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Friday, July 01, 2005

Greetings and Salutations

Hi everyone. I'm Ryne, and I'll be filling in for Abe while he's out traveling the globe. Abe was kind enough to fill in for me while I was away on business in June, and now I'm returning the favor.

A little bit about me:
  • Like Abe, I live in Nebraska. (Out in the Panhandle, if you will).
  • I've been running my own blog for just over three years now (yay me).
  • And also like Abe, I'm a small-l libertarian Republican. A "South Park Conservative," I guess you could say.
See you soon.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

My Exit Strategy

Tomorrow, I'm off for a vacation, and so I feel I need to clearly lay out my exit strategy to the regular readers of Don't Let Me Stop You. This urge is largely inspired by the Democrats (motto: "When the going gets tough, our strategy is to head for the exits"). They have really driven home the point that it's not whether you win or lose but how quickly you can make your exit.

While I'm out, Ryne McClaren and Steve Donohue have promised to post here occasionally. The elusive, but brilliant, Voice of Modulation may even return with some more sound commentary.

But before we "tapper la route," as the French don't say, let's take a short look at the pervasive influence of the exit strategy in history and popular culture:
  • Who can forget those classic words from Paul Simon (the singer, not the ears), "There must be 50 exit strategies for your lover?"
  • Chappaquiddick: Ted had a good exit strategy. Mary Jo--not so good.
  • Jack Kennedy: "We will pay any price, bear any burden, to implement our exit strategy."
  • FDR: "We have nothing to fear but the lack of an exit strategy."
  • Patrick Henry: "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me an exit strategy."
  • Otto von Bismarck: "The people should never see how their laws or their exit strategies are made."
  • Ronald Reagan famously said, "Mr. Gorbachev, build an exit in that wall." Of course, it was ultimately Reagan's Strategic Exit Initiative, dubbed "StarDoors" by its detractors, that won the Cold War.
  • The XYZ Affair: "Millions for our exit strategy, but not a penny for tribute."
  • John Wooden: "An exit strategy doesn't build character; it reveals it."
  • Gen. McAuliffe at the Battle of the Bulge: "Nuts! I have an exit strategy!"
  • Winston Churchill: "However beautiful the exit strategy, you should occasionally look at the results."
  • Calvin Coolidge: "After all, the chief business of the American people is our exit strategy."
  • Abraham Lincoln: "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth about exit strategies and remove all doubt. "
What's all this then?

NRO, Hagel and MoveOn

No, it wasn't a landshark attack. Chuck Hagel chewed off his own foot. Eric Pfeiffer on MoveOn & Chuck Hagel on National Review Online:
"So, who is at fault? On one hand, MoveOn has created another offensive advertisement that insults U.S. soldiers fighting the insurgency and assisting in Iraq's reconstruction. It's another slap in the face from a group that got its start defending former President Clinton's infidelity and who called for 'restraint' after the attacks of 9/11.

On the other hand, MoveOn does not put words in Hagel's mouth. The words they cite are in fact his. Hagel's rhetoric has been so strong, that even his self-described 'good friend' John McCain was critical when asked to respond to Hagel's comments while appearing on CNN's Larry King Live. McCain told guest host Bob Costas: 'I completely disagree. There are signs of progress. Yes, it's tough, and it's hard, and we've made mistakes and we paid a heavy price for those mistakes. Unfortunately, in wars, serious mistakes are made -- And there is a legitimacy to the Iraqi government that, frankly, the government of South Vietnam never had.'"
We're no great fan of McCain, but Sen. Hagel manages to make him look pretty good here.

Regulation of Blogspeech

The Federal Election Commision is still considering how the "free speech" rights of bloggers should be regulated under the McCain-thank-you-John-Feingold controls on political speech.
CNET "Mike Krempasky, a conservative activist and contributor to the blog, said he hopes the FEC will 'ensure that no blogger, no amateur activist and no self-published pundit ever need consult with legal counsel.' The FEC's 47-page proposed rules, which are not final, cover everything from candidate endorsements to fund-raising, bulk e-mail and paid advertisements.
Just 47 pages (and counting), what a relief! We were afraid it might be onerous, but the DLMSY legal department can take care of that in short order.
Online politicking should not be subject to onerous federal rules, Democratic FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said. 'We're all agreed about that.' But, Weintraub added, 'What is the best way for us to regulate bloggers?'
Call us crazy, but we think that the first amendment was actually meant to protect political speech as much as say flag-burning, topless dancing, and pornography. We'd even go so far as to suggest that the Founding Fathers might have considered protecting political speech a tad more important to a vibrant republic than those other forms of "speech." Consequently, we believe the "best way" to "regulate bloggers" is to prohibit the government from doing so.

Some possible endruns around the regulation of bloggers are being considered:
"Say bloggers are journalists:'s Krempasky and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, editor of the liberal site, argued that bloggers should be viewed as media organizations that have long been exempt from campaign finance laws.

'The commission identifies, the Drudge Report and as entities presumably deserving of the exemption,' Krempasky said. 'But if the commission grants credentials to these three, how can (it) deny the same privilege to, Joshua Marshall's or Kevin Aylward's Wizbang blog?'"
And what about poor Wonkette? What is she, chopped liver? She's as Old Media as any of these others. But we digress...
"Carol Darr of the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet warned that the so-called media exception would be abused. If the FEC veered in that direction, Darr said, you'd see 'the campaign finance laws that we've operated under for 50 years just crumble.'"
She says that like it would be a bad thing. Heaven forbid Americans could once again freely put their money where their political views are.

Consider the actual language of the First Amendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Note that "freedom of speech" is mentioned before "the press," indicating that individuals were no afterthought in the quest to protect press freedom. Freedom of the press belongs to those that own one. At the time "the press" was known to include not only major newspapers but small, fly-by-night "pamphleteers," as well (e.g. Tom Paine). The people own freedom of the press, and the digital revolution has given it back to us. The plain fact is bloggers are the pamphleteers of today.

Back to the CNET article:
"Set a dollar limit: Permit online political endorsements and a blog set up solely to aid a federal candidate--as long as the spending on hosting fees, computers and so on stays below a certain figure.

But what should that limit be? John Morris of the Center for Democracy & Technology suggested $500. FEC Chairman Scott Thomas, a Democrat, said $1,000 was 'a little low' and 'if Congress would help us on that, it would alleviate some of the concerns.'"
If this approach is adopted, we would say that even $5,000 is still too low. It will probably cost that much just for the legal expenses of compliance. In any case, since the government is not able to maintain the value of money over time, any dollar figure written into law should be indexed for inflation.

This is an interesting approach:
Say the Internet is radio: Radio and TV stations generally are immune from campaign finance laws unless their 'facilities' are controlled by a political party or candidate.

One option, suggested by Republican Commissioner Michael Toner, would be to extend the same logic to say the 'facilities' of Web servers should immunize political speech online.
This whole exercise is unworthy of the government of a free people. It's the kind of thing that is rightly condemned in closed societies, albeit at a lower level for the present. When was the last time government regulation didn't cause more problems that "required" more regulation?
Do nothing: The most incendiary approach, this would involve waiting until some unresolved legal disputes are answered or perhaps even ignoring the court order. 'If the commission decides to regulate online political speech, it should only do so if a majority of commissioners conclude so independently, apart from the (court) decision, that the McCain-Feingold law requires the FEC to regulate the Internet,' Toner said."
And did we remember to thank John McCain for this? We'll remember if we ever see his name on a ballot.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Hagel's Troubles

Lie down with dogs: "'Things (in Iraq) aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality,' he said. 'It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is, we're losing in Iraq.'"

Wake up with fleas: "Sen. Chuck Hagel objected Tuesday to use of statements he has made about the Iraqi war in a ad campaign calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops."

What I'm Proudest of Is my Humility

Asking if our political leaders today are arrogant and out of touch with the people they "serve" is a bit like asking if the proverbial bear relieves himself in the woods. Peggy Noonan finds some concrete examples of political narcisism:
"This week comes the previously careful Sen. Barack Obama, flapping his wings in Time magazine and explaining that he's a lot like Abraham Lincoln, only sort of better. 'In Lincoln's rise from poverty, his ultimate mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat--in all this he reminded me not just of my own struggles.'

