Posted by Rojas @ 11:04 pm on May 19th 2008

Actually, no, we don’t have to draw the line somewhere.

You know how people who oppose gay marriage are always making slippery slope arguments about polygamy and beastiality, and how gay marriage proponents such as myself are always mocking them and calling their argument a silly thing?

Yeah. Um…

Posted by Rojas @ 11:01 pm on May 19th 2008

Warp Speed Ahead

In the wake of the California decision, Mr. Sulu gets gay married. Fine with me, as long as it’s not to an Andorran or something. We have to draw the line somewhere…

Posted by Rojas @ 12:21 am on May 17th 2008

Kill it

Here’s how bad the 2008 Farm Bill is: The New York Times and National Review agree about it.

And so does the President. But it won’t be vetoed, of course. Somehow, some way, Bush will find a way to sign it, as Presidents always do.

The farm bill has become a sort of quadrennial trip into the abyss for me. Every sane person in America hates it, and agricultural subsidies generally; yet every four years, it gets worse and more subsidy-laden. It is the ultimate example of narrow interests looting the treasury because nobody else cares enough to mobilize to stop them.

If only there were a Presidential candidate who were willing to take meaningful stands against agricultural subsidies at great political peril. Oh, wait…

Posted by Rojas @ 8:33 pm on May 16th 2008

Sebelius follow-up

I wrote here, and in the comments section, about the remarkable request by Archbishop Joseph Naumann that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius deny herself communion. A particularly cogent and persuasive criticism of the Bishop’s actions has been written by Patrick Whelan at Catholic Democrats. Again, this issue is one on which I cannot comment very freely, save to say that if the situation intensifies very much more, it will be hard for me to keep my job next year.

Meanwhile, Sullivan links to this astonishing incident: one of America’s more cogent Catholic pro-life advocates is denied the sacrament merely because he endorsed Obama.

I wonder if the people initiating these actions recognize exactly how their behavior is perceived by outsiders. In the course of my job, I spend a great deal of time educating Catholic youth on how to become effective public advocates for the church’s agenda, including pro-life advocacy. One of the hardest things to teach the kids is that the mere expression of what they believe to be truths is not sufficient; that one has to appeal to the pre-existing beliefs and concerns of one’s audience, not all of whom are Catholic, to achieve a change in behavior. I often wish that the leaders of the church would provide more cogent examples of this type of persuasion.

Somewhere in me, there is a post analogizing this sort of behavior to that of the Libertarian Party. Surely one of the most important things about principles is that you advocate and promote them effectively; if they are not to be translated into real, tangible good, then what are they for?

Posted by Rojas @ 7:59 pm on May 16th 2008

More madness over the KC-45

The KC-45 is an air refuelling tanker designed by Northrup-Grumman to replace the US military’s obsolete fleet. The contract for the new plane was initially awarded to Boeing on a non-competitive basis. John McCain blocked this, demanding a competitive bid process, which was won by Northrup-Grumman. This led to McCain’s boasting that he’d saved the taxpayers millions of dollars, Democrats whining that McCain had jacked things up and screwed over an American contractor (see Adam’s posts), and eventually a formal, and to all appearences specious, protest by Boeing.

This has now led to a point at which Northrup-Grumman apparently feels compelled to defend the bid through, of all things, banner ads on political websites. I will be frank: I am not quite sure that readers of RCP are going to be sufficiently psyched up by these ads to call their congresspersons and DEMAND that Northrup-Grumman be awarded the contract. But if they aren’t, then why is N-G running them? How, exactly, does this bring pressure to bear on decisionmakers? I’m genuinely confused by this strategy.

How delightful, in any event, that disputes over the bidding process for military contracts now play themselves out in the field of political opinion.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:34 pm on May 16th 2008

The Audacity of Joshua Packwood

Morehouse College, a traditionally African-American institution, graduates its first white valedictorian…a former Kansas City-area speech competitor who turned down a full ride at Columbia to attend. Not everyone is pleased:

“I don’t necessarily support him being here, but because he’s here and we can’t discriminate against other races, I support him and his mission to be successful in life,” says Muhammad, a junior. “I just kind of wish he had done it at a different institution.”

