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Monday, March 26, 2007

the revolutionary candidate

Tom Woods has an excellent article with that title about Ron Paul on today. I love this part especially:
His conduct, moreover, is beyond reproach. Lobbyists don’t even bother going to his office. If their scheme doesn’t fall among the federal government’s enumerated powers under the Constitution, they know perfectly well that there is no chance Ron Paul will support it.
I suspect that I'll be devoting many posts in the coming year to coverage of Ron Paul's candidacy. OK, let me rephrase that: I suspect that I'll be devoting a large percentage of the little posting I actually manage to do in the coming year to Ron Paul's candidacy.

Ron Paul is the only politician I've ever supported financially in my life (and repeatedly at that). I think we have a once in a lifetime chance here where one of the good guys is actually in the race, and I think any progress we can make in getting his message out, even if he loses the nomination, is well worth the effort.

I've thought that for his campaign theme he should use the old Chambers Brothers (and later Ramones) song "Time Has Come Today". Other than the title there is nothing in the lyrics relevant, but just the title is good enough.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

re: what can congress do to stop the war?

A.W., I really think you are throwing up a strawman here.

You quote this line From Dr. Paul's speech: "Voting no also makes the legitimate point that the Constitution does not authorize Congress to direct the management of any military operation – the president clearly enjoys this authority as Commander in Chief".

Then you go on to imply that that means the president "has free reign to do whatever he wants". Sorry, but how does that follow? He still must follow all the laws of the country. This includes laws that forbid our armed forces from raping and murdering civilians, for example.

Specifying a timeline for withdrawal of troops falls into micromanagement. Dr. Paul is questioning where the authority for such a thing lies in the Constitution, and I don't think Epstein has found it. I would like to see a precedent where Congress ever passed a law specifying a timeline for troop withdrawal during a war - if anybody has that information please leave a comment.

The war in Iraq was a huge mistake (as I've been saying since before it started). Dr. Paul is telling Congress that if they take their actual, enumerated powers seriously, e.g. the power to declare (or not declare) war and to pass (or not pass) laws that fund wars, they could yet pull us out of this debacle right now.

what can congress do to stop the war?

Congressman (and Presidential candidate) Ron Paul argues, not much other than cutting off funding. In a recent speech before the House of Representatives, Paul discussed why he was voting against a $124 billion supplemental appropriation that also included a weak Congressional mandate about the war in Iraq:
If one is unhappy with our progress in Iraq after four years of war, voting to de-fund the war makes sense. If one is unhappy with the manner in which we went to war, without a constitutional declaration, voting no makes equally good sense.

Voting no also makes the legitimate point that the Constitution does not authorize Congress to direct the management of any military operation – the president clearly enjoys this authority as Commander in Chief.
I find this hard to believe. Is Congressman Paul really saying that once the declaration of war is given, the President has free reign to do anything he wants? I'm not the only one who is skeptical of this position. University of Chicago professor Richard Epstein, in a recent debate, made the following point:
And remember Congress has, and the president does not, an explicit power "to make the rules governing land and naval forces," which is not written in any "narrow fashion." Third, the president has duties that go along with his powers and other functions. Thus "he shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed," which hardly speaks of vast discretion to choose which to follow and which to disregard.

Looking at all these provisions together, I think that it is possible to answer David's hypotheticals. There is nothing in the text that distinguishes the power of Congress to regulate in peace and in war, but its power "to make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces" covers both indifferently. If it says that our military forces can only use rubber bullets so be it. But of course it will not, and we don't need to invent some new-fangled presidential power to allow the president to use real weapons in wars.
I have little faith that the current Democratic Congress will do anything meaningful to limit the President, but Epstein makes it clear that it does have the power to do so.

Friday, March 16, 2007

jim rogers predicts massive real estate crash

From this Reuters report, spotted on Drudge.

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Commodities investment guru Jim Rogers stepped into the U.S. subprime fray on Wednesday, predicting a real estate crash that would trigger defaults and spread contagion to emerging markets.

"You can't believe how bad it's going to get before it gets any better," the prominent U.S. fund manager told Reuters by telephone from New York.

"It's going to be a disaster for many people who don't have a clue about what happens when a real estate bubble pops...

"Real estate prices will go down 40-50 percent in bubble areas. There will be massive defaults. This time it'll be worse because we haven't had this kind of speculative buying in U.S. history," Rogers said...
The article also mentions that he is still bullish on China and that he plans on moving to Asia.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

the u.s. commerce department, china, and hypocrisy

From this Reuters report:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Commerce Department said on Thursday it is prepared to change a policy more than 20 years old and impose countervailing duties on non-market economies like China if the situation warrants.

Many U.S. manufacturers and lawmakers are frustrated by the Commerce Department's long-standing policy of not applying the duties to offset government subsidies in non-market economies like China and Vietnam.

The U.S. never subsidizes its exports, nosiree! Sheesh.

By the by, you may be wondering where the heck I've been. More on that later.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

300 review

The girlfriend and I went to see “300” Saturday night. I had been looking forward to seeing the movie for many months as I am quite the fan of Frank Miller, the comic book artist/writer who created the graphic novel that the movie is based on. I was also looking forward to the movie as, I hoped, a piