David Kirkpatrick

August 7, 2010

An argument against online privacy regulation

I ran a muli-part post covering some of the more chilling aspects of online privacy last weekend, largely quoting the excellent Wall Street Journal series on the subject. This weekend here’s the best, and really most difficult, solution to the issue. I’m never for un- or even quasi- necessary regulation, so keeping the government out of online privacy oversight should remain the goal of anyone interested in the future of online freedom.

The key point from the second link (emphasis mine):

If a central authority such as Congress or the FTC were to decide for consumers how to deal with cookies, it would generalize wrongly about many, if not most, individuals’ interests, giving them the wrong mix of privacy and interactivity. If the FTC ruled that third-party cookies required consumers to opt in, for example, most would not, and the wealth of “free” content and services most people take for granted would quietly fade from view. And it would leave consumers unprotected from threats beyond their jurisdiction (as in Web tracking by sites outside the United States). Education is the hard way, and it is the only way, to get consumers’ privacy interests balanced with their other interests.

July 9, 2010

Hayek v. Keynes

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:26 pm

From today’s Cato dispatch and hot from the inbox:

The Great Debate Is Still Hayek vs. Keynes What is most likely to pull the economy out of the Great Recession: Keynesian reliance on government spending or Hayek’s solution of a reinvigorated private sector and global trading system? The debate today mirrors the one that occurred during the Great Depression, as Cato Senior Fellow Gerald P. O’Driscoll Jr. writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Is all spending equally productive, or should government policies aim to stimulate private investment? If the latter, then Mr. Obama is following in FDR’s footsteps and impeding recovery. He does so by demonizing business and creating regime uncertainty through new regulations and costly programs. In this he follows neither Hayek nor Keynes, since creating a lack of confidence is considered destructive by both.

May 28, 2010

The right v. the ACLU

Conor Friedersdorf has a great post at True/Slant on one example of how the right (wrongly) vilifies the ACLU. That’s one thing I’ve always found very, very strange. The ACLU and the Cato Institute walk in virtual lockstep on practically every civil liberties issue. Since civil liberties are the sole focus of the ACLU and Cato is a decidedly right-leaning (actually libertarian) think tank, it seems a bit strange to try and label the ACLU as so anti-right wing. Personally I’m a pretty big fan of both organizations (you can find evidence of that in my blogroll).

From the link:

It’s almost as if the conservative media complex is systematically misleading its audience about the nature of the ACLU, so much so that right-of-center commentators across the Internet spontaneously mocked the organization for failing to intervene on the right side of this case, despite it being precisely the kind of case where the ACLU reliably does exactly what the critics themselves would want.

Perhaps the confusion comes from listening to talk radio hosts and reading blogs that cast all of American politics as a grand struggle between the left and the right, liberals and conservatives, tyranny and liberty. The rank and file, rightly judging that the ACLU operates on the left, automatically concludes that they are the enemy in any case worth caring about.

Awhile back, Jonah Goldberg doubted whether or not there were actually compelling examples of epistemic closure on the right. Well, there you go: an information loop so faulty in explaining the ACLU to its audience that even a blog called Stop the ACLU doesn’t understand what’s going on.

(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

February 11, 2010

Big Brother …

… may well be a little electronic device in your pocket. It shouldn’t be shocking, but I never cease to be amazed at the unconstitutional power grabs the Federal government continues to attempt and take in terms of civil liberties and personal privacy. New technology is wonderful, but it is very important to track, and reign in, the long, sneaky arm of the Fed.

From the link:

If you own a cell phone, you should care about the outcome of a case scheduled to be argued in federal appeals court in Philadelphia tomorrow. It could well decide whether the government can use your cell phone to track you — even if it hasn’t shown probable cause to believe it will turn up evidence of a crime.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology will ask the court to require that the government at least show probable cause before it can track your whereabouts.

And:

There’s no question that cell phones and cell-phone records can be useful for police officers who need to track the movements of those they believe to be breaking the law. And it is important for law enforcement agents to have the tools they need to stop crimes. However, it is just as important to make sure such tools are used responsibly, in a manner that safeguards our personal privacy.

But documents obtained by the ACLU and the EFF as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show that the government takes advantage of this technology to track cell phones as extensively as possible — often without first obtaining warrants — except in states where courts step in to establish boundaries.

And here is the absolutely ridiculous government argument for retaining this right to breach your privacy:

The government has argued that “one who does not wish to disclose his movements to the government need not use a cellular telephone.” This is a startling and dismaying statement coming from the United States. The government is supposed to care about people’s privacy. It should not be forcing the nation’s 277 million cell-phone subscribers to choose between risking being tracked and going without an essential communications tool.

What’s at stake in the case is not whether it’s OK for the government to track the locations of cell phones; we agree that cell-phone tracking is lawful and appropriate in certain situations. The question is whether the government should first have to show that it has good reason to think such tracking will turn up evidence of a crime.

Update 2/13/10 — the above link and quotes are from the ACLU. Here’s the Cato Institute’s take on this issue. As with many, many public policy issues, Cato and the ACLU are in total agreement here.

February 5, 2010

Is the Tea Party movement heading toward third party status?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:06 pm

Cato’s John Samples thinks so. To me the Tea Party movement feels much more nativist/conservative than it does libertarian. For some reason, for years now people seem to love to call themselves libertarian. Several years ago a friend of mine who is a pretty doctrinaire liberal — he once said at a gathering he felt he didn’t pay enough taxes (!!?!!) — considered himself a libertarian. So I think there’s a lot of confusion out there on just what makes one a libertarian. Particularly when separating Republicans from libertarians.

From everything I’ve read, the Tea Partiers talk a pretty good fiscal conservative line, but a great number also talk a very strong social conservative line as well. If that doesn’t define your basic small-tent GOPer, nothing does. And setting the Tea Party rhetoric aside there is quite the disconnect between what the movement purports to believe in, and what it seems to actually support.

The easiest example is government spending on health care: Tea Partiers are vehemently against health care reform, or what has been framed as “Obamacare,” but at the same time want Medicare — quite the “socialist” medical care program by Tea Party definition — left alone. Either you are against government involvement with health care or not. The existing hypocrisy sounds more like Baby Boomer-aged Tea Partiers who are just fine with government subsidized health care as long as they are the recipients of all that government largess.

Needless to say, Samples sees a purity in the Tea Party movement that just isn’t there.

Here’s Samples’ take from the link way up there in the first graf:

It is not Republican; it is not even conservative. It has no interest in debating the merits of No Child Left Behind, abstinence-only sex education or George W. Bush’s rationale for going to Iraq. Replacing a “spend and borrow” Democrat with a “spend and borrow” Republican is not the goal of the Tea Party movement.

This movement is simply saying: “We are fine without you, Washington. Now for the love of God, go attend a reception somewhere, and stop making health care and entrepreneurship more expensive than they already are.”

Machiavelli once said a republic stays healthy by returning to its first principles from time to time. The Tea Party movement is trying to get our nation back to its first principles to prevent our decline. For their trouble, they have been denounced by many in the media and the Obama administration.

But they will continue to fight. They still believe in the promise of America. That faith may spread as Election Day approaches in the second and perhaps final year of what is supposed to be the Age of Obama.

What began as angry town meetings and grew into a political movement may end as a third political party in 2012. Maybe then Washington will finally listen.

January 24, 2010

Libertarians in the electorate

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:40 pm

Interesting study from the Cato Institute ( by David Boaz and David Kirby) to find out just how many libertarian voters are out there in the wild pulling levers on election days.

Looking at the loosest possible definition — fiscal conservative/social liberal but won’t self-identify as libertarian — the number is a huge 59 percent. Add the self-definition to the equation and that drops to 44 percent.

The Cato’s stringent definition of libertarian — “correct” answers on three political values questions — still found 14 percent of voters are libertarian. A fairly healthy figure. For the record I consider myself in the second group of the second graf. Didn’t take the Kirby-Boaz survey to see if I fit a higher level of purity. I typically self describe as a “little l” libertarian.

And the ostensibly libertarian Tea Party movement? From everything I’ve read the movement has a lot of libertarian rhetoric, coupled with a lot of anarchic actions. Honest libertarianism isn’t against government. It’s just against needlessly intrusive, large and bad government.

From the first link:

In our new study, David Kirby and I round up various estimates on the number of libertarian-leaning voters. Our own calculation, 14 percent, is actually the lowest estimate.

We use three questions on political values from the generally acknowledged gold standard of public opinion data, the surveys of the American National Election Studies, and find that 14 percent of respondents gave libertarian answers to all three questions. But other researchers have used somewhat looser criteria and found larger numbers of libertarians:

The chart:

We summed all that up in this handy but not necessarily helpful graph

January 22, 2010

Friday video — lessons on Brown’s victory from Cato

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:15 pm

Here’s a quick (a little over three minutes) recap on what Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts means in terms of the current political climate.

From the inbox, an introduction for the clip:

Our video team just produced a short video about the Brown campaign that discusses the real meaning of Tuesday’s election. Cato scholars John Samples and David Boaz contend that Tuesday’s election sent a message to Democrats that they have clearly overreached, but Republicans need to be careful and realize that they’re still not very popular either.

January 14, 2010

Transportation Security Administration — protecting with perverts

Filed under: et.al., Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:40 pm

Or so it seems from a recent TSA job posting with this tagline –

‘A Career Where X-Ray Vision And Federal Benefits Come Standard’

From the link:

That’s the slogan the Transportation Security Administration is apparently using to entice people to apply for jobs as airport screeners. Now that they’re preparing to expand the use of whole body imaging scanners, which can produce moderately detailed nude images of travelers, maybe they should consider a tagline that doesn’t sound like it’s designed to recruit voyeurs.

Hit the link for a screenshot of the actual ad. And just to be clear, I’m using the word “protecting” very, very loosely in the header.

December 31, 2009

Predictions for 2010 from Cato’s David Boaz

Filed under: Business, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:17 pm

Do go read the entire (reasonably short) post, but here’s Boaz’s very sensible conclusion:

All of which is to explain why you’re not going to find any predictions for 2010 in this post.

October 23, 2009

Cato v. Heritage

On the topic of the Patriot Act two right leaning think tanks pair off. This she says/he says is a nice, succinct illustration of one key difference between the right-wing hawkishness/pro-military industrial complex and libertarian schools of thought.

In a nutshell, the Heritage Foundation is all for the Patriot Act and its civil liberties trampling totality. The Cato Institute is for protecting the hard-won freedoms of American citizens while continuing to work at keeping the U.S. safe from terrorism.

The point further boils down to: do you trust handing the government total control over your civil liberties and right to privacy, or not. Personally I’m 100 percent behind the Cato approach, and honestly the Heritage position strikes me as profoundly un-American. The founding fathers would certainly not recognize the Heritage stance as having anything to do with their noble ideals.

October 20, 2009

Rhetoric v. reality in the Obama White House

Cato and Reason‘s Julian Sanchez has a great piece on the disconnect between what the Obama administration does, and what it says, in restoring balance to D.C. and ridding our government of some of the Bush administration’s overreach and blatant disregard for civil liberties and personal freedom.

To be fair Obama has been in office a total of nine months with a very full plate, and his administration may well be taking a long view in meeting some of these policy goals. If so, that’s great. In the meantime his feet should be kept to the fire on these issues that led many independent voters to pull the lever for him last year.

From the link:

We know the rules by now, the strange conventions and stilted Kabuki scripts that govern our cartoon facsimile of a national security debate. The Obama administration makes vague, reassuring noises about constraining executive power and protecting civil liberties, but then merrily adopts whatever appalling policy George W. Bush put in place. Conservatives hit the panic button on the right-wing noise machine anyway, keeping the delicate ecosystem in balance by creating the false impression that something has changed. We’ve watched the formula play out with Guantánamo Bay, torture prosecutions and the invocation of “state secrets.” We appear to be on the verge of doing the same with national security surveillance.

Update — Here’s another post on this article.

October 16, 2009

Alvarez v. Smith

Why is this Supreme Court case important?

I’ll let Cato’s Ilya Somin provide the details:

Today, the Supreme Court hears Alvarez v. Smith, an important case that will affect the constitutional property rights of many people around the country but has failed to attract the attention as it deserves.

In Alvarez, the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was unconstitutional for Chicago police to seize cars and other property and hold it for many months at a time a without giving the owners any chance challenge the seizure. The Illinois Drug Asset Forfeiture Procedure Act (DAFPA) allows the police to seize property that may have been involved in a drug-related crime and hold onto it for up to 187 days without any kind of legal hearing. This rule applies even to property owned by completely innocent persons who simply had their possessions caught up in a drug investigation through no fault of their own – for example, if someone else used their car to transport illegal drugs without their knowledge. The three car owners involved in Alvarez were never even charged with a crime, much less convicted. Under DAFPA, the authorities also don’t have to prove that keeping innocent owners’ property is necessary in order to prevent the loss of valuable evidence.

October 14, 2009

Congress and war power

A very sane proposal from the Cato Institute on returning the power to make war back to Congress and bringing back some semblance of the separation of power. The executive branch has co-opted war power, and the results have been not so stellar. The framers of the Constitution created the separation of power for a good reason and the recent power grab by the executive branch really exposes the sound reasoning behind that concept.

One of the reasons I voted for Obama is I thought he offered the best opportunity to get U.S. government back in balance after the Bush 43 administration. I didn’t see any of the GOP candidates making any substantial changes to Cheney’s rollback to the Nixon administration (and then some) and I certainly thought Clinton would have happily grabbed the full reins of an overly empowered White House.

From CATO Today in today’s inbox:

CATO HANDBOOK: RECLAIMING THE WAR POWER

No constitutional principle is more important than congressional control over the decision to go to war. In affairs of state, no more momentous decision can be made. For that reason, in a democratic republic, it is essential that that decision be made by the most broadly representative body: the legislature. In the Reclaiming the War Power chapter of the Cato Handbook for Policymakers, Gene Healy explains why Congress should:


– Cease trying to shirk its constitutional responsibilities in matters of war and peace,


– Insist that hostilities not be initiated by the executive branch unless and until Congress has authorized such action,


– Rediscover the power of the purse as a means of restricting the executive’s ability to wage unnecessary wars, and


– Reform the War Powers Resolution to make it an effective vehicle for restricting unilateral war making by the president.

October 13, 2009

If we’re going to pass health care reform …

… it’d make sense to do it right.

For better or worse, health care reform is going to pass. The votes are essentially there — and really have been all along. The angry Baby Boomers at town hall meetings over the summer were but a minor distraction in the big play on this issue.

With the knowledge something is going pass regarding health care, I’ve thought it makes the most sense to radically overhaul a much less than perfect system as things currently stand in the U.S., and I agree with Cato’s Michael Tanner that it’s “time to start over.”

The problem is there is no political will, or most likely any political ability, to remake health care. There might have been a shot for that during middle few years of the Bush 43 administration when the GOP held all the reins of power, but we know how successful Republicans were in promoted the stated goals of the party — small government (epic fail), personal responsibility (epic fail) and fiscal conservatism (nuclear fail.)

As appealing as radical health care reform may be for anyone who takes a few hours to drill down into the issue, it’s just not going to happen. The GOP has taken itself out of the process by choice and great forces in the form of the American Medical Association, the pharmaceutical industry and the health insurance industry are lined up t ensure nothing earth-shattering, at least for their fiefdoms, comes to pass.

From the link:

And our current tax laws penalize people who don’t receive insurance through their work, meaning that if you lose your job, you lose your insurance.

The bills now before Congress don’t fix these problems. They simply pile on new mandates, regulations, taxes and subsidies. No amount of tinkering, or budgetary sleight of hand, can make them better.

It’s time for Congress to scrap its current flawed government-centered approach and start over with a focus on creating a consumer-oriented free market in health care.

After all, isn’t it better to get it done right than to just get it done?

October 9, 2009

DownsizingGovernment.org

A new venture from the Cato Institute.

From the Cato Weekly Dispatch:

Cato Launches DownsizingGovernment.org The Cato Institute announced the launch of DownsizingGovernment.org, a new website aimed at providing policymakers, media and the public with comprehensive data on federal spending. The site spotlights the ongoing, extensive waste of taxpayer dollars by executive agencies. “Some people have lofty visions about how government spending can help society,” says Cato scholar Chris Edwards. “But the essays on this website put aside such bedtime stories about how government programs are supposed to work, and instead focus on how they actually work in the real world.”

The site breaks down federal spending department-by-department, serving as an authoritative reference for identifying ways to cut the size and scope of federal spending.

Click here to visit DownsizingGovernment.org.

October 2, 2009

Sunset provisions in the PATRIOT Act …

… offer the Obama administration a great opportunity to overturn a set of horrible, privacy-violating and, most likely, un-Constitutional policies. And get back some of that civil liberties mojo many people voted for when they pulled the lever for Obama.

From the Cato Institute (the first) link:

Civil liberties advocates have hastily revived a campaign to support commonsense limits on government surveillance, but with health-care reform dominating headlines and anxieties about the Bush administration’s excesses fading like the memory of a bad dream, precious little attention is being paid to the PATRIOT renewal debate. But if the Senate declines to press for real reform this week, the issue is unlikely to be taken up again for at least another four years — during which those new powers will only become more entrenched, more heavily relied upon, and more difficult to roll back. It’s no exaggeration to say that today may well be the most important day of the Obama administration for privacy and civil liberties — or the biggest squandered opportunity.

August 28, 2009

Cato’s Tim Lee on software patents

(Hint: he’s against them …  and I am too)

No link here, this come through the inbox with this title, “The Case against Literary (and Software) Patents” and this descriptor, “Issue #125, August 28, 2009; by Timothy B. Lee.”

If you really feel the need to do some clicking here’s the footer, “Timothy B. Lee is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC. To subscribe or see a list of all previous TechKnowledge articles, visit www.cato.org/tech/tk-index.html.”

I’m going to pull from this excellent piece by Lee, but I’m betting you can find the whole thing following that last link up there. It’s worth the read.

Software patents have been a drain on the IT world for a while and things have become simply out of hand. If you’ve never looked too deeply into the topic, or even never have heard of it, it’s shocking in how the US Patent and Trademark Office has been willingly misused by IT firms. Usually very big IT firms.

From the essay:

Patent protection was first extended to software in the 1980s, and the practice accelerated in the 1990s. As a result, it is now difficult to create any significant software without infringing a patent. With tens of thousands of software patents granted every year, and no effective indexing method for software patents, there is no cost-effective way to determine which patents cover any piece of software.

Stanford law professor Mark Lemley has documented the unsurprising result: most firms in the IT industry have simply given up trying to avoid patent infringement. Instead, larger firms stockpile patents to use as ammunition when they are inevitably sued for infringement. They also sign broad cross-licensing agreements with other large firms promising not to sue one another. This has prevented patents from bringing the software industry to a standstill, but it’s hard to see how the practice promotes innovation.

Even worse, software patents tilt the playing field against smaller and more innovative software firms. Most small firms develop their technology independently of their larger competitors, but this isn’t enough to prevent liability; incumbents have so many broad software patents that it’s impossible to enter many software markets without infringing some of them. Small firms don�t have the large patent arsenals they need to negotiate for cross-licensing agreements with their rivals. As a consequence, incumbents can use their patent portfolios to drive smaller competitors out of business. Other small firms are forced to pay stiff licensing fees as a cost of entering the software industry. The result is to limit competition rather than promote innovation.

The Supreme Court has been taking steps to rein in the patent bar in recent decisions such as KSR v. Teleflex. But the Court hasn’t directly addressed the patentability of software since 1981, when it ruled (as it had on two previous occasions) that software is ineligible for patent protection. In the intervening years, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears all patent appeals, has seemed to stray far from that principle. But the Supremes have not reviewed any of its key decisions.

The patent at issue in Bilski is not a software patent; it is a “business method” patent that claims a strategy for hedging against financial risk. But the case is being closely watched for its effects on the software patent issue. Patented business methods are often implemented in software; for example, a key decision on the patentability of software, State Street Bank v. Signature Financial Group, involved a software-implemented business method. And the standard articulated by the Federal Circuit in Bilski, known as the �machine-or-transformation test� has been used by the Patent Office in recent months to invalidate several software patents. The Supreme Court could ratify the Federal Circuit’s mildly restrictive standard, or it could articulate its own standard that is either more or less restrictive of patents on software.

July 27, 2009

Cato’s Tim Lynch on criminal law

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:53 pm

If you are interested in civil liberties and how criminal law is executed and enforced in the United States, take a few minutes to read Tim Lynch’s testimony before the House’s subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. Lynch is the director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice.

Lynch’s testimony was titled, “Over-Criminalization of Conduct/Over-Federalization of Criminal Law.”