“I think that it should be a wake-up call to an all black campus,” says Muhammad. “At Morehouse we’re supposed to be at the top as black men. We only have a few white students and to see a white student will rise to this – is something unsettling to me because it shows that we need to work harder.”

That last bit, frankly, strikes me as a very enlightened and mature response to the situation. If only all instances of racial rivalry could be resolved by attempts to elevate one’s own game…

I can’t help but notice that any one of dozens of professors could have denied Packwood valedictorian status, and conferred it on an African-American student instead, by awarding him a B or lower at any time in his undergraduate career. Yet not a single one of them did so. I have to think that speaks pretty highly of Morehouse as an educational institution.

Advocates of affirmative action in public universities frequently make the argument that a diverse student body is in itself an aid to institutional excellence. I wonder what they’d have to say about this incident, and what the students of Morehouse would have to say on the subject.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:19 am on May 16th 2008

Re-branding the House GOP

TNR is having a contest. Because what the House Republicans really need now, more than anything else, is a catchy slogan.

Posted by Rojas @ 3:55 pm on May 15th 2008

Hollow Hope

So now the California courts have ruled that homosexual couples are entitled to the title of “marriage”. The basis for their ruling is, in part, that the state legislature had already conveyed broad partnership rights to homosexual couples, and that to deny them the accompanying status of formal marriage was therefore unconstitutional.

Fair enough. Here is what I think will happen now:

There have been three major groups contending over the gay marriage debate. The first are people who oppose any sort of recognition for same-sex couples. The second are people (including myself) who support the recognition of same-sex couples as entirely equal under the law, and who would convey the title of “marriage” upon them.

The third group consists of people who believe that homosexual couples should not suffer from discrimination in terms of the legal benefits of marriage (inheritance, hospital visitation, tax status, and so on) but who are uncomfortable according the status of “marriage” to those relationships.

For the past several rounds of legislative votes, group number three has operated in alliance with group number two, seeking to ensure that homosexual couples have their rights protected, and not quibbling over labels. Today’s decision in California destroys that partnership. Group three voters no longer have the option of recognizing “civil unions” legally, as the courts will transform any such recognition into full-on gay marriage. They will now have to decide whether their qualms about the sanctity of marriage matter more than their compassion for homosexual couples who’d be denied recognition…and the decision has been forced upon them by the legal actions of the pro-marriage lobby.

In short, the opponents of gay rights have just been handed a potent wedge with which to pry away supporters of civil unions from the gay marriage lobby. This is what happens when you try to impose your will through the use of the judiciary. Sadly, the fight to win marriage rights through legislative consensus building just got a lot harder…and that means the courts may become EVEN MORE prominent as a mechanism for forced change on this issue, which will intensify public resistance. This issue is beginning to take on the same overtones as abortion.

Posted by Rojas @ 3:21 pm on May 15th 2008

Bob Barr: Protectionist?

Another legitimate policy objection for Libertarians to consider. Certainly a lot more relevant than “he’s not radical enough.”

The bottom line is that I won’t be voting for Barr in November, and I’m not at all sure that I’d vote for him if I were in Denver. It will still be extremely obnoxious if the LP throws him overboard because he doesn’t read the right books.

Posted by Rojas @ 2:25 pm on May 15th 2008

Top three US enemies whose names are almost, but not quite, dirty words

3. Saddam
2. Shi’ites
1. FARC

Posted by Rojas @ 12:33 pm on May 15th 2008

At last: President’s Question Time!

The Republican presidential contender also envisions April’s annual angst replaced by a simpler flat tax, illegal immigrants living humanely under a temporary worker program, and political partisanship stemmed by weekly news conferences and British-style question periods with joint meetings of Congress

A careful scientific analysis of this proposal reveals it to have an astonishing Rule-Win Quotient (RWQ) of 74.6, making it the Best Idea Ever (McCain’s previous high was an impressive 9.42 for “end ethanol subsidies”).

I have been waiting for an American equivalent to Prime Ministers’ Question Time for DECADES. I never thought I would see it in my lifetime. And what sheer, brazen cojones, for a candidate to say, “Elect me and I’ll let Congress grill me weekly.” Once again, McCain demonstrates his willingness to put himself on the line–agree or disagree with him on the issues, his sheer political courage is unquestionable.

Would this curb partisanship, as McCain proposes? Never in hell. What it WOULD do is impose a dramatically higher level of rigor and accountability on the Presidency; the ability to think on one’s feet would become a political prerequisite for the job. And that can only be a good thing. A very, very, very good thing. It also represents the kind of awesome, script-free, regularly conducted political theatre that can get the public interested in the policy process again. Finally, it recognizes and formalizes the legitimacy of legislative inquiry–not control, but inquiry–into the actions of the executive branch. Anyone concerned about the recent trend towards unchecked and unquestioned executive authority ought to rejoice.

We need to get this locked in. Let’s get Obama on record for-or-against on this–my guess is that he’d be forced to agree to it.

Oh…and everyone involved in the showdowns should be required to refer to each other as “My Right Honorable Friend”. You know, just because.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:51 am on May 15th 2008

Turd blossom

Both parties face major challenges and have little time to alter the dynamics of the election to their advantage. Recognizing underlying problems and correcting them within a matter of a couple of months is one of the supreme challenges in politics. Whichever party does that fast and well will benefit come November.

Boy, it’s hard to imagine how the Bush administration ever managed to part ways with a genius of this magnitude, isn’t it?

Posted by Rojas @ 2:48 pm on May 13th 2008

Barring the door

There are several legitimate ideological reasons to deny Bob Barr the Libertarian Party nomination for President. Several of them are listed here. I can definitely see Libertarians rejecting a candidate who supports widespread intervention abroad or who supports the drug war. These are not trivial objections, and I look forward to seeing the party hash them out at the convention next weekend.

That having been said: these legitmate objections do not stand alone. No, as the LP has a habit of doing, these perfectly reasonable questions of policy are getting tangled up in yet another purity purge. Take it away, Joshua Katz:

The Ron Paul campaign opened many people to hearing about freedom – the LP must now run a candidate who can continue to feed this interest, in addition to attracting more. To do this, the candidate must be uncompromisingly radical – people can only be inspired by a candidate able to present, in a convincing way, the hope of a world without coercion. It is imperative that the LP put forward a consistent, principled libertarian, one well-versed in the libertarian scholarship, in order to continue the educational task. Every day, I meet people who are reading Bastiat, Mises, Hoppe, Rothbard, and Menger because of Ron Paul. I have students who are asking questions about liberty, and about Mises, because they saw my Ron Paul poster and looked him up. A Republican retread, who is moderate on issues which require radicalism, will not attract the same interest.

Ah, the old bait-and-switch. Yet again, the same party which trots out the Nolan quiz as a means of defining an entire quadrant of the population as their allies wants to cast aside all of those potential supporters in favor of the “uncompromisingly radical.” And now it’s not even about the actual policy stances anymore. It’s about what books you read.

The party has wandered in the wilderness for 35+ years. Every time it moves towards actually influencing the course of public policy, those in power within the party choose to saw off the limb the rest of us are standing on. Now, with the Ron Paul movement drawing inprecedented interest in pro-liberty ideologies, some within the party want to jettison potential of a mass movement, one involving pro-liberty thinkers of varying intensities and orientations, in favor of an ideological reeducation camp.

The party needs to be very careful about how it handles this weekend’s opportunity. A Bob Barr nomination is not an absolute necessity, but it will be very interesting to see on what grounds he loses the nomination. One thing the Ron Paul movement has taught us is that the Libertarian Party is not a necessary ingredient in the movement towards greater personal freedom. The Ron Paul movement WILL go on, one way or another. This tone adopted this weekend will help determine whether the LP assumes a leadership role within the movement, or whether, to them, purity of thought is more important than, you know, actually increasing individual liberty in the real world.

In which case, the rest of us will leave them behind.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:24 am on May 11th 2008

Preemptive strike on Sebelius

At least it’s hard for me not to read it that way.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius should stop taking Communion until she repudiates her support for the “serious moral evil” of abortion, the Catholic archbishop for northeast Kansas says.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, also criticized the governor Friday for her recent veto of a bill imposing new restrictions on abortion providers.

