Saturday, April 23, 2005

Lots of blather...

...just to say that the Supreme Court hasn't yet ruled on the constitutionality of the federal prohibition of purely intrastate, non-commercial production, distribution, and use of medical marijuana.

The Feds say it is constitutional under the Commerce Clause, by which the states delegated to the feds the power to regulate interstate commerce. The feds say that medical marijuana in purely intrastate non-commerce affects the illegal market for dope (by reducing demand for illegal dope), and therefore may be regulated.

Arguments were made to the Supreme Court in November but they haven't ruled yet: the length of time is unusual.

Michael Kirkland, UPI Legal Affairs Correspondent, speculates on the reason for the delay:
Perhaps the justices are having trouble settling on a majority opinion. Perhaps they disagree on the way they want to slap down the state laws. Or perhaps they have to scrape together a plurality in order to find a way to rule for the Justice Department. One thing they certainly will not do is rule against the government.
This is one of those interesting cases where the feds, who currently at least nominally believe in Federalism and States' Rights, are doing everything they can to assert that the states have no rights, and that anything which affects interstate commerce, no matter how slightly, may be regulated even if the activity itself is purely intra-state.

I think we have a bunch of fair-weather federalists who want the feds to butt out when it suits their purposes, and butt in when it suits them. That is: they are a bunch of hypocrites. They want it both ways, yet pretend to have a principled position. I suspect they will win, but that doesn't mean they ought to. The voters of the several states affected have clearly voted in favor of medical marijuana, and the feds won't leave them alone.

One reason: Admitting that the Commerce Clause means what it says would logically lead to striking down a lot of other laws which rely entirely on tiny tangential effects on interstate commerce for their alleged contitutionality.

When the Supreme Court struck down the federal Gun-Free School Zone law, which had relied on the supposed effect of education on interstate commerce for its power, some thought -hoped or feared- that the court was going to start taking the Commerce Clause seriously. As I recall, the Court said that if education's effect on interstate commerce was enuf to justify such an intrusion, there was no aspect of American life which could not be regulated under the Commerce Clause.

States eventually passed their own school zone laws, which was the proper way to go about addressing a widespread but local issue. I won't hold my breath on this case tho.

The case is Docket No. 03-1454, Gonzales vs. Raich et al.

Click here: On Law: Don't Bogart that marijuana case - (United Press International

Either I am downwind of an unnoticed ground level nuclear explosion or... is snowing.

Friday, April 22, 2005

US Politicians abusing their power?

But...but...This is America!
So what don't Democrats want everyone to know? We're told that early on the Barrett probe moved away from Mr. Cisneros and his mistress and focused on an attempted cover-up by the Clinton Administration, especially involving the IRS.

...(When) the IRS began investigating him for tax fraud an extraordinary thing happened: The investigation was taken from the IRS district office that would always handle such an audit and moved to Washington, where it was killed.

"Never in the history of the IRS has a case been pulled out of the regional office and taken directly to Washington," our source continues...

Using his subpoena power, Mr. Barrett also found that the IRS would not have been able to kill the case on its own. It had to have cooperation from the Justice Department, particularly the Public Integrity and Tax divisions.
The Wall Street Journal has an editorial which concludes:
Abuse of the taxing power is about as serious as corruption can get in our democracy, and it should be of bipartisan concern.
Of course, politicians have always been corrupt and abused their power (in most countries that is understood to be their job), and perhaps less often now than a century ago, but this stuff really does need to be beaten down whenever possible. Our government has far too much power for us to take its abuse lightly. The sight of some Senators and Representatives in federal prisons would be awfully edifying for the rest of them.

My bet: We will never hear about this again.

Click here: OpinionJournal - Featured Article

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Ducks have regional accents?

At least British ones do.
"Cockney" ducks from London make a rougher sound, not unlike their human counterparts, so their fellow quackers can hear them above the city's hubbub.

But their Cornish cousins communicate with a softer, more relaxed sound, the team from Middlesex University found.
So, is this news to duck hunters, or only to scientifics? I have my suspicions.

The BBC has the whole story.

I wonder how big the grant was...

Thanks to Reg via JBR for the lead.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Just when u thought it was safe to... hummus:
Governments are building a "global registration and surveillance infrastructure" in the US-led "war on terror" monitor the movements and activities of entire populations in what campaigners call "an unprecedented project of social control".

The warning came from the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, including the American Civil Liberties Union, and Statewatch, a UK-based bulletin which tracks developments in the EU.

They point to the system whereby all visitors to the US are to be digitally photographed and fingerprinted...The setting up of airlines' passenger name records (PNRs) could include more than 60 different kinds of information, including meal choices which could reveal personal, religious or ethnic affiliations.

...They also point to an agreement between Europol...and the US giving what they say will be an unlimited number of American agencies access to sensitive information on the race, political opinions, religious beliefs, health and sexual life of individuals.

...To achieve their ends, they say, governments have suspended judicial oversight over law enforcement agents and public officials, concentrated unprecedented power in the hands of the executive arm of government, and rolled back criminal law and due process protections that balance the rights of individuals against the power of the state.
This is mostly a report on some ppl's concerns. There is nothing to be worried about, because This is America.

Anyway, many seem to consider that a perfect talisman against evil. Lets hope they are right.

I still don't know how the ACLU, which seems so concerned about greater government power, does not recognize any but a government's right to be armed. It seems counter-intuitive. Any ideas?

Former CO Governor Richard Lamm wasn't allowed to publish this... the University of Colorado, where, except for his three terms as Democratic governor, he has been a professor since 1973. He wrote it "in response to a particularly offensive screed on white racism by one of our affirmative action officials. I felt it should not go unanswered." Lamm, a liberal Democrat, wasn't allowed to reply in the same forum.

The beauty of the Internet is that UC wasn't able to stop him from publishing, and with a nice plug from Glenn Reynolds at InstaPundit Lamm's response may get a good deal more readers than it would have if UC had decided it wasn't "too controversial."
Let me offer you, metaphorically, two magic wands that have sweeping powers to change society. With one wand you could wipe out all racism and discrimination from the hearts and minds of white America. The other wand you could wave across the ghettoes and barrios of America and infuse the inhabitants with Japanese or Jewish values, respect for learning, and ambition. But, alas, you can t (sic) wave both wands. Only one.

Which would you choose?
Lamm votes for the one most might consider the obvious. That is why his response was "too controversial." EducatioNation has the whole thing, which isn't very long. It was, after all written for "The Source, the university newspaper run by our Vice Chancellor for Communications..."

Stalingrad in 1944

PowerLine, a conservative blog from the Twin Cities, reprints a column by Phil Boas, deputy editorial page editor at The Arizona Republic, on blogs' effect upon the news media. He's positive on the development.
Here’s what newspaper editors and writers should know about this new Internet phenomenon. Bloggers don’t have much respect for you. You are the "legacy media," the MSM. You’re the Roman Catholic Church to their Martin Luther and his new high-speed cable modem. To Hugh Hewitt (, the blogosphere’s leading cheerleader and one of its most polished practitioners, you are Stalingrad in 1944. Your institutions are hollowed out and your walls are scorched.

But of course, Stalingrad held, didn’t it. And that gets me to the second definition of bloggers. They are your light in the tunnel.
The whole thing is pretty short and a good read

Guns in the news

Alphecca ("An occasional blog by a gay gun-nut in Vermont") has his weekly round up. Click here: Alphecca: Weekly Check on the Bias Among the coverage is the election of Tucson lawyer Sandy Froman as the NRA's new prez.

William F. Buckley Jr. on executive over-compensation

He's no friend of these guys:
That money was taken, directly, from company shareholders. But the loss, viewed on a larger scale, is a loss to the community of people who believe in the capitalist free-market system. Because extortions of that size tell us, really, that the market system is not working — in respect of executive remuneration. What is going on is phony. It is shoddy, it is contemptible, and it is philosophically blasphemous.
Questions? Click here: William F. Buckley Jr. on National Review Online

London Surveillance

Here's an interesting article which has an unstated privacy/state surveillance angle.

London gov't is working on setting up a plan to charge cars by the mile. All well and good, so far as I can see: Users pay, non-users don't.

The potential problem comes when the bad guys are running the government. Wouldn't Saddam or Joe Stalin have loved to have info on where all their opponents car's were?

Nothing to do about it, the idea makes too much sense. But it is open to abuses, especially in conjunction with all the other public surveillance tech now coming out: security cameras with face recognition software, "Carnivore"-like telephone and email search programs, red-light cameras, law enforcement tie-ins to ATM use, U-Pass highway toll info...

Whether it is innocent or oppressive will depend entirely on who is using it, so all the more important that citizens maintain the ability to control their governments.

UPDATE: The democratic resistance is active in the US at least.
In that most representative of public assemblies - the bustling House chamber of the New Hampshire State House - there's an old rebellious notion: In matters of personal responsibility, don't always err on the side of safety...

So when a bill came up in early April to consider allowing robotic traffic cameras at the busiest crossroads, mocking laughter from the gallery preceded the measure's demise.

"The idea that we were going to be photographed [by the government] was anathema to most of us," says Neal Kurk, a Republican from Weare, N.H...

"The opposition to red-light cameras isn't that they're not useful, but the problem is they're too useful," says Neil Richards, a constitutional law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. "This is part of a trend where [lawmakers] are seeing there's a political advantage to not living in a police state."

Patrik Jonsson, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor has the story.

Both above thanks to DRUDGE REPORT 2005®

Islamists in Britain attack Galloway

George Galloway, one of the more prominent British opponents of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, was attacked by Islamists while campaigning yesterday. It wasn't because he wanted to continue Saddam's secular fascist state though. Paul Waugh and Flora Stubbs have the story in the Evening Standard:
The former Labour MP said "the police saved my life" after supporters of radical group Hizb-Ut-Tahrir clashed with members of his Respect party last night...Mr Galloway was electioneering on the Osier council estate in Bethnal Green last night when a gang of 30 Muslim fundamentalists, who claim voting is un-Islamic, surrounded him and his supporters.

The men said they were angry at Mr Galloway's attempt to woo Muslim voters. They said they were "setting up the gallows" for him and warned any Muslim who voted for his anti-war Respect party that they faced a "sentence of death"...

"...I tried speaking calmly. They then said I was parading as a false prophet and served a sentence of death on me. They were claiming I was representing myself as a false deity and for this apostasy I would be sentenced to the gallows," he said.

"They said they were setting up the gallows for me."
I wonder whether anyone is still unclear on the concept here: Islamists (unlike Muslims in general) consider democracy a capital offense. They have stated their belief. They have acted on their stated belief.

Is it possible that even George Galloway will eventually realize the threat such ppl pose?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Not enuf oxygen: Crisis for species-kind

But why did oxygen decline? Lack of regulation?
The biggest mass extinction in the Earth's history happened approximately 250 million years ago. During the "Great Dying", more than 90% of creatures in the ocean, and 75% of life on land went extinct. What caused the extinction is still up for debate, but a researcher from the University of Washington thinks that low levels of oxygen in the atmosphere sure didn't help. Oxygen went down...and this made standing at sea level the same as being atop a 5,300 metre mountain (17,000 feet)...

Atmospheric oxygen content, about 21 percent today, was a very rich 30 percent in the early Permian period. However, previous carbon-cycle modeling by Robert Berner at Yale University has calculated that atmospheric oxygen began plummeting soon after, reaching about 16 percent at the end of the Permian and bottoming out at less than 12 percent about 10 million years into the Triassic period.
Talk about a declining neighborhood. Here's the whole thing.

Legitimate revolution or mere insurrection?

Glen Reynolds had an opinion:
Although many militia supporters can quote the framers at great length on the right to bear arms, few seem aware that the framers also put a lot of effort into distinguishing between legitimate revolutions-such as the American Revolution- and mere "rebellions" or "insurrections." The former represented a right, even a duty, of the people. The latter were illegitimate, mere outlawry...

The most important aspect of this theory was representation. Those who were not represented lacked the citizen's duty of loyalty. A government that taxed its citizens without representation was thus no better than an outlaw, and citizens enjoyed the same right of resistance against its officers as they possessed against robbers.

But revolting against taxation without representation is not the same thing as revolting against taxation, period. Like it or not, the government we have now is the government that most citizens at least thought they wanted.
Reynolds wrote this a bit before the Oklahoma City bombing.

I have long thought that those bombers betrayed their own cause. I would have had a good deal more respect for them if, when they were captured, instead of saying "Oh, no, I didn't do THAT" they had plead Not Guilty and explained themselves with a call to arms.

They could have taken advantage of the world's attention to say "We did everything we stand accused of, and we shall tell you why every informed and responsible citizen should join us. The federal government is both guilty of acts which are intolerable to informed and responsible citizens, and those acts cannot be stopped through the peaceful political process. We ask you to find us Not Guilty even though we did bomb the federal building."

Instead, once they had gained the attention of their fellow citizens at the cost of hundreds of lives including children's, they pretended they hadn't committed the bombing. By refusing to defend the morality of their crime they betrayed their own cause, and I think they qualify as nothing more than criminals.

The poverty-stricken rich

It seems that Scandinavians think they are rich, but are kidding themslelves. Europeans aren't so well off either.
the study found, if the E.U. was treated as a single American state, it would rank fifth from the bottom, topping only Arkansas, Montana, West Virginia and Mississippi....

In late March, another study, this one from KPMG, the international accounting and consulting firm...indicated that when disposable income was adjusted for cost of living, Scandinavians were the poorest people in Western Europe. Danes had the lowest adjusted income, Norwegians the second lowest, Swedes the third. Spain and Portugal, with two of Europe's least regulated economies, led the list.
Wasn't it just a couple summers ago that thousands of elderly French died in a heat wave because they considered fans an unaffordable luxury? (Forget about air conditioning- that's for...well...Americans.)

Thanks to Arts & Letters Daily

Monday, April 18, 2005

Cassini's art

An Anglosphere Primer by Bill Bennett

I am not going to try excerpting anything from this. Shall just say that if he can be taken at his word, he seems to have little fondness for nationalism, racism, or ethnocentrism. Many of his critics do throw such charges at him. He is, however, quite certain about the values of certain cultural traits and how they have contributed to human betterment.

This is fairly long, so be warned.

Apollo 13 and how NASA got it home

"Apollo 13, We Have a Solution" by Stephen Cass is worth a read if you are interested in fixing stuff you didn't expect to break- or at least how to make do when you can't fix it. Think: Boy Scouts in Space: prepare, prepare, prepare. Boy Scouts still do that, don't they? Click here: Web Only News Fair Warning: it is long.

Here's an un-PC understanding of Harmony with...

...Nature. One I agree with tho. Don Boudreaux in Cafe Hayek:
let’s stop mistaking ignorance and poverty with harmony. It’s an utter myth – we might say an urban myth – that primitive peoples lived with nature harmoniously. Nature devastated them. Nature battered them into early graves. Their ignorance of nature prevented them from achieving much material wealth. To dance to imaginary rain gods or to chant and pray for a child dying of bacterial infection is not to live harmoniously with nature; it is to live most inharmoniously. ...It is science – rational thought, skepticism, critical inquiry – that furthers greater harmony with nature.
It didn't take long for the Maori to hunt the giant moa to extinction, either.

Here's the whole thing.

On knowing some history

Historian David McCullough on the joy and usefulness of knowing some history:
Keep in mind that when we were founded by those people in the late 18th century, none of them had had any prior experience in either revolutions or nation-making. They were, as we would say, winging it. And they were idealistic and they were young. We see their faces in the old paintings done later in their lives or looking at us from the money in our wallets, and we see the awkward teeth and the powdered hair, and we think of them as elder statesmen. But George Washington, when he took command of the continental army at Cambridge in 1775, was 43 years old, and he was the oldest of them. Jefferson was 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. John Adams was 40. Benjamin Rush – one of the most interesting of them all and one of the founders of the antislavery movement in Philadelphia – was 30 years old when he signed the Declaration. They were young people. They were feeling their way, improvising, trying to do what would work....

History isn’t just something that ought to be taught or ought to be read or ought to be encouraged because it’s going to make us a better citizen. It will make us a better citizen; or because it will make us a more thoughtful and understanding human being, which it will; or because it will cause us to behave better, which it will. It should be taught for pleasure: The pleasure of history, like art or music or literature, consists of an expansion of the experience of being alive, which is what education is largely about...

There’s a line in one of the letters written by John Adams where he’s telling his wife Abigail at home, “We can’t guarantee success in this war, but we can do something better. We can deserve it.”

...That line in the Adams letter is saying that how the war turns out is in the hands of God. We can’t control that, but we can control how we behave. We can deserve success...And then about three weeks later I was reading some correspondence written by George Washington and there was the same line. I thought, wait a minute, what’s going on? And I thought, they’re quoting something. So, as we all often do, I got down good old Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, and I started going through the entries from the 18th century and bingo, there it was. It’s a line from the play Cato. They were quoting something that was in the language of the time. They were quoting scripture of a kind, a kind of secular creed if you will. And you can’t understand why they behaved as they did if you don’t understand that. You can’t understand why honor was so important to them and why they were truly ready to put their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor on the line. Those weren’t just words.
Here's the link to the whole thing.

Thanks to Power Line for the tip.

I've gotten a bunch of hits this morning...

on the NPR fundraising innovation post . I wonder what is up.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Welfare Queens demand continued handouts.

And I guarantee you that these welfare queens really do drive Cadillacs, and not old ones, either. Unless they are driving Mercedes and BMWs.

This is from last Thursday but the story is as timeless as welfare for the undeserving rich. Paul Blustein has the story in the Washington Post:
The Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, drew objections from members of the Senate Finance Committee at the first hearing on the accord. The pact, which would largely eliminate barriers to trade between the United States and five Central American nations and the Dominican Republic, is one of President Bush's top legislative priorities this year and is shaping up as a crucial test of the United States' willingness to strike new trade agreements.

The criticism came not only from Democrats, who have grown increasingly hostile toward free trade in recent years, but from Republicans, especially those worried about the agreement's impact on U.S. sugar producers...

The industry has been protected for decades by quotas that limit sugar imports and keep U.S. sugar prices at more than twice world levels. It enjoys significant clout partly because large cane-growing companies in the South shower campaign contributions on politicians of both parties
I wonder how much Hawaiian mortgage lenders shower on them as well: imagine the effect on the price of residential land there if hundreds of thousands of acres of sugar cane land went resoundingly bankrupt because American were allowed to pay the world market price instead of double that.

People in Hawaii could afford to own homes, homes much more closely comparable than now to Mainland houses at any given price range if sugar land was available for housing. As it is, the Welfare Queens who own the land may well prefer to sell a lot, but as long as subsidies keep it more or less profitable the politicians will have little reason to stand up to the other ppl who demand that the land be kept in beautiful agricultural splendor: Damn the ppl who can't afford houses, and to hell with all of the professors who the colleges can't afford to hire because the profs can't afford housing out there. The students are the ones who will suffer, and with them the state for decades to come.

Profitable sugar is screwing Hawaii's future: stupid housing costs are no benefit to anyone except those who own residential land and those mortgage lenders who have a lot of money tied up in artificially expensive real estate.

In the long run, one of the best things which could happen to the state is for Bush to succeed in eliminating sugar subsidies: The price of standard housing would fall dramatically, colleges could afford better professors from more diverse backgrounds, and children raised there could reasonably hope to afford to own their own homes after they are employed adults.

About KLM flight 685 from Amsterdam to Mexico which...

...was turned back before entering US airspace. What a pain for the passengers, and I wonder who gets the privilege of paying for it all. In any case, if you are interested in why it was turned back, this is easily the best coverage I've seen of it. As the writers, Mark Hosenball and Michael Hirsh say, it does show just how hard it is "to tell the good guys from the bad."