Oh. So that's what Lincoln's for. Actually Lincoln's life is a lot like Mr. Obama's. Lincoln came from a lean-to in the backwoods. His mother died when he was 9. The Lincolns had no money, no standing. Lincoln educated himself, reading law on his own, working as a field hand, a store clerk and a raft hand on the Mississippi. He also split some rails. He entered politics, knew more defeat than victory, and went on to lead the nation through its greatest trauma, the Civil War, and past its greatest sin, slavery.

Barack Obama, the son of two University of Hawaii students, went to Columbia and Harvard Law after attending a private academy that taught the children of the Hawaiian royal family. He made his name in politics as an aggressive Chicago vote hustler in Bill Clinton's first campaign for the presidency.

You see the similarities."
She doesn't stop with Obama, and it's good stuff so read the rest.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Why Kelo Is So Hard to Swallow

If you read any of our previous posts on the Kelo v. New London case, you've probably noticed we feel strongly about it. Truth be told, this one really sticks in our craw in a way the other recent decisions haven't, even though we disagree with some of those, too. So why is that?

From the facts of the case, we were hoping for a unanimous decision slapping down this egregious abuse of private property rights. In fact we thought it was virtually a "slam dunk" that Kelo would win easily. Conservatives should reject New London's overreaching based on the plain language of the Bill of Rights. Liberals should too, for that matter, but there's plenty of precedent for them to ignore the plain language of the Constitution when it suits them. We just didn't expect it to suit them in this case. Justice O'Connor laid out the reasons well: unchecked eminent domain obviously is terrible for the "little guys."

Before this, at least the property owner could hold out for a good price from the developer and the developer had to negotiate. Now everyone will know the owner has no leverage. If the developer doesn't get his offer accepted, he can just use the power of the government to force the deal down the throat of the property owner. Aren't liberals supposed to be all about protecting "the little guys" from "the rich?" At least that's the legend in their own minds.

Try as we might, we just can't understand how anyone can favor this outcome unless he/she is:
  1. A developer with political pull (redundant?)
  2. A politician looking to pull in some extra campaign contributions (definitely redundant)
  3. A communist (few Americans will rally to that banner)
So the conservative justices followed the script, the "moderates" were predictably unpredictable, and the liberals decided it was more important to further empower government than to restrain it. The result is a decision that makes you think you are permanently downwind from a feedlot. The liberal position seems so utterly incoherent (even for liberalism). In the distant past, liberals used to know that one of the main things "the little guy" needs protection from is government. Not any more. Now "the little guy" needs strong government to keep him dependent protect him from himself. Oh, Brave New Deal!

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Now why does the Blogger spellchecker want to replace "Technorati" with "degenerate?"

Eminent Domain for the Rest of Us

Ryne also called this little gem to our attention. Logan Clements of Freestar Media, LLC : has a great idea for a development project in Weare, NH. He writes to the local authorities:
"Dear Mr. Meany,

I am proposing to build a hotel at 34 Cilley Hill Road in the Town of Weare. I would like to know the process your town has for allowing such a development.

Although this property is owned by an individual, David H. Souter, a recent Supreme Court decision, 'Kelo vs. City of New London' clears the way for this land to be taken by the Government of Weare through eminent domain and given to my LLC for the purposes of building a hotel. The justification for such an eminent domain action is that our hotel will better serve the public interest as it will bring in economic development and higher tax revenue to Weare.

As I understand it your town has five people serving on the Board of Selectmen. Therefore, since it will require only three people to vote in favor of the use of eminent domain I am quite confident that this hotel development is a viable project. I am currently seeking investors and hotel plans from an architect. Please let me know the proper steps to follow to proceed in accordance with the law in your town."
We love it! Here's more from the press release:
Freestar Media, LLC : "The proposed development, called 'The Lost Liberty Hotel' will feature the 'Just Desserts Cafe' and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel 'Atlas Shrugged.'
Perfect. Actually, if the museum is open to the public, we can even call that a "public use," not that Justice Souter thinks that's necessary. Alternatively, we can claim Souter's actions have "blighted" the property:
Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.

'This is not a prank' said Clements, 'The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development.'

Clements' plan is to raise investment capital from wealthy pro-liberty investors and draw up architectural plans. These plans would then be used to raise investment capital for the project. Clements hopes that regular customers of the hotel might include supporters of the Institute For Justice and participants in the Free State Project among others."
One might think there's no chance at all of this coming about, but this is New Hampshire so who knows. Perhaps Clements will be able to get three votes on the board for the project. At any rate, we can dream. Now where do Ginsburg, Kennedy, Stevens and Breyer live...

These guys are doing some great videos on liberty and rights issues, too.

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Court Allows 10 Commandments on Seized Land

More great satire from ScrappleFace with a H/T to Ryne:
"Court Allows 10 Commandments on Seized Land
by Scott Ott
(2005-06-27) -- In a pair of rulings on the constitutionality of the 10 Commandments on government property, the Supreme Court today said the commandments may be displayed on public land if that property has been seized from private owners for 'public purposes' under eminent domain.

The 5-4 decision comes on the heels of last week's court declaration that so-called 'private' property is actually government land temporarily under private management until its eventual seizure. [...]"

Monday, June 27, 2005

Nebraska Means Strange Politics

On the plus side Democratic Senator Ben Nelson, after a visit to Gitmo, resists the call of the barking moonbats:
Lincoln Journal Star: "Nelson, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he sees no reason to launch an independent investigation of conditions at Guantanamo."
On the other hand, evidence continues to build that Senator Chuck Hagel has jumped the shark:
Lincoln Journal Star: "'Things (in Iraq) aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality,' he said. 'It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is, we're losing in Iraq.'"
He must know that the Vietnam War was lost in the field of US public opinion. Now with the stakes enormously higher he wants to "lead" us down that same path. These are not the words of a future president. Perhaps a Democrat can get nominated talking like that, but we don't see Republicans making that mistake.

The terrorists have no chance to win on the battlefield. They have the support of a small minority of a minority, the Sunnis, that increasingly realizes it erred by dropping out of the political process. In August the new government will complete the new Iraqi constitution. Six months from now there will be another election under the new constitution. The Iraqi National Guard and Police get stronger every day. Time is running out for the bad guys. The only chance the terrorists have is to convince the US to run away before the job is finished. The MSM groupthink holds that's a good idea. We expect more from Sen. Hagel.

Politicizing Mathematics

We thought it couldn't be done, but there's now Politically Correct Math being taught in schools. Diane Ravitch at OpinionJournal writes:
"Partisans of social-justice mathematics advocate an explicitly political agenda in the classroom. A new textbook, 'Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers,' shows how problem solving, ethnomathematics and political action can be merged. Among its topics are: 'Sweatshop Accounting,' with units on poverty, globalization and the unequal distribution of wealth. Another topic, drawn directly from ethnomathematics, is 'Chicanos Have Math in Their Blood.' Others include 'The Transnational Capital Auction,' 'Multicultural Math,' and 'Home Buying While Brown or Black.' Units of study include racial profiling, the war in Iraq, corporate control of the media and environmental racism. The theory behind the book is that 'teaching math in a neutral manner is not possible.' Teachers are supposed to vary the teaching of mathematics in relation to their students' race, sex, ethnicity and community."
Environmental racism?? This is mathematical racism, pure and simple. The message is, "Blacks and Hispanics can't learn math the 'normal' way." Dumbing down was bad enough, but if leftist politics comes to pervade math, what chance do the students have to learn what they need to get jobs in today's world? In a word: none.

Boortz, Kelo and the Dogs that Aren't Barking

There's been a lot of fallout around the nation from the anti-American decision spewed out by the US Supreme Court in the Kelo v. New London case. People all over the country are outraged by a decision so... well, outrageous. The court has now said the government can take anyone's house away and give it to someone else, provided politicians think this will raise more tax money.

All around the country people are angry, and politicians are reacting. Well, almost everywhere, as Neal Boortz points out:
"State and local officials? They recognize the public outrage over this decision. They see the outrage, and they're reacting. But what about Washington? Where's the outrage from inside the Beltway? Well ... it just doesn't seem to be there. I can't read every word in every newspaper, nor can I check every congressman and senator's website to look for press releases ... but what searching I did do turned up absolutely no congressional outrage over this hideous, anti-American Supreme Court decision.

So .. why are local government officials reacting, and we're hearing next-to-nothing from the Washington crowd� One reason .. and one reason only. The state and local politicians feel you, the voters, breathing down their neck. The feel the anger, and they know that their political survival may well depend on what they do at the state and local level to reinstate the private property rights that have been decimated by the Supreme Court. Not so in Washington. Every one of those 435 members of the House of Representatives knows that year after year the voters return 95% of them to the perks and power of Washington. They want to ignore this Supreme Court decision. They want to ignore it because they like it, as do their local counterparts. But unlike their local counterparts, DC politicians feel that there will be no price to pay for their silence. They have the voters under control ... or so they think.

Let's think for a moment about why politicians like this Supreme Court ruling so much. It won't take long for you to figure it out. They like it because it weakens the individual and empowers government. Simple as that."
Neal, like us, is still seething about this, days later. Read the rest.

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Time Magazine, Gitmo, and Detainee 063

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last few weeks, you've already heard about the story in Time magazine about "torture" at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The June 20, 2005 issue cover story describes the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, "Detainee 063," who is believed to be the 20th hijacker in the 9/11 murders.

We have now read the full article, thanks to our local library, and we have a question: Where's the torture? We couldn't find a single instance of torture in what the interrogators are alleged to have done to al-Qahtani. None. Nada. If the definition of "torture" is so broad to include the techniques described by Time and those practiced by Saddam's regime on a daily basis for years, the word has lost its meaning.

Among the tortures that did not occur at Gitmo: beatings; burning with cigarettes or pokers; cutting off fingers, toes, hands, feet, arms, head, etc.; poking out eyes; iron maidens; starvation (except self-induced); ... pretty much any other torture you can think of.

What did occur is clearly coercive interrogation, often including things that could not be done with ordinary criminal suspects in the US. However, according to Time, the normal interrogation techniques used by the FBI for criminal investigations were completely ineffective.

Humiliation and psychological pressures were key elements in the interrogation of al-Qahtani. While these are certainly not pleasant, they don't come close to being "torture." We'd like to see how long we could hold out against "Invasion of Space by a Female," though. He was exposed to Christina Aguilera music, but not the dreaded Linda Ronstadt song. At one point Rumsfeld specifically authorized some "harsher" measures including "poking in the chest with a finger" (no kidding), but not the "water-boarding" used to train US pilots.

Throughout the interrogation period al-Qahtani's medical condition was regularly monitored. When his health appeared to be threatened due to his refusal of food and water, interrogation was halted.

There is no reasonable doubt that al-Qahtani is al-Qaeda. He was almost certainly supposed to be the 20th hijacker, but he was turned away when he tried to enter the US in Aug., 2001. Extracting intelligence from people like this is critical, and it could save thousands of American lives. We are not going to get this information just by asking nicely. Standard criminal/military interrogation techniques are all but useless against this kind of opponent.

The Geneva Convention arguments are without merit. They don't apply to prisoners without country or uniform who deliberately attack civilians. In fact in al-Qahtani's case, as a Saudi, his fate under international law is entirely a matter between the US and Saudi Arabia. Time says in conclusion:
President Bush has said the U.S. would apply principals [sic] consistent with the Geneva Conventions to 'unlawful combatants,' subject to military necessity, at Guantanamo and elsewhere. [...] But the Geneva Conventions forbid any 'outrage on personal dignity.' [...] Then again, in the war on terrorism, the personal dignity of a fanatic trained for mass murder may be an inevitable casualty."
Amen to that last sentence. We'd even say it should be the first casualty.
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