Naumann said he wrote to Sebelius in August and asked her to refrain from Communion but learned recently that she’d participated in the sacrament at a church in Topeka. He said he again wrote and asked her to respect his request and “not require from me any additional pastoral actions.”

Naumann is, of course, in a position of direct authority over me, so I will refrain from commentary on the matter. Except to say that the timing of it absolutely could not be worse for her VP prospects, and that it’s impossible for me not to see that as the product of, shall we say, intelligent design.

Posted by Rojas @ 9:43 am on May 8th 2008

Avast Ye, Scurvy Corporate Swabs

On the one hand, I fully understand that a capitalist system will produce winners and losers, and I don’t resent the winners. I tend to be very, very averse to class warfare rhetoric of the sort practiced by Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, and redistributionist policies of the sort advocated by Barack Obama. I enjoy free markets and most of the byproducts thereof.

But on the other hand…Jesus, executive compensation is WAY, WAY out of control. Furthermore, it appears to bear no relationship whatsoever to job performance. It seems like every new month brings stories of some corporate nimrod on a $2 million dollar salary running his company up on the rocks and then being rewarded with a federal bailout–because his company is “too big to fail”–and then being “punished” with a $10 million severance package. I find myself daily pulled in the direction of full-throated Jacobin mayhem, wanting to slit the throats of hereditary aristocrats and burn their mansions.

In some cases, this instinct pushes me in the direction of anti-libertarian policy. Adam and I have gone on at some length about our neo-socialist instincts regarding federal provision of public education; Joyful Cynic and I have had some spirited arguments about my advocacy of a sizable increase in the estate tax. On the other hand, I can’t quite bring myself to feel like my apostasy on the matter of executive compensation somehow makes me anti-capitalist, because there is nothing market-driven about the way the existing system seems to work. Executive compensation packages seem to be governed not by the desire to secure a skilled CEO in a competitive marketplace, but by a culture of mutual backscratching and an eagerness to do whatever the shareholders will let the company get away with. At BEST one could argue that the system creates incentives for short-term shareholder profit at the cost of long-term ruin for the company as an institution–by which time the shareholders will have jumped ship and moved on, leaving everybody else to pay the price.

Which brings me to George Will’s radical proposal of a month back. Apparently it was Bear Stearns that drove him over the edge:

Republicans and Democrats promise cooperation, compromise and general niceness using other people’s money. If Congress cannot suppress its itch to “do something” while markets are correcting the prices of housing and money, Congress could pass a law saying: No company benefiting from a substantial federal subvention (which would now include Morgan) may pay any executive more than the highest pay of a federal civil servant ($124,010). That would dampen Wall Street’s enthusiasm for measures that socialize losses while keeping profits private.

Indeed. There isn’t any libertarian reason I can think of to object to what Will is proposing. If a company is going to opt out of the constraints of the free market by demanding a public bailout, the nimrods running it have no claim to an absence of federal salary regulation.

In fact: why not take things to the next level? I’d propose that no company receiving ANY form of direct federal handout–market promotion subsidies, R&D support, financial bailouts, agribusiness subsidies–be permitted to compensate its highest-salaried employee more than ten times the salary of its lowest-salaried employee. If your janitor makes $10k a year, and you demand that the public prop up your business, the CEO gets $100k max, including stock options.

We’ve already imposed this sort of measure on LDCs through the World Bank’s “austerity” approach and on America’s poor through Clinton-era welfare reform. If corporations are going to go on the dole, too, let’s at least require of them the same sort of responsibility as we require of the less fortunate. The liberals will see this as an enlightened and highly progressive reform, I suppose; but I can endure such insults. I prefer to see this as a mechanism to wean corporations from the public tit, restore sanity to federal commerce policy, and impose a direct cost on those who make the decision to opt out of capitalism.

Let those executives who really DO deserve elaborate compensation demonstrate their fitness for it by flying without a net–and if they succeed and grow obscenely rich, more power to them.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:21 am on May 4th 2008

1-100

Andrew Sullivan is now starting to seriously entertain the possibility of an Obama-Clinton ticket.

There is still a chance I might vote for Obama this fall; some of McCain’s recent pandering has me teetering a bit. But there is NO prospect that I will vote for him if he places Hillary Clinton a heartbeat away from the Presidency. The woman has richly earned a trip to political exile for the remainder of her life; her campaign is emblematic of EVERYTHING Obama claims to repudiate; and if Obama brings her on board for the sake of electoral advantage, it will constitute concrete proof that his image as a “new politician” out to change the system for the better is entirely show.

Also, I’m just gonna go ahead and ask this: on a scale of 1 to 100, with 1 being “that’s dangerously insane, you idiot” and 100 being “yeah, she’d probably give it a shot”: how certain are we that Vice President Hillary Clinton wouldn’t try to have President Obama killed?

I was at a “1” as recently as February, I think. After what I’ve seen from her post-Super Tuesday, I’m now somewhere in the low teens. I don’t think she’s that evil/ambitious, but I’m no longer willing to entirely discount the possibility. It has been that bad.

Posted by Rojas @ 4:37 pm on May 2nd 2008

The flip side of the gas tax pander

That’d be ethanol subsidies and ag subsidies generally.

The first words out of John McCain’s mouth today in Des Moines:

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Some things never change: Republican John McCain dislikes farm subsidies. “I have to give you a little straight talk about the farm bill that is wending its way through Congress,” McCain said Thursday at the Polk County Convention Center.

“I do not support it. I would veto it,” he said. “I would do that because I believe that the subsidies are unnecessary.”

Barack Obama:

• Deploy Cellulosic Ethanol: Obama will invest federal resources, including tax incentives, cash prizes and government contracts into developing the most promising technologies with the goal of getting the first two billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the system by 2013.

• Expand Locally-Owned Biofuel Refineries: Less than 10 percent of new ethanol production today is from farmer-owned refineries. New ethanol refineries help jumpstart rural economies. Obama will create a number of incentives for local communities to invest in their biofuels refineries.

Posted by Rojas @ 10:16 pm on May 1st 2008

Gwuh…fnnn….ngggh…

21st Century’s technology, can you stop using the nails and begin to use the screws?

***

A human being changed the world, but he did not succeed to change the time. Time will change the world and the human mind.

***

If it’s beautiful, but not just for you, REPEAT it.

B…b-brain…can’t…handle…fghmn ubmhfwtnhujbwgv

Posted by Rojas @ 9:59 pm on April 23rd 2008

Collaboration status: enthusiastic

Those who contend that the ever-lengthening primary season is good news for the Democrats might want to take a long look at what the McCain people are saying…ahem…”to their supporters”…today. From an emailed press release:

Exit polls reveal why this poses significant problems for Obama if he becomes the nominee. The most important problem: Clinton voters don’t automatically become Obama voters after he becomes the nominee. In fact, Obama leaves large portions of Clinton’s coalition on the table in November. Clinton shows her broad coalitional strength and wins 81% in a general election match up against John McCain.

A full quarter of the Democrats in Pennsylvania are not willing to cast their ballot for Obama against McCain (15% say they vote McCain and 10% say they stay home), however, Clinton loses only 17% of Democrats (10% for McCain and 7% would not vote). This gap of 8-points would be significant in a general election match up. President Bush lost Pennsylvania by 2-points in 2004, when 41% of the electorate were Democrats. That 8-point gap among Democrats is enough to swing the state the other way (8% of 41% is 2.8-points, turning Pennsylvania red).

The point, of course, is that this talking point serves the interests of the Clinton campaign a lot better than it does McCain. As does this:

Since last night, the Clinton campaign reportedly raised $10 million dollars online – enough to make a significant dent in upcoming media buys in North Carolina and Indiana

The Democrats are certainly free to nominate whoever they wish. But there isn’t a lot of question who McCain wants to face at this point. He’s now actively carrying water for Clinton, and is wise to do so.

Posted by Rojas @ 2:59 pm on April 23rd 2008

Music video of the ultra-authentic street cred

Chuggo-C’mon F*cking Guy. Not work safe. In fact, NOBODY is safe…

It’s a parody of the genre, right? Please tell me it’s a parody.

Posted by Rojas @ 4:08 pm on April 21st 2008

Tonight would be a good time for Hillary Clinton to stage a fake assassination attempt.

I’m just saying, is all.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:05 am on April 21st 2008

They won’t let me form War Club

The Catholic High School at which I teach has a Peace Club.

Me, frankly, I think peace is overrated. Peace is easy. Peace is what you do when you can’t be bothered to do anything else. And, naturally, sometimes, doing nothing is the best course of action.

But what about WAR, I ask you? What of blood-red tooth-gnashing balls-to-the-wall WAR? (more…)

Posted by Rojas @ 11:20 pm on April 17th 2008

Afterlife with the 72 Perfect Virgins

“Harith Ibn Al-Muhasibi told us what would happen when we meet the black-eyed virgin with her black hair and white face – praised be He who created night and day.”

“What hair! What a chest! What a mouth! What cheeks! What a figure! What breasts! What thighs! What legs! What whiteness! What softness! Without any creams – no Nivea, no Vaseline. No nothing!…

When they see you, they will get up and run to you. Lucky is the one who gets to put her thumb in your hand. When they get hold of you, they will push you onto your back, on the musk cushions. They will push you onto your back, Jamal! Allah Akbar! I wish this on all people present here.

“He said that one of them would place her mouth on yours. Do whatever you want.”

Boiiiiiiing.

h/t: Mark Steyn

Posted by Rojas @ 10:37 pm on April 17th 2008

Denk’d

No matter how “small,” small is, it will grow. It is God’s power, through his Nature’s power, that enables small to grow. And whatever it is, what could be left behind the “big”? It is the words, “How big it was!” It is very big, and it’s time for America and the world, to share it.

We’ve reached the point at which every single new post constitutes grounds for an internet-wide celebration.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:10 pm on April 16th 2008

Wait, WHAT?

Indeed, advisers to Mr. Obama concede, his job has been made that much more complicated by his remarks about bitterness among small-town voters. Though it remains unclear what effect the episode will have in the long run, it has suddenly prompted a series of questions — and worry — from Democrats about whether Mr. Obama could weather a Republican onslaught in the fall, should he win the presidential nomination.

In Pennsylvania, as well as coming primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, did Mr. Obama provide another excuse for white voters to voice qualms about his candidacy without acknowledging that it is his race that troubles them?

Uh…New York Times?

Is that statement journalism, or an expression of the author’s personal interpretation of events?

If the latter, kindly move it to the Op-Ed page.

If the former, then there are specific Democrats who do indeed believe that objections to Obama’s San Francisco remarks can only be explained by closet racism. I’d think that the most elementary principles of journalism would require that, rather than an author paraphrase, some kind of concrete statement to that effect be produced, even if it’s from “one Obama insider” rather than a human being with a name.

Because the insinuation being made here, whomever its actual author, takes the entire Pennsylvania fiasco to a whole new level.

The candidate himself is expressing the opinion that the voters don’t hold their opinions as a matter of conscious choice, but as a response to economic factors that dictate their thinking for them. Now we have the New York Times telling us–excuse me, asserting that somebody else is telling us–that people like myself, who object to Obama’s assertion, don’t actually object to his statement because we think it’s false. No, we object because we’re racists! We, like those misguided Pennsylvanians, are incapable of rational choice; we are but slaves to mental influences of which we have no conscious knowledge.

If that is what the Obama campaign actually believes, then let’s get it out in the open and debate it. Let’s have no more subtle insinuation. Because the assertion being made here, pervasively, with regard to multiple audiences and multiple issues, is not merely insulting, it is perhaps the most insulting statement that can be made to a voter.

If people are not sovereign entities with free will, then any government restriction on their behavior, social or economic, is justifiable. Indeed, there isn’t any point in letting them vote, because if their preferences are merely a manifestation of forces beyond their control or volition, why take any notice of them?

Do the Democrats believe in free will? If so, how about they start showing some recognition of it and respect for it?

Posted by Rojas @ 11:41 am on April 16th 2008

Suffocating the surveillance state

What’s the best way to deal with regulatory authority when it overreaches? Is it to fight the system?

I have long thought that the best response to youth curfews (one of the dumber trends in municipal law) would be, not non-compliance, but over-compliance. Teenagers wouldn’t win much sympathy by fighting the man; indeed, they’d be playing into the sentiments of those adults who argue, “kids these days are irresponsible, and should be at home studying, not out on the streets!”

What if, instead, they granted that argument? “You’re right…there’s really no excuse for us to be doing anything in the evenings except our homework. For that reason, we’re not just going to comply with the curfew, we’re also not going to take advantage of the exception that permits us to be out after hours in the course of performing our ill-paid part time jobs. We all quit. Best of luck to the food service industry.” How long do you think it would take the Chamber of Commerce to get the curfew overturned?

I’ve thought the same thing about some of the more onerous regulations on secondary school students. Too many schools (though not so much the one in which I work) are excessively interested in policing unauthorized student behaviors–effectively in constraining behavior for its own sake. The bottom line is that any effective classroom relies primarily not on obedience to rules, but on students volunteering their involvement. The most effective possible student protest would be one in which they complied completely against all restrictive behaviors–one in which they did exactly what the rules required and absolutely nothing else. No volunteering of information; answer only when called upon. Students have the power to achieve the voluntary accomodation of authority figures at no consequence to themselves–simply by withdrawing their own volunteerism.

Butler Shaffer, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite LRC commentators, applies this logic broadly to a variety of government programs, ranging from parking meters to lawn care. TOTAL compliance at all times is in many ways even more incompatible with big government than non-compliance. Case in point:

Along the same lines, I was at a conference where a man spoke of the compliance problems banks had in providing the Treasury Department with the information it demanded regarding customer banking transactions. In order not to be in violation of the government requirements, the banks were over-reporting such data, a practice that inconvenienced both the banks as well as the reporting agency that was suffering an information overload. The speaker suggested that the legislation be amended to provide a more narrowly-focused definition of what was required. During the question-and-answer session, I suggested that no such amendment be made; that the banks continue to report – and, perhaps, to increase the scope – of such transactions, thus providing the government with more information than it could control. As banking customers, each of us might choose to comply with the avowed purposes of such regulations – to combat “terrorism” and “drugs,” right? – by sending the Treasury Department a monthly listing of all checks we had written!

Read the whole thing. You’ll particularly appreciate his mechanism of overcompliance with federal drug testing.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:43 pm on April 15th 2008

Crossed Pond Reader Survey

Hillary Clinton may not make her decisions based on the polls, but we at the Crossed Pond sure do. Nothing matters to us more than the opinions of our vast throng of readers, except of course for our own opinions, excluding Brad’s and Adam’s.

So, to that end, our question for the week, particularly for the Pennsylvanians among you:

Would you rather spend your Saturday at the bowling alley with Barack Obama, or doing shots with Hillary Clinton?

Justify your answer. Use back of paper if necessary.

Extra credit: who would win a firearms accuracy competition between Dick Cheney and Hillary Clinton?

Posted by Rojas @ 6:52 pm on April 14th 2008

Libertarian revenge

George Will, in a must-read Newsweek piece about Bob Barr, catches an angle I’d missed.

The Libertarian Party, confronted as it is with high-overhead tasks such as obtaining ballot access, benefits very greatly from large donations by single donors. Indeed, it was the money of the Koch family which made possible the Clark campaign in 1980, by far the party’s high-water mark in national elections.

Hence, the party is very substantially hampered by…McCain-Feingold.

And now, lo and behold, McCain finds himself not only in a close election, but also in a dogfight for core conservative voters against an energized libertarian movement with, potentially, its highest-profile candidate ever. As Will concludes:

Barr’s new party (he joined in 2006) also is handicapped by John McCain’s handiwork. One wealthy libertarian would give $1 million if the McCain-Feingold law regulating political participation did not ban contributions of more than $28,500 to national parties. Another wealthy libertarian—he is dead, so he has none of the supposedly corrupt purposes that make McCain so cross—bequeathed more than $200,000 to the party. That would fund the ballot access struggles, but it is in escrow because of McCain-Feingold. If libertarian voters cost McCain the presidency, that will be condign punishment.