From the link:

Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse

The sheer volume of modern law makes it impossible for an ordinary American household to stay informed. And yet, prosecutors vigorously defend the old legal maxim that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”4 That maxim may have been appropriate for a society that simply criminalized inherently evil conduct, such as murder, rape, and theft, but it is wholly inappropriate in a labyrinthine regulatory regime that criminalizes activities that are morally neutral. As Professor Henry M. Hart opined, “In no respect is contemporary law subject to greater reproach than for its obtuseness to this fact.”5

To illustrate the rank injustice that can and does occur, take the case of Carlton Wilson, who was prosecuted because he possessed a firearm. Wilson’s purchase of the firearm was perfectly legal, but, years later, he didn’t know that he had to give it up after a judge issued a restraining order during his divorce proceedings. When Wilson protested that the judge never informed him of that obligation and that the restraining order itself said nothing about firearms, prosecutors shrugged, “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”6Although the courts upheld Wilson’s conviction, Judge Richard Posner filed a dissent: “We want people to familiarize themselves with the laws bearing on their activities. But a reasonable opportunity doesn’t mean being able to go to the local law library and read Title 18. It would be preposterous to suppose that someone from Wilson’s milieu is able to take advantage of such an opportunity.”7Judge Posner noted that Wilson would serve more than three years in a federal penitentiary for an omission that he “could not have suspected was a crime or even a civil wrong.”8

It is simply outrageous for the government to impose a legal duty on every citizen to “know” all of the mind-boggling rules and regulations that have been promulgated over the years. Policymakers can and should discard the “ignorance-is-no-excuse” maxim by enacting a law that would require prosecutors to prove that regulatory violations are “willful” or, in the alternative, that would permit a good-faith belief in the legality of one’s conduct to be pleaded and proved as a defense. The former rule is already in place for our complicated tax laws—but it should also shield unwary Americans from all of the laws and regulations as well.9

July 2, 2009

How is Obama doing on civil liberties?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:16 pm

Civil liberties are a major rock in the foundation of the United States and Obama ran on a group of issues that leaned heavily on civil liberties. Heading into this Fourth of July weekend, and given he’s been in office for over five months now, I think it’s a fair time to take a look at where the Obama administration is vis-a-vis civil liberties.

Not so great. This administration has been more about lip service than action on the civil liberty front. To be fair change in D.C. won’t happen overnight on any set of policies, but to date there doesn’t seem any urgency to many of the civil liberty concerns Obama ran on in the race for the Oval Office.

Here’s Cato’s Doug Bandow on Obama’s dissappointing performance:

It’s fair to say that civil liberties and limited government were not high on President George W. Bush’s priorities list.  Indeed, they probably weren’t even on the list.  Candidate Barack Obama promised “change” when he took office, and change we have gotten.  The name of the president is different.

Alas, the policies are much the same.  While it is true that President Obama has not made the same claims of unreviewable monarchical power for the chief executive–an important distinction–he has continued to sacrifice civil liberties for dubious security gains.

Reports the New York Times:

Civil libertarians recently accused President Obama of acting like former President George W. Bush, citing reports about Mr. Obama’s plans to detain terrorism suspects without trials on domestic soil after he closes the Guantánamo prison.

It was only the latest instance in which critics have argued that Mr. Obama has failed to live up to his campaign pledge “to restore our Constitution and the rule of law” and raised a pointed question: Has he, on issues related to fighting terrorism, turned out to be little different from his predecessor?

June 26, 2009

Cato on Iran’s green wave and Obama’s response

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:02 pm

The libertarian Cato Institute voices approval of Obama’s measured handling of the green wave revolution going on in Iran right now. The United States hand in this process must be very delicate. The despotic leadership in Iran would like nothing more than to blame “the great satan” America for the popular uprising (indeed they are attempting to do so daily along with trying to pin blame on the British as well).

The green wave is about the Iranian people becoming tired of the cheap and false lip service given to democracy by ruling mullahs. The stolen election ripped that falsehood away and exposed the existing Islamacist leadership as little more than cheap frightened thugs.

From today’s weekly dispatch:

Obama’s Cool Response to Iranian Politics Appropriate  
  As the voices of protest to the Iranian election grow louder, many have called upon President Obama to use bolder rhetoric when speaking about the elections in Iran. Last week, Charles Krauthammer and Paul Wolfowitz opined in The Washington Postthat Obama’s reaction has not been nearly enough. Cato foreign policy expert Christopher Preble disagrees, saying that Obama’s calculated reaction is appropriate:

The louder the neocons become in their braying for a free and fair counting of the election results, the less likely it is to occur. In their more candid moments, a few are willing to admit that they would prefer Ahmadinejad to Mousavi.

…It is possible to view President Obama as a more credible messenger, given that he opposed the Iraq war from the outset and has shown a willingness to reach out to the Iranian people. Perhaps a full-throated, morally self-righteous, public address in support of Mousavi’s supporters might have tipped the scales in the right direction.

It seems more likely, however, that Obama’s patient, measured public response to recent events is well suited to the circumstances. As the president said earlier this week, Americans are right to feel sympathy for the Iranian protesters, and we should all be free to voice our sentiments openly. But it is incumbent upon policymakers to pursue strategies that don’t backfire, or whose unintended consequences don’t dwarf the gains that we are trying to achieve. In many cases, the quiet, private back channel works well. And if we discover that there is no credible back channel to Iran available, similar to those employed in 1986 and 1991, then we’ll all know whom to blame.

