"Maintain commitment to affirmative action"
After more than 300 years of affirmative action to benefit white males, we definitely need affirmative action for people of color and women to offset enduring historic wrongs as well as present-day inequalities.

First off, jews don’t receive any benefit of 300 years of affirmative action, although they received quite a few quotas over the years and continue to be victims of discrimination. Many other groups who were victims of historic discrimination such as the Irish, the Italians, and peoples from the Orient are not included in this group.
Members of groups that are given benefits, such as African-American, Hispanic, and Native American are not tested individually to see if they have personally suffered the effects of discrimination. One can be a recent immigrant to this country from Nigeria, having never had family that suffered under the aftereffects of slavery, yet count as having suffered from historic discrimination as an African American. Somebody can be the scion of wealthy immigrants from Mexico City, yet be viewed as disadvantaged and receive help. Your father could be the beneficiary of millions of dollars of casino wealth, yet still you have mysteriously suffered because you are half Native American.

If we want to have a policy of Affirmative Action, let’s have a policy where people must prove, through documentation, the historical discrimination that they have suffered. Otherwise we will end up with stories like these – of individuals who seem to be doing quite fine, yet get bumped up with the unneeded help of Affirmative Action.

Affirmative-action programs should not be based on quotas, and race and gender should not be the predominant factor in choosing qualified applicants. A good affirmative- action program uses a variety of methods to achieve the goal of increasing diversity, including using race and gender as one of many factors in evaluating the suitability of an applicant.

Here the platform disavows quotas, but does not specify how strong should the factor should be. What assurances do we have that the factor will not end up being just the right strength to ensure the number of applicants that would have present with a quota? And since admissions to jobs or schools is often a zero-sum game, having a quota to raise one group up necessitates lowering other groups that are “overrepresented,” such as Jews, Asians, and Indians. What assurances do these groups have that this will not occur?

Another problem with Affirmative Action is that it is not promoting racial reconciliation. Rather Rather studies have shown quite the opposite. Worse, it may promote a new era of racism, as the groups discriminated against by the programs resent the groups that they feel have unjustly benefited. And those that succeed on their own, without the help of affirmative action, are stuck with the unremovable stigma that they took advantage of the system as my mentor, Professor Marcus Cole, personally describes here.

b) Restoration and Expansion of Civil Liberties & Constitutional Rights
(Back to Nader Table of Contents)

Civil liberties and due process of law are eroding due to the “war on terrorism” and new technology that allows easy invasion of privacy. Americans of Arab descent and Muslim-Americans are feeling the brunt of these dragnet, arbitrary practices. Mr. Nader supports the restoration of civil liberties, repeal of the Patriot Act, and an end to secret detentions, arrests without charges, no access to attorneys and the use of secret “evidence,” military tribunals for civilians, non-combatant status and the shredding of “probable cause” determinations. They represent a perilous diminishment of judicial authority in favor of concentrated power in the executive branch. Sloppy law enforcement, dragnet practices are wasteful and reduce the likelihood of apprehending violent criminals. Mr. Nader seeks to expand civil liberties to include basic human rights in employment and truly equal rights regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or religion.

I am not an expert on the Patriot Act, so for the time being I will have to skip any support or critique of this issue. All I will say on this issue is that the real liberty that is being curtailed is not our fourth, fifth, or six ammendment rights, but rather our first.
Not an expert on free speech, I can only point one to a single issue that I know of, plus the extensive work of others. Free Speech is under assault by the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act. The act restricts when a neutral person or organization can run issue adds criticizing politicians. You can see the act in action here.

Also, Free Speech is under assault by extensive Workplace Harassment Rules and Hostile Workplace Environment Rules as well.

If Nader wants to talk about our civil liberties being restored, he should start with the most important one of all – our first amendment rights.
c) Reform of Corporate "Personage" Rights — Corporations Should NOT be Entitled to the Rights of "Immortal Individuals"
(Back to Nader Table of Contents)

A national debate is needed regarding the necessity to reverse the dicta in the 1886 Supreme Court Case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad that first awarded the corporation constitutional status as a person and in subsequent decision. Corporations are not human beings, they do not vote; they are artificial entities which should be subordinated to the rights of human beings There can be no equal justice under the law if General Motors or Exxon has all the rights of humans plus all the privileges and immunities to concentrate enormous power and escape responsibility in ways unavailable to the wealthiest of real people.

First off, corporations are people – or groups of them at least. They represent the conglomeration of rights of shareholders. If you have a problem with giving conglomerations of groups rights, shouldn’t you abolish class action lawsuits as well? And if groups can’t have rights, then how come we have affirmative action?

Additionally, since corporations pay taxes, why shouldn’t they have rights? Don’t you believe that those who who pay the price of something deserve a say in deciding costly actions? At least that is a frequent argument your supporters use in stating why only soldiers and the families of soldiers should be able to be in favor of foreign wars. Do you wish to repudiate this position?