Posted by Rojas @ 5:35 pm on April 14th 2008

Obama as Marxist

No, not in the pejorative sense that the term is usually applied. In the more literal sense that he appears to have adopted the idea that what’s in your wallet determines what you believe.

Obama’s comments of last week, which Brad discussed here, have been much mulled over. To recap, in case you haven’t had them slammed forcibly into your cerebral cortex by TV news:

“You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them,” Obama said. “And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

I’ve been mulling this one for a while, and what bothers me is not the “bitter,” which is the part Obama spends all his time defending, but the “clinging”.

The idea Obama expresses in his speech was kicked into the national consciousness by Thomas Frank, with a book in which he managed to insult the entirety of my home state. His assumption, and Obama’s, is that economics is so all-consuming a factor in people’s lives that it determines the rest of their preferences, on issues ranging from gun ownership to belief in a Supreme Being. One does not “cling” to an item one chooses voluntarily as a rational individual; one “clings” to the first thing that comes to hand in an emergency, such as a piece of drifting wreckage.

And yes, that is elitist, and yes, that is patronizing, and yes, that is flat-out stupid. Not just towards those who are economically disadvangtaged, though it treats them as incapable of making rational decisions (an aspect of his mindset which is broadly reflected in his policy preferences). It is at least equally insulting towards people like myself, who choose to be pro-gun without having the fig leaf of economic disadvantage to hide behind.

And in fact, it’s insulting of people who are pro-gun or religious or protectionist in that it lumps those two sentiments in with overt racism as similarly irrational sentiments.

If this were some sort of isolated statement, we could chalk it up to a misphrasing. But more or less every subsequent comment he’s made on the issue has distanced him from the obvious aspect insult while reinforcing the subtler, more insidious aspects of the insult that I describe above. And, as I mentioned, his views on economic and social policy are FULL of evidence of this fundamentally Marxist, economically-deterministic view of human nature.

This is, I think, the first major complaint Obama’s opponents have lodged about him that has real merit. Bottom line, I think it applies equally to Clinton, so she has no business trotting it out there. But the argument itself is a legitimate objection to Obama’s candidacy. He needs to give the rest of us credit as rational entities possessing free will.

Posted by Rojas @ 8:57 pm on April 10th 2008

Keeping the torch lit

It has certainly been inspiring to see the advocates of freedom protesting the Olympic torch relay in Paris, London, and San Francisco. More and more, in the eyes of the world, the event is turning into an examination of Chinese policy rather than a mindless celebration of it.

Which leads us to an interesting question. We know how the Chinese intend to deal with any demonstrations on the part of civilians at the Olympic games. What is going to happen to athletes who use the games as a forum for expression? What happens, for instance, when somebody whips out a Tibetan flag on the medal podium? There is a longstanding tradition of free expression within the context of the games themselves, from the black power salute in Mexico City to Sebastian Coe’s “salute” to the British press in Los Angeles. What about Beijing?

One might think that China’s acceptance of these games carries with it their tacit consent to tolerate expressions of dissent by the participants themselves. One should think again:

At least one torchbearer decided to show her support for Tibetan independence during her moment in the spotlight. After being passed the Olympic flame, Majora Carter pulled out a small Tibetan flag that she had hidden in her shirt sleeve.

“The Chinese security and cops were on me like white on rice, it was no joke,” said Carter, 41, who runs a nonprofit organization in New York. “They pulled me out of the race, and then San Francisco police officers pushed me back into the crowd on the side of the street.”

Should we presume that the Chinese consider the athletes themselves to be in a different category than the approved torchbearers? Should we, indeed, presume anything? Is somebody going to ask the Chinese government what will happen if athletes engage in publicly unapproved displays of dissent? And what is the stance of the IOC on this matter?

And if the games carry with them a repressive stigma in which the host nation’s official government is free to glorify itself, while athletic dissenters may be punished by the host regime, then again, the question arises: why go?

The pressure needs to be kept on. The policies of the Chinese regime on these matters need to be tested at every opportunity. Who will have the courage to do so?

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