Cato scholar Justin Logan says that the U.S. government should stay silent on Iran:

President Obama should keep quiet on the subject of Iran’s elections. At least two pernicious tendencies are on display in the Beltway discussion on the topic. First is the common Washington impulse to “do something!” without laying out clear objectives and tactics. What, after all, is President Obama or his administration supposed to do to “support protesters” in Iran in the first place? What would be the ultimate goal of such support? Most importantly, what is the mechanism by which the support is supposed to produce the desired outcome? That we are debating how America should intervene in Iran’s domestic politics indicates the sheer grandiosity of American foreign policy thought.

June 2, 2009

GM’s bankruptcy and Ford

To anyone who’s been paying attention General Motors’ bankruptcy comes as no no surprise, but the repercussions are still a mystery. Cato’s Daniel Ikenson brings up a very salient point — now that the government is the de facto owner of GM what’s going to happen to Ford.

Of the big three Ford has remained in a fairly strong position in a very weak industry. Most importantly it hasn’t been forced to take federal bailout money. Ikenson wonders if the fed may not put a thumb on the scales a little to help its latest property, namely GM, out a bit.

From Cato Today:

BANKRUPTCY FOR GM – FORD NEXT?

General Motors on Monday filed for bankruptcy protection, even after $19.4 billion in federal bailout money. Cato scholar Daniel Ikenson has long suggested bankruptcy as the best course for GM, and now worriesabout Ford’s future: “The government has a 60 percent stake in GM. Who’s going to want to own Ford stock—and therefore, will Ford be able to raise capital—when the U.S. government has an incentive to tip the balance in GM’s favor wherever it can?”
Full statement from Ikenson
– “An Overdue Reckoning in the Auto Sector,” by Daniel Ikenson
– “Don’t Bail Out the Big Three,” by Daniel Ikenson
– “GM’s Last Capitalist Act: Filing for Bankruptcy Protection,” by Daniel Ikenson

May 15, 2009

The “war on drugs” rebranded

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:39 pm

The Obama administration has rebranded the “war on drugs.” The key being taking the loaded word, “war,” out of the equation. The moniker was stupid to begin with and as has been noted around the blogosphere gave rise to a martial us-versus-them in law enforcement circles.

It’s not much, but it is a baby step so Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske deserves some kudos.

Now let’s take a look at that “czar” thing …

From the Cato Insitute’s weekly dispatch:

White House Official Says Government Will Stop Using Term ‘War on Drugs’

The Wall Street Journal reports that White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske is calling for a new strategy on federal drug policy and is putting a stop to the term “War on Drugs.” “The Obama administration’s new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting ‘a war on drugs,’ a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use…. The Obama administration is likely to deal with drugs as a matter of public health rather than criminal justice alone, with treatment’s role growing relative to incarceration, Mr. Kerlikowske said.”

Will Kerlikowske’s words actually translate to an actual shift in policy? Cato scholar Ted Galen Carpenter calls it a step in the right direction, but remains skeptical about a true change in direction. “A change in terminology won’t mean much if the authorities still routinely throw people in jail for violating drug laws,” he says.

Cato scholar Tim Lynch channels Nike and says when it comes to ending the drug war, “Let’s just do it.”

Cato scholars have long argued that our current drug policies have failed, and that Congress should deal with drug prohibition the way it dealt with alcohol prohibition. With the door seemingly open for change, Cato research shows the best way to proceed.

In a recent Cato study, Glenn Greenwald examined Portugal’s successful implementation of a drug decriminalization program, in which drug users are offered treatment instead of jail time. Drug use has actually dropped since the program began in 2001.

In the 2009 Cato Handbook for Policymakers, David Boaz and Tim Lynch outline a clear plan for ending the drug war once and for all in the United States.

May 1, 2009

Ed Crane on the GOP

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:01 pm

This is about as good an explanation on what happened to the GOP over the last ten years or so as you’ll find anywhere — Edward H. Crane, president of the Cato Institute, on Obama as a statist and where the Republican Party has gone wrong.

The only major factor he left out is Karl Rove’s horrible, and failed, plan for a “permanent GOP majority” (and what a joke that phrase sounds like only a few years later) that entailed pissing off 49.9% of the population and winning every race by the thinnest of margins.

It could be argued Rove’s plan unraveled when he lost control of the immigration debate and rogue party members ruined his Latino plan. It can also be argued (with better internals) that the GOP never had the Latino vote in a bloc as large as was advertised. As it turns out Bush 41 did better among the Hispanic vote than Bush 43, a rarely explored or aired fact.

Here’s Crane’s excellent analysis from the link:

Time for those conservatives serious about limited government to re-read Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative. Strategically, conservatives have made three major mistakes. The first was to follow the advice of supply-side guru (and big-government Democrat) Jude Wanniski and not talk about spending cuts, much less the proper role of government. Economic growth replaced individual liberty as the rallying cry of far too many GOPers. Second, the neocons — mostly statists themselves — should never have been accepted into the fold. All they give us is a war against a country that never attacked us and schemes for “national greatness” like going to Mars. Enough. Finally, conservatives should jettison the social agenda of gay marriage, flag burning, and school prayer, and focus instead on federalism. Politics is about man’s relationship to the state. That relationship, to be healthy, should be minimal

April 8, 2009

Cato University 2009

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:45 am

Getting the word out about the Cato Institute’s Cato University 2009. Should be an interesting event for anyone who can attend.