(next section)
d) Fair Tax Where the Wealthiest and Corporations Pay their Share — Tax Wealth More than Work; Tax Activities We Dislike More than Necessities
(Back to Nader Table of Contents)

The complexity and distortions of the federal tax code produces distributions of tax incidence and payroll tax burdens that are skewed in favor of the wealthy and the corporations further garnished by tax shelters, insufficient enforcement and other avoidances. Corporate tax contributions as a percent of the overall federal revenue stream have been declining for fifty years and now stand at 7.4% despite massive record profits. A fundamental reappraisal of our tax laws should start with a principle that taxes should apply first to behavior and conditions we favor least and pinch basic necessities least such as the clearly addictive industries (alcohol and tobacco), pollution, speculation, gambling, extreme luxuries, taxing work or instead of the 5% to 7% sales tax food, furniture, clothing or books. Tiny taxes (a fraction of the conventional retail sales percentage) on stock, bond, and derivative transactions can produce tens of billions of dollars a year and displace some of the taxes on work and consumer essentials . . . Again, it can be at a very low rate but raise significant revenues. Wealth above a quite comfortable minimum is described as tangible and intangible assets . . .

The problem with taxing wealth is that it is highly mobile, easily hidden, and while hidden, unable to work for the common good.

Over a thousand wealthy Americans have declared, in a remarkable conflict against interest , that the estate tax, which now applies to less than 2 percent of the richest estates, should be retained. The signers of this declaration included William Gates, Sr., Warren Buffett and George Soros. Mr. Nader does not believe that “unearned income” (dividends, interest, capital gains) should be taxed lower than earned income, or work, inasmuch as one involves passive income, including inheritances and windfalls, while the latter involves active effort with a higher proportion of middle and lower income workers relying on and working each day, some under unsafe conditions, for these earning.

Here is an excellent discussion of the “real” effects of the estate tax

(next section)
e) Fair Trade that Protects the Environment, Labor Rights and Consumer Needs
(Back to Nader Table of Contents)

NAFTA and the WTO makes commercial trade supreme over environmental, labor, and consumer standards and need to be replaced with open agreements that pull-up rather than pull down these standards. These forms of secret autocratic governance and their detailed rules are corporate-managed trade that puts short-term corporate profits as the priority. While global trade is a fact of life, trade policies must be open, democratic and not strip-mine environmental, social and labor standards. These latter standards should have their own international pull up treaties.

The concern for the welfare of those who work on our products is understandable, especially when they work for pennies a day. But is chasing their best option away through strict labor standards truly in their best interest? If the company leaves, they will be left with a worse job. How is this putting their welfare first? Simple – it isn’t.

About environmental standards – while the need to protect the environment is understandable (and there is always the danger that corporations are being subsidized by the government in an inefficient manner by having access to resources on the cheap), it is a well known fact that rich countries protect their environments best, because they have the resources to coexist with nature. Hindering the development of smaller, less fortunate countries by chasing away their trade will likely bring unintentional harm to the environment as well.

Other Interesting Posts on Trade Issues
The Australia Free Trade pact

(next section)
f) A Federal Budget that Puts Human Needs Before Corporate Greed and Militarism
(Back to Nader Table of Contents)

The United States needs a redirected federal budget that adequately funds the crucial priorities like infrastructure, transit and other public works, schools, clinics, libraries, forests, parks, sustainable energy and pollution controls. The budget should move away from the deeply documented and criticized (by the US General Accounting Office, retired Admirals and Generals and others) wasteful, redundant “military industrial complex” as President Eisenhower called it, as well as corporate welfare and tax cuts for the wealthy that expand the divide between the luxuries of the rich and the necessities of the poor and middle class.

I am all in favor of cutting government waste. But engaging in class warfare by calling for an end to tax cuts isn’t just divisive, its bad policy.

I'm hoping to add some posts when I get the time that debate the merits between progressive and regressive taxation. The argument for regressive taxation is that (a) Government should be viewed as a service, and as one makes more money, the percentage of your income that need be taken to pay for that service declines (b) Regressive Taxation counter-intuitively is superior for both the common good and government coffers.

Kevin Drum has an old post that suggests that in some ways the tax code is much less progressive than conservatives and libertarians think.

For an interesting Discussion against Regressivity, read this post or this one by Jacob Levy.

(next section)
g) Creation of More Jobs by Investing in America's Future — Invest in Americans
(Back to Nader Table of Contents)
Since January 2001, 2.7 million jobs have been lost and more than 75% of those jobs have been high wage, high productivity manufacturing jobs. Overall 5.6% of Americans are unemployed . . . By requiring equitable trade, investing in urgently needed local labor-intensive public works (infrastructure improvements), creating a new renewable energy efficiency policy; by fully funding education and redirecting large bureaucratic and fraudulent health expenditures toward preventive health care we can reverse this trend and create millions of new jobs.

I’m all in favor of reducing fraudulent health and renewable energy standards. But let’s look at the policy more closely. Nader complains of a high level of unemployment (5.6%). Unfortunatly, by historical standards, 5.6% is not all that high. To remedy this grievous national problem, Nader urges an immediate local labor intensive project program with jobs that are high wage.
Now let’s assume that this program is to make a serious dent in unemployment – that it will hire 1 million people nationally, cutting unemployment in half. Next, the jobs will have to be high wage, since Nader is complaining that the jobs being created outside of the government were paying to little, so we’ll assume the low number of $25 an hour, which ignores prevailing wage law issues which would raise the cost, times 40 hours a week comes to $1000 a worker per week. There are 50 work weeks a year, so the yearly cost per worker would be $50,000. Since there are one million jobs created, the total cost comes out to 50 billion dollars, although since the wages were estimated on the low side, and materials/administrative costs were left out, along with the usual corruption costs, the true cost could be two to four times that amount. So where is this money going to come from?

Even worse, since these jobs are more labor intensive than efficient, it is likely that the product that is produced in the end will be overpriced. You can pave a road three times in a week, but the second and third time will likely add little to the benefit of society. In the free market, at least the jobs will be done by those who value the project.

A further difficulty with this program is that it is highly likely to increase governmental corruption. Jobs that pay higher than market wage are highly desirable – and the person who hands out those jobs will have a large amount of political power. In the free market, corruption is at least partially held in check by the need to avoid losses and to make a profit. In the government though, a cycle of patronage corruption akin to the Tamney Hall or Robert Moses scandals of the last century is likely to erupt. To increase power, politicians will have further incentives to increase the total number of government jobs, which would require ever higher taxes, and fewer and fewer benefits to society. Is that the society we really want to live in?

(Return to Blog)
How Good of a Leader is Kerry Anyway?
McQ has unearthed some surprising things from Kerry's Military Days, and has some tough questions that need to be answered.
Anti-Abortion Group Muzzled By McCain - Feingold
Wisconsin Right to Life had planned on urging sympathetic citizens to contact Senators Feingold and Kohl and tell them to oppose a fillibuster. However the ads are said to run afoul of McCain-Feingold Campain Finance Reform law, even thought they are not promoting candidate, nor are they saying that citizens should vote against one. Rather they are just urging citizens to contact those two Senators. WRL has filed suit to ask for an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced. Stay tuned...

Update: Ellis Oster, President of Cornell Federalist Society has this to say by email to me:
Btw, isn't it nice to know that a federal law protecting kids from accessing Internet porn was recently held unconstitutional, but McCain-Feingold, which limits our fundamental right of free speech, is A-OK??? Because of McCain-Feingold, the Wisconsin Right to Life cannotrun ads 60 days before the election urging people to call Sen. Feingold and voice their concerns about the filibuster of pro-life judicial nominees. Oh yeah, that's right, I forgot, of course the framers of our constitution didn't care atall about protecting political speech; they were only concerned aboutprotecting kiddie porn. My bad!

Update(x2): For the record I'm very pro-choice. But this is too funny to let go.

Another Reason To Vote Against Bush

Remind me again how this helps consumers?

Brazilian shrimp farmers who tripled production in five years amid booming worldwide demand vowed Thursday to appeal new proposed U.S. tariffs on shrimp imports that could run as high as 67 percent for Latin America's largest country. The Bush administration also proposed imposing lower tariffs on shrimp imports on Ecuador, India and Thailand. American shrimpers claim the four countries have dumped canned and frozen warmwater shrimp and prawns at artificially low prices on the U.S. market.

Update: A dated blog post from Matthew Stimson is all over this issue.

Sandy Berger, Continued
Winds of Change has an excellent post on the continuing Sandy Berger scandal, which threatans to take momentum away from the Kerry campaign. Sandy Berger was the former National Security Advisor to Clinton, and was to be a high ranking official in Kerry Administration before he was discoverd to be stealing highly classified document from the National Archives. Anyway, here's an exerpt of the post:

There are several points here. In addition to destroying documents, Sandy Berger was acting as an agent of the executive branch for the 9/11 Commission and was screening the information that was to be provided to them. The Bush Administration did not choose Berger to do this. The 9/11 Commission did. Then the Commission saw only what Berger wanted them to see via hiding behind the Executive Privilege implied by constitutional separation of powers. This makes the 9/11 Commission report worthless. The Commission did not see what Berger, Gorleck and Ben Veniste did not wish them to see, with the cooperation of Co-Chairmen's Kean and Hamilton.
Second, the National Archives saw multiple egregious security violation occur and DID NOTHING. They did not call security to stop and search Berger for the classified documents he stuck in his pants, his socks and his leather folder. They did not stop him from taking and keeping notes on those classified documents. Then they let it happen twice. The first time Berger did it and the second time during their "sting."
Third, there were multiple and repeated breakdowns in the reporting of this security breach.

(thanks to Instapundit for the link)

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Kerry's Speech - And Questions for Him.
In spite of humorous predictions to the contrary, John Kerry came off Presidential. Quite simply, he looked good. Since he raised his stock tonight (a few pro-Bush bloggers like Jon Henke already seem to be assuming a Kerry win), here are a few things about his speech that I wish I had the chance to ask him. All speech excerpts are courtesy of the Drudge Report.

We're told that outsourcing jobs is good for America. We're told that new jobs that pay $9,000 less than the jobs that have been lost is the best we can do. They say this is the best economy we've ever had. And they say that anyone who thinks otherwise is a pessimist. Well, here is our answer: There is nothing more pessimistic than saying America can't do better . . .  What does it mean in America today when Dave McCune, a steel worker I met in Canton, Ohio, saw his job sent overseas and the equipment in his factory literally unbolted, crated up, and shipped thousands of miles away along with that job? What does it mean when workers I've met had to train their foreign replacements?
Thanks for the mention of my hometown Mr. Kerry. Yes, we are hurting after losing much of Timken Company and Hoover.   But let’s be honest just as my hometown loses from trade, the Nation overall gains. I'm sure your advisors had read this piece in Foreign Affairs. You haven't contradicted it, you've demagogued around it. As such I believe your vaunted complexity is mere political game playing.  

BTW - your campaign has alluded to a "two america's theme" This piece by Presto Pundit points to the idea that the poorer version might not be as bad off as you think.

And we need to rebuild our alliances, so we can get the terrorists before they get us. 
Perhaps bribery of our allies was a factor in weakening our alliances? Or of the UN itself? As a candidate for President, will confront this possibility? If you are a man who is complex because issues aren't simple, this will surely give you another possibility for "nuance". 

We need to lead a global effort against nuclear proliferation - to keep the most dangerous weapons in the world out of the most dangerous hands in the world.

No complaints here – so what do you want to do about Iran's pursuit of Nuclear weapons?  
Will you follow Clinton's and Carter’s failed lead for dealing with nuclear weapons demonstrated in North Korea?  

I know what we have to do in Iraq. We need a President who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce the risk to American soldiers. That's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home. Here is the reality: that won't happen until we have a president who restores America's respect and leadership -- so we don't have to go it alone in the world.

You demonstrate that you can get troops from Europe, and I’ll agree that you will have a compelling argument to be elected President. All the same, I tend to agree with the views expressed by this blogger here.

You don't value families by denying real prescription drug coverage to seniors

What would be real prescription drug coverage? How much would it cost? Should we expect you to understate this cost? How would you pay for it?

[L]et's never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States
I too am against the Federal Marriage Ammendement. I too agree that we shouldn't misuse the Constitution for political purposes. Some of your prominent supporter believe in the theory of a living constution though, a theory that says we can remake "the Constitution as circumstances have demanded, and in defiance of the formal procedures for doing so." Since the constitution is so sacred, will you disavow this theory?
Now I know there are those who criticize me for seeing complexities - and I do - because some issues just aren't all that simple.

My problem with you Kerry isn’t that you are complex. My problem is that I believe you want to have it both ways, that you play politics. As such, how am I to determine whether you are a lessor evil than Bush? The answer is that I can’t.

Democrats Struggle to Keep Their Base on Israel Issue
JustOneMinute has the details. Here's the $20,000 question - what happens when the Muslim population keeps growing? Will they tack more neutral? Will they turn Pro-Palestine, which would be popular with the rest of their base? I'd be interested to see the predictions of those in the know.....
Mfume Speaks
Kwame Mfume, president of the NAACP, gave his speech at 6:20 this afternoon at the Democratic National Convention. Quick question – which of the following was focused in on during the speech?
a) Bush Bashing?
b) Race Grievances?
c) Both?
d) None of the above?

Actually it was (d). The speech had some Bush bashing, but not that much. It was quite moderate in tone which was a pleasant surprise. The speech focused surprisingly little on issues of race, which one would predict a speech by the head of the NAACP would concern itself with. Rather, topics such as a woman's right to choose and the role of faith were heavily focused in on. This puzzled me at first - shouldn't the head of the NAACP be railing on Bush for not coming out stronger for Affirmative Action, or for having policies that were discriminatory in effect? Others have noticed this tendency of the NAACP to focus in on other issues as well, as this dated passage from NRO’s The Corner shows:  

To give just one example, the NAACP issues an annual report card on “key civil rights votes” taken in Congress, yet includes votes that have nothing to do with civil rights (like supporting needle-exchange programs and opposing tax cuts) and on which there is, to put it charitably, no African American unanimity (like opposing federal funding for school vouchers). Still, hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, and it will be fun to quote Mr. Mfume’s words back to him in the future.

Bo Cowgill pointed out that others have commented on this as well.

The only explanation I could think of for this is pure speculation - perhaps the NAACP leadership is fighting within the Democrat party for more control, and to achieve it, they had to pay lip-service to the key issues of all the other interest groups? I'm just trying to figure out why the NAACP is acting the way it is and the only explanation I can think of is that the leaders, having given the muscle for so long now to the Democrat party, want power in the party. To take assume it, a requirement is placating the other interest groups that compromise the big tent.
Some Good Questions About the Wall
See NU alum and Chicago 1L Walker's post.
Official Democrat Party Blogger Removed For Anti-Obama Comment
Matt Stoller was removed from his position as an official Democratic National Convention Committee Blogger for comments on Barak Obama reported in the National Journal.

Obama is an Illinois legislator running for the U.S. Senate and is seen as a rising political star in the party. He spoke to credentialed bloggers at a Monday breakfast for them."To be honest, I don't get the big deal," Stoller posted after hearing Obama that morning. "He seems very charismatic, but I have yet to cross that bridge with him where I feel like he's saying anything really interesting or useful. He's a lot like Edwards -- charismatic and demographically useful for the Democrats. But is there there there?"

Seems a bit extreme of a response for a remark that really wasn't that bad. Maybe the Democrats are determined that Obama be treated with kid gloves, to prevent any interference with the "Second Coming."

Update: Matt comments on his situation:
There's a story in the National Journal on me.
I am a volunteer and I didn't get fired. We decided that after the Convention started I wouldn't post to the DNCC blog (I had been using it somewhat to help coordinate the blogging component) so that I could post freely to my own. I'm a bit puzzled by the whole story, actually because we still have a great relationship and I'm still helping out the credentialled bloggers. Or as I said in the article:
"I just didn't want any confusion between what I say and what the DNCC says," he said in an interview. He added that the DNCC "wants bloggers to say whatever they want to say. The difference was that I was associated with the DNCC."

Just me or does this seem like Matt is trying to gloss over what happened?
Anyway, Instapundit linked to this blog for an account of things.

Whose Media is Narrow Again - Ours or Europe's?
An often heard tripe in anti-war circles is that Americans were brainwashed into war by falsehoods that were gleefully peddled by a corporate-owned media that suppresses alternative viewpoints. If only, the argument goes, our media was like Europe's, perhaps we could have a broader view of the world.

Bruce Bawer in the Hudson Review attacks this viewpoint as part of his wonderful (if long) essay on the differences between living in Europe and the United States.
[T]to suggest that American journalism, taken as a whole, offers a narrower range of information and debate than its foreign counterparts is absurd. America’s major political magazines range from National Review and The Weekly Standard on the right to The Nation and Mother Jones on the left; its all-news networks, from conservative Fox to liberal CNN; its leading newspapers, from the New York Post and Washington Times to the New York Times and Washington Post. Scores of TV programs and radio call-in shows are devoted to fiery polemic by, or vigorous exchanges between, true believers at both ends of the political spectrum. . .

Norway’s social-democratic government actually subsidizes several of the country’s major newspapers (in addition to running two of its three broadcast channels and most of its radio); yet the Norwegian media are (guess what?) almost uniformly social-democratic—a fact reflected not only in their explicit editorial positions but also in the slant and selectivity of their international coverage. Reading the opinion pieces in Norwegian newspapers, one has the distinct impression that the professors and bureaucrats who write most of them view it as their paramount function not to introduce or debate fresh ideas but to remind the masses what they’re supposed to think. The same is true of most of the journalists, who routinely spin the news from the perspective of social-democratic orthodoxy, systematically omitting or misrepresenting any challenge to that orthodoxy—and almost invariably presenting the U.S. in a negative light. Most Norwegians are so accustomed to being presented with only one position on certain events and issues (such as the Iraq War) that they don’t even realize that there exists an intelligent alternative position.

Things are scarcely better in neighboring Sweden. During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the only time I saw pro-war arguments fairly represented in the Scandinavian media was on an episode of “Oprah” that aired on Sweden’s TV4. Not surprisingly, a Swedish government agency later censured TV4 on the grounds that the program had violated media-balance guidelines. In reality, the show, which had featured participants from both sides of the issue, had plainly offended authorities by exposing Swedish viewers to something their nation’s media had otherwise shielded them from—a forceful articulation of the case for going into Iraq.
Read the whole thing

Fisking Edwards
QandO comes through again with this excellent post. If you want a more positive yet realistic view of the speech, click here.

Oh yeah, if you really believe that the Democrats are running a campaign significantly more positive than the Republicans, you should read this as well.  Or read this excerpt from the QandO post that I linked to above -
From the party of the "Bush lied" meme, this seems a bit disingenous. From the party of the "Bushitler" image, it seems a bit hypocritical. From the party of the "Bush knew about 911" conspiracy ala Howard Dean and Cynthia McKinney, this seems to be an outright fabrication. But then Edwards is a trial lawyer.

One contradiction that comes out immediatly in the speech is that Edwards wants to cut out waste in government spending. But he also wants a hike in minimum wage. As McQ pointed out, a hike in minimum wage spending will lead to higher union salaries. Higher union salaries leads to higher government contract costs since all government contracts must pay prevailing wage. Higher government contract costs of course leads to more, not less, wasteful government spending.

Anyway, surf the web and you'll find more of this stuff....I just don't have the energy today to refute it all.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Edwards Speech
Watching the positive reviews to the Edwards speech, I wonder if I saw something else. One of the first rules of effective trial advocacy is that you pick a theme, preferably simple, and stick to it. All "hope is on the way" chanting at the end of the speech aside, Edwards's speech failed there. Instead of the expected smooth trial attorney, the speech resembled the an impassioned version of the laundry lists that Clinton and Bush used to give during their State of the Unions. Edwards wants to finish the job on welfare, he wants a higher minimum wage. American consumers must be protected from foreign products they like. Increased spending on public schools and health care is demanded. He wants tax break on health care premiums, tax credit for after school programs, a tax break on tuition if first person in family to go to college, and more incentives to teachers. But wait, he can't be a knee-jerk liberal: he wants to increase spending on special forces and new military equipment.

How will democrats pay for this? Well he is going to raise taxes. Oops my bad - not a tax raise - a tax rollback. My apologies to the campaign for forgetting this repeatedly stressed point. Cutting wasteful government spending will be done as well. I'm sorry, but with policies like prevailing wage law (which is one of the main factors in keeping government contracts costs inflated) supported by the Democrats, I happen to be quite skeptical.

As a final point, the speech and the after speech spin emphasized the positive nature of the Democrats compared to the negativity of the Republicans. Right.

Edwards Speech
Lorie at Polipundit has the thing you should watch for at the speech.
Why is Marijuana Illegal?
Vice Squad has some interesting links. My questions on the issue are different - who are the organizations/special interests that are lobbying to keep it illegal? What do they have to gain? Are they open to debate?

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Terror in The Skies - Continued???
This story keeps on going.
(thanks to Presto Pundit for the link)

Moore's Flawed Argument About Sacrificing YOUR CHILD for Fallujah 
Drudge Report has a transcript of the Moore – O’ Reilly Debate. The argument that Moore is using, which repeats an argument he made in Fahrenheit 9/11 is that only those who pay the price of something (i.e. sign up or have loved ones sign up for the military) deserve a say in deciding costly actions (the war). It is unlikely Moore would go along with this argument in other circumstances – we are not about to see Michael Moore say that only those who pay taxes, or the cost of government, should have the right to vote. The truth is that as Americans we have a system that costs are not shared evenly, but still allow all Americans a say in how decisions are made. Just as that applies to the economy, so that should apply to the Military.

Then again, if Moore doesn’t think this is a fair situation we can make arrangements to alter it. It would be pretty simple although I think we would need to set up a federal referendum system on all wars/taxes. You or a member of your immediate family serve in the army, then you get to vote on whether to go to war. At the same time, on all issues involving taxation, the votes that a person gets would be dependent on the amount of taxes they paid in the previous year. Thus, in a taxation referendum, my brother would get 10 votes, I would get about 2,000 votes, Eugene Volokh would get about 5,000,000 votes, and Dick Cheney would get about 20,000,000. Anybody honestly believe that Moore would be in favor of such a system?  

Anyway, here is the excerpt (thanks to Drudge Report for the transcript):

M[Moore]: Are you against that? Stopping this war?
O [O’Reily]: No we cannot leave Iraq right now, we have to
M: So you would sacrifice your child to secure Fallujah? I want to hear you say that.
O: I would sacrifice myself—
M: Your child—Its Bush sending the children there.
O: I would sacrifice myself.M: You and I don’t go to war, because we’re too old—
O: Because if we back down, there will be more deaths and you know it.
M: Say ‘I Bill O’Reilly would sacrifice my child to secure Fallujah’
O: I’m not going to say what you say, you’re a, that’s ridiculous
M: You don’t believe that. Why should Bush sacrifice the children of people across America for this?

Update: As an aside, for those of you who dislike O'Reilly, this should be red meat.
Polls........Did They Miss Something?
Drudge has Bush one point ahead of Kerry. Trouble is it is well known that polls was taken over the weekend tend to underestimate Republican support, because Republicans tend to be working over the weekend more than Democrats, biasing the sample. So in a weekend with much attention to the upcoming Democrat convention, Bush was ahead in a poll that had a bias that probably suppressed the true measure of his support.
Where's Dukakis?
The guy's from the area, and ran for President. In an election where Democrats are embracing the roots of their party and urging all of us to give their party a second look, shouldn't the American public get a chance to hear his views as well?

Monday, July 26, 2004

Bill Clinton
First off, Clinton's speech from a delivery point of view was amazing. The tone while respectful, was passionate. The pauses were well timed, and the jokes (one example being the joke Clinton made about us not being able to enforce trade laws on Japanese and Chinese imports when they are financing our deficit caused by Bush's tax cut, or the line that strength and wisdom are not opposing values). The speech seemed centrist, and Clinton went out of his way to emphasize that Republicans and Democrats both wanted similar things, yet disagree on how to achieve them. Then Clinton explained the differences between how Republicans and Democrats sought to achieve their goals.

As somebody not planning on voting major party in this election, I found the problem with the comparisons the speech made was they were bullshit. While purporting to spell out the differences of the philosophies between the Democrats and Republicans, all too often Clinton would mischaracterize the position of the Republicans. The Republicans do not seek to act unilateral and cooperate only when they have to on foreign policy  rather they are prepared to act unilateral when they believe an action is wise, yet unpopular. Clinton said scorn for the international community could be evidenced by Bush pulling us out of several treaties such as Kyoto and the Anti-Ballistic Missle Treaty. The trouble is that Clinton wasn't exactly in favor of those treaties either. Yes, the Republicans give tax cuts to the rich, but not because they are out to serve monied interests. Rather they do not believe in progressive taxation and any transition to a more flat rate tax system would require that the immediate apparent benefit would go to the rich. Those trade laws that Bush isn't enforcing, such as anti-dumping laws, I trust that a President as smart as Clinton knows that the laws were passed only to benefit special interests at the expense of the American consumer.

Oh yeah, about strength and wisdom not being opposing values, I completely agree. It was Clinton and Sandy Berger who were afraid to go after Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan and shot missiles from 30,000 feet at empty tents. It was Clinton who set a policy of regime change in Iraq, but did not act on it. It was Clinton who had the "wisdom" of allowing, through a poorly thought out 1994 treaty to allow North Korea to go nuclear. While strength and wisdom are not opposing values, the problem is that Clinton (and Kerry I presume as well) most likely have neither.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Suppose that the year is 2018. Marijuana has become increasingly popular in California, and a new Governor is elected on a platform to lobby for legalizing it for those who wish to grow it for personal consumption, even if non-medical. However Congress instead passes a new bill stiffening the penalities for possession, even if the marijuana is home-grown. The Supreme Court held in 2007 that such a law fits within the scope of the power of Congress to regulate interstate Commerce. 

In retaliation, the Governor, to the overwhelming approval of his constituents, announces that he neither recognizes the authority of Congress to pass such a law under its power to regulate interstate commerce nor the ability of the Supreme Court to bind him with its apporoval of such an excercise of such power, as the power of judicial review is simply a power the Court gave to itself, not something that is in the constiution.

What happens next? I don't know the answer - I am just curious if any conlaw scholars out there might.
Clinton Taylor Following Up on "Terror in the Sky"
My friend from Stanford, Clinton Taylor has a piece in the National Review finding that the case of the fear of a terrorist dry run may have been a false alarm. The claim that the 14 syrians flying together and getting up randomly on the plane may have checked out - they indeed seem to have been a music group. Read the whole piece here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Posting has been light......
I'm going to get back to posting hopefully tomorrow. But in the mean time, take a look at the latest scandal. Clinton's NSA stole classified documents pertaining to Al Queda from the reading at National Archives. Played correctly, this could be a boon for the Republicans. Why?
1) It makes the Democrats look Corrupt
2) It makes them look weak on Nationl Defense
3) It makes them look like they have something to hide
4) The thief is highly involved in the Kerry Campaign as well
But are the Republicans capable of playing this correctly? We'll soon see.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Hell Hath No Fury....Like Andrew Sullivan Scorned
Andrew Sullivan, who is my favorite blogger to read by far, has been on the war path as of late against Bush. Partly out of self-interest, partly out of a sense of betrayl, he seems determined to through sand in the axles of the GW2004 campaign. Well, here is one guy it worked on - Sullivan's constant pressing on Bush's Spending record is one of the key reasons while I'll be voting 3rd party this election (tentatively, but becoming more firm by the day). However, no matter how angry Sullivan is at the administration, this quote seems as overkill
The fact is: the GOP is using an attack on members of their own families to get a few votes in rural parts of swing states. They've used race in the past to achieve this kind of effect. Now gays are the new blacks.
Don't get me wrong, I agree that the GOP's targeting of homosexual's is disgusting. However, saying that gays are the new blacks is simply reinforcing the old canard that the GOP is and has been a bunch of racists. I expected Sullivan to have higher standards than to play that game. 
What Would You Do?
Reports of a Terrorist Dry-Run Hijack Attempt. Some details have been verified.
The question was asked - What would you do? My answer - I'd throw my shoes. Imagine a hailstorm of shoes from angry passengers aimed at terrorists' heads. If necessary, I'd turn my laptop or MP3 player into a projectile as well.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Reports from the Anti FMA rally in DC
The Students for Equal Rights Campaign sponsored anti Federal Marriage amendment (FMA) rally outside the senate for 6:00 p.m. today. I showed up, a little late, because although I voted for Bush in 2000, I am strongly against amending the constitution to prevent homosexual secular marriage. The size of the crowd was perhaps stifled by the FMA failing in the senate earlier in the afternoon - there were perhaps 150 people there.

I came to the rally as one opposed to restrictions on gay marriage - what I got instead was a lecture that Bush was wrong not only gay marriage, but also on the environment, gasoline prices, the war in Iraq, education, health care, jobs, the deficit, and assault weapons. Not sure how this applied to the FMA.

When the speakers did stay on topic, I of course agreed with them. Much disgust was present for Sanotorum in particular. Interestingly, one speaker said the following "There is zero room for hate here. . . let's understand our opponents." Very surprising from the protesting crowd.

As for the signs - the most creative was "Marriage is a Church + State Begotten Weed but Until We Can Do Some Serious WeedWackin Dandelions For All" Vote Kerry buttons were everywhere along with "Don't Recycle Bush" and "Dump Bush" versions. Oddly enough, there were no counter protestors.

Eventually, having done my duty I left. I heard later that the cameras showed up, but only a few protestors remained at that point.

Gund Speaks On Boozer Fiasco - Takes Responsibility
Read it here.
Boozer Breaks Word, Signs With Jazz.
When I was a kid, I learned early on that Ohio sports teams were snake bitten. Now we have further proof. The Cavs had emerging star Carlos Boozer locked up. But to keep him happy over the long run, they took him and his wife at their words that they would stay in Cleveland. So they tore up his contract and offered him a 1000% raise. Only the Utah Jazz offered him a 2000% raise shortly after. Guess which won out - Boozer's word, or the money? Its stuff like this that makes me sick of being a sports fan.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Wow! North is South!
When I was a kid I learned that the North Pole wasn't always the north magnetic pole. Even stranger the poles occasionally, once every eon or so, flips. Guess what is starting to happen? Drudge reports the following......
The collapse of the earth's magnetic field, which both guards the planet and guides many of its creatures, appears to have started in earnest about 150 years ago, the NY TIMES is planning to report on Page Ones Tuesday.

Science reporter Bill Broad has filed a report, according to newsroom sources, which explores how: 'The field's strength has waned 10 percent to 15 percent so far and this deterioration has accelerated of late, increasing debate over whether it portends a reversal of the lines of magnetic force that normally envelop the earth."

Broad explains: "During a reversal, the main field weakens, almost vanishes, and then reappears with opposite polarity. Afterward, compass needles that normally point north would point south, and during the thousands of years of transition much in the heavens and Earth would go askew."

Sunday, July 11, 2004

What Happened?
I haven't been blogging for the past few days because
(a) I have been doing a mock trial
(b) I finished my summer firm job and flew from the Bay Area to D.C. for my public interest job at the Center for Individual Rights
(c) I haven't had internet access.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Egyptian Military Buildup
Ominous sign for Israel. It used to win wars because it had better weapons. Not as much the case today as before.

Israel's position is not pretty. Still surrounded, with a weakened economy, a declining military advantage, and recent largely successful demonization. Add to that the growth of the military might of its neighbors, their neighbor's increase in economic clout, and the continued population explosion of those on their borders, and the situation looks dire long term.

But when was their situation ever not dire? They have been outnumbered for years, and quite a few times were outgunned as well. Somehow they keep things together. People say America supports Israel because of money, imperalistic overtures, etc. I don't think that's it. We support Israel because we like plucky underdogs who seem to find ways to win.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Edwards as Veep
So Edwards it is for Kerry. The Bush Campaign has already started its attack on Edwards admittably questionable record which you can view here. To be honest, I don't think the criticism hits the mark and that is coming from somebody who will either vote Republican or Liberterian. The comments from the Bush campaign, when they are not overly technical, seem too overtly mean spirited, and not that effective. Then again, I am not a typical viewer of the webpage, so my views are probably not what the campaign is trying to influence with this ad.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Final Fantasy VII Movie
If you have a bit (or a lot) of free time, I highly recommend the game Final Fantasy VII which can be played on either a Play Station or a Play Station 2. Anyway, for those of you who have played the game, the movie sequel to it - Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children - will be released soon. Take a look at the trailer at the official site (ignore the box about installing japanese characters). Cloud, Tifa, Vincent, Barrett and some of the Turks are all back. The big question though is whether Sephiroth will be making a return. Supposedly killed by Cloud many times in the game, Sephiroth has a knack for cheating death, and may well be the shrouded man in the wheel chair.

Oh yeah - I don't expect Aeris to be revived either. So don't get your hopes up.

If none of this makes sense to you, play the game. You'll thank me for the advice.

Friday, July 02, 2004

On the other Hand........
Yesterday I made the arguments why I was hesitant about voting Republican. Today Jacob Levy at Volokh makes arguments about why he is consiering voting major party this presidential election when he usually (I presume) votes libertarian.

[A]ssuming Kerry doesn't pick Gephardt or resume his trade-bashing noises, I'm steeling myself to cast a major-party presidential vote this November.....
[W]e've had no Social Security reform, no push for vouchers, atrocious incompetence and policy made for the wrong reasons on the important foreign policy questions, protectionism, agricultural subsidies, and a spending explosion. All that's left are a) the tax cuts, which are good but something close to meaningless in the absence of spending cuts; b) a general positioning as "hawkish;" and c) annoyance at various elements of the left who I'd rather not be aligned with and certainly don't want to listen to crowing. (I really don't want Michael Moore to spend four years feeling like, and crowing that, he decided a presidential election.) Those aren't sufficient reasons to outweigh the general inability to govern competently or to make good policy judgments.

If Levy meant (as I interpret his post, perhaps incorrectly) that as a liberterian (which I presume, perhaps once again incorrectly) he supports voting for Kerry, I cannot agree with him. The main arguments against voting Republican if you are libertarian
1) Incompetence on Policy
2) Betrayl on spending
3) Disliking the noise from the Religious right
4) Tariffs and subsidies

The problem with these arguments for voting Democrat over Republican is that there is a good chance they would all be worse under a Democrat administration. Bush's policy may be incompotent at times, but so were quite a few policies of Clinton and so will be many policies of Kerry. On spending, spending did rise horrendously under Bush, but quite a few of the programs that he raised spending on were supported by Democrats, who would have had higher demands with Gore or Kerry in the White House. About Tariffs and subsidies, does anybody really expect this to be any better from the "Fair Trade" crowd? And noise from the Religous Right is, as Levy acknowledges, mostly just that - an annoyance - which many of us would agree is somewhat less annoying than the Farenheit 9/11 crowd.

My message to Levy is that if he is pissed at Bush, and is planning on voting Libertarian he has company. If he wants to vote swap Bush/Libertarian, I'll give him my email address. If he can't see the point of getting excited about any general election, he can email the smartest person I know at bluelion at who will recruit him to to the apathist party which aims for the permanent enshrinement of apathy. If on the other hand he is planning on voting Democrat because he, for the reasons above, is that disgusted with Bush.......well, I cannot see myself at this point agreeing with him.

As a proviso to this argument - I could see Levy make the point that he was in favor of divided government to control spending growth. But that argument was not made, and if it was, I am skeptical of the Republican to stand firm on spending if they get their lunch handed to them in an election.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Am I A Republican? Only When its Necessary:
Andrew Sullivan has this to say:
THE LOOMING REPUBLICAN WAR: The current tussle in the Congress over the budget is just a precursor to what I think will be outright Republican civil war after this election. If Bush wins, it will cripple his ability to get anything done. If he loses, the recriminations will get vicious. The fiscal conservatives will be fighting the "deficits-don't-matter" crowd. The realists will be out to topple the neocons. The Santorum-Ashcroft axis will continue to wage war on any Republicans not interested in legislating either the Old Testament or the dictates of the Vatican. ...
No single party can be both for individual liberty and for theologically-based social policy; both for fiscal balance and drunken-sailor spending; both for interventionism abroad and against moralism in foreign policy. The incoherence is just too deep, the tensions too strained.

I don't know anything about an overall Republian war but I connect with Sullivan's ambivalence to what has transpired with the current White House, but for different reasons then most. After supporting the President in 2000, I feel sold out on the highest level - I voted for Bush because of his stated desire to reign in big government. I should have seen during the Medicare debates that he was more apt to compromise for short term gain then seriously hold the line. Now we have the biggest growth in government spending since Carter. I thought Bush was for free trade. Then we had steel tariffs and continued tariffs on sugar and textiles. Against wasteful government subsidies? Don't get me started on the farm ones.

After these betrayls, I have lost faith in the Republican party to represent my interest. Yet I still realize that I prefer them to the Democrats. So instead of blindly voting for the Republicans, my attitude is to consider myself a member of two parties. On close stuff, I support Republicans, but on other matters, I do what I can to put the word out for liberterians.

My new rule of thumb - while a "big tent" is necessary to win, in the current enivornment the prize of winning just isn't all that valuable.