Here’s some details from the link:

Cato University, the Cato Institute’s premier educational event of the year, is right around the corner!

On June 26-31 in Rancho Bernardo, California, Cato University will bring together outstanding faculty and participants from across the country to discuss how the state has expanded during times of crises; the threats to liberty, privacy, and independence, as the rush for government-imposed solutions (and, hence, power) increases in pace; and, what can be done to restrain – or reverse – its growth.

This year’s topic: Economic Crisis, War, and the Rise of the State.

And even more details from the link in the blockquote:

THE PROGRAM – Economic Crisis, War, and the Rise of the State

Between economic chaos and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the powerful drive to solve problems through government intervention is creating a dangerous new status quo.  During a crisis – and now with the multiple challenges of global economic calamity roaring alongside two wars and international terrorism – government grows exponentially.  Massive overreaching by government was one of chief causes of these crises, so we are witnessing a disease posing as the cure.  And while government may recede after the immediate crisis recedes, it rarely returns to its original size – thus the cautionary adage there is nothing more permanent than a temporary solution, and nothing closer to immortality than a government program.

But – a crisis also presents opportunities to change the status quo, to reduce the size of government.  Cato University 2009 offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore the past, present, and future of freedom: how the state has expanded during times of crises; the threats to liberty, privacy, and independence, as the rush for government-imposed solutions (and, hence, power) increases in pace; and, what can be done to restrain – or reverse – its growth.  This year, Cato University has again assembled a distinguished group of scholars and teachers:

  • Professor Robert Higgs, Editor of The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy and the author of numerous acclaimed books, including Crisis and Leviathan:  Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government.
  • Professor Robert McDonald, department of history, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  He has published articles in a wide range of academic journals of history, and has a national reputation as a scholar of Thomas Jefferson and the American Founding period.
  • Dan Mitchell, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a top national expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy. His latest book is Global Tax Revolution:  The Rise of Tax Competition and the Battle to Defend It.
  • Professor Marcus Cole, Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, and a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. His scholarly and research interests range from classical liberal political theory to natural law and the history of commercial law.
  • Dr. Veronique de Rugy, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center. A former policy analyst at the Cato Institute, she is coauthor of Action ou Taxation, published in Switzerland, and serves on the board of directors of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.
  • David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute; author of The Politics of Freedom:  Taking on the Left, the Right, and Threats to our Liberties; Libertarianism: A Primer; and editor of The Libertarians Reader and the Cato Handbook for Policymakers.
  • Dr. Tom G. Palmer, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, director of Cato University,  and author of the forthcoming book  Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History and Practice.
  • Prof. Tibor Machan, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and professor at the Argyros School of Business and Economics at Chapman University He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Pacific Research Foundation. He is widely published and is the author of numerous books and articles on natural rights, political philosophy, business ethics, and libertarianism.
  • Randal O’Toole, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, focusing on urban growth, public land, and transportation issues. His latest book is The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms the Quality of Your Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future.

<!–The program’s daily schedule – including the complete faculty list (and bios), session topics, and special evening presentations – will be posted soon. This we guarantee: your intellectual passions and commitment to freedom and liberty will be energized and enhanced by the totally new perspectives and sessions we will be providing at Cato University 2009 – Economic Crisis, War, and the Rise of the State.

–><!–THE FACULTY

  • Professor Marcus Cole of Stanford University Law School
  • Professor Glen Whitman of California State University, Northridge
  • Professor David Beito of the University of Alabama
  • Dr. Tom G. Palmer, senior fellow of the Cato Institute and director of Cato University
  • Professor Robert McDonald of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point
  • Brian Doherty, senior editor at Reason magazine and author of Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement
  • Dr. Ronald Krieger, Economist and Wall Street Veteran
  • David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute and author of Libertarianism: A Primer.

–><!–

–>

March 20, 2009

Cato on Obama and medical marijuana

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:02 pm

Drug policy news from the Cato Institute’s weekly dispatch. It’s a small step, but anything that serves to normalize the U.S. drug policy is worth mentioning.

Even though the GOP has historically been for state’s rights, the Federalist impulse tends to disappear when those pesky states pass laws against Republican Party doctrine. Party of less government and personal freedom? Not any longer. In this case it took a Democratic administration to implement Federalist ideals.

And the GOP wonders why the walk in the wilderness is full of nothing more than blind trails and stepping in its own poop.

From the inbox:

Obama to Stop Raids on State Marijuana Distributors  
 

Attorney General Eric Holder announced this week that the president would end federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries that were common under the Bush administration.

It’s about time, says Tim Lynch, director of Cato’s Project on Criminal Justice:

The Bush administration’s scorched-earth approach to the enforcement of federal marijuana laws was a grotesque misallocation of law enforcement resources. The U.S. government has a limited number of law enforcement personnel, and when a unit is assigned to conduct surveillance on a California hospice, that unit is necessarily neglecting leads in other cases that possibly involve more violent criminal elements.

The Cato Institute hosted a forum Tuesday in which panelists debated the politics and science of medical marijuana. In a Cato daily podcast, Dr. Donald Abrams explains the promise of marijuana as medicine.

March 14, 2009

Dump E-Verify

Something the ACLU and the libertarian Cato Instutute can agree on.

(In reality the two groups are in agreement in more areas than not, but both sides tend to distrust the other. I’ve often joked I’m for the ACLU and the NRA. And for the right of any and all opposition groups to exist as well.)

From the link:

Over the weekend, there was a USA Today article giving prime coverage to those who advocated for an E-Verify requirement as part of the economic stimulus package signed into law a couple weeks ago. E-Verify, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) employment verification program, would require all employers to verify the work eligibility of new hires through error-ridden government databases. The article was particularly troubling because it incorrectly cited the systemic problems associated with using the E-Verify. Very late in the article, it says:

The business groups and immigrant advocacy groups argue that the E-Verify database is riddled with errors that could result in millions of workers being wrongly identified as not authorized for work. They say requiring its use before hiring would impose a cost burden on employers and open them to lawsuits.

We found this really misleading, because the business and immigrant advocacy groups like the ACLU are not alone in arguing E-Verify will result in delays due to the errors in Americans’ files. You know who else agrees with us? The federal government.

If you’d like to see the Cato Institutes take on this bit of government overreach, hit this link.

March 12, 2009

Weekly roundup from the Cato Institute

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:05 pm

Another post fresh from the inbox. This week’s Cato Institute dispatch:

Head below the fold for the details. (more…)

March 9, 2009

Nanny state in action — UK-style

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:33 pm

From the Cato Institute, civil liberties in the UK are withering along with economic prospects.

From the link:

Warning to tourists – it is now illegal to take a photo of a London bobby (policeman). The time-honored tradition of tourists having their pictures taken with London cops is being dealt a silly death blow by those who control the British nanny-state. The British are not only losing their economic prosperity, but their civil liberties as well.

Also from the link:

Civil libertarians on both the left and right are increasingly concerned that Britain is drifting toward becoming a police state. The government has been trying to obtain the right to detain anyone up to 42 days without bringing charges, which would severely undermine the centuries’ old right of habeas corpus. Police monitoring cameras in London are more pervasive than in any other city in the world. Public demonstrations near Parliament and other government buildings are restricted more and more. British libel laws are much more restrictive than those in the United States and have effectively make it increasingly difficult to charge public officials with wrongdoing.

February 26, 2009

Cato Institute’s response to Obama’s congressional address

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:31 pm

Here’s a roundup of responses from the Cato Institute on Obama’s not-the-State-of-the-Union-Address:

Obama Outlines National Plan in First Address to Congress

President Obama’s first address to Congress laid out a laundry list of new spending and provided hints as to what will be contained in the budget — a  so-called “blueprint for America’s future”— he submitted to lawmakers Thursday.

In a new video, Cato Institute scholars offer their analyses of the president’s non-State-of-the-Union Address.

While watching the speech, Cato scholars offered live commentary on Cato’s blog and Twitter feed.

Expanding on his recent article,Obama’s Shock Doctrine,” Cato Executive Vice President David Boaz says that Obama’s speech further proves that his administration is using scare tactics and the financial crisis to further an agenda that will expand the size of government.

President Obama made good on his reputation for giving excellent speeches. He seemed calm and confident. It’s no wonder that instant polls show that most viewers liked it.

That reaction is all part of the guiding strategy of this administration: using a crisis atmosphere to amass more money and power in Washington. There’s a long history of government growth in times of crisis such as wars, natural disasters, or economic shocks. Think of FDR’s revolutionary “first 100 days” or LBJ’s driving through his Great Society programs in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

George W. Bush did it, too, with both the Patriot Act and the invasion of Iraq after the shock of 9/11. And in so doing, he left his successor both a presidency and a federal government with unprecedented powers, ready to be employed for a different agenda.

For analysis of Obama’s speech, Cato scholars weigh in by topic on the president’s plans for America’s future. 

February 5, 2009

Cato Institute on the stimulus plan

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:57 pm

A bunch of Cato-related links from the inbox today:

Stimulus Debate Heats up in Senate

President Obama’s stimulus bill moved to the Senate this week where it is facing stiff opposition from Republicans. In its current form, the bill still lacks enough votes to make it to the president’s desk.

The Cato Institute placed a full page ad in newspapers nationwide showing that there is no consensus among economists about the stimulus plan. The ad features a statement signed by more than 200 economists, including Nobel laureates and other leading scholars who agree that the best way to boost economic growth is to lessen the burden of government. Each day, more economists continue to add their names to the online version of the ad. On Monday, a new version of the ad with more names will run in The Wall Street Journal.

Read Chris Edwards and Ike Brannon’s recent article in the National Post, “Barack Obama’s Keynesian Mistake,” to learn more about the economic principles underlying the stimulus plan.

You can also watch senior fellow Alan Reynolds discuss the stimulus plan on CNN, Fox News and listen to his latest interview on the false consensus for stimulus.

If you think the word “stimulus” is a misnomer given the actual contents of the bill, then you’re not alone. Cato executive vice president David Boaz and senior fellow Daniel J. Mitchell discuss why the plan should not be termed a “stimulus.”

If you run a blog or Web site and want to take a stand against this massive government intervention plan, go to cato.org/fiscalreality and click “Spread the word.” We have created an online widget that you can post on your Web site that will show your readers that you do not agree with the stimulus plan.

Older Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Get a free blog at WordPress.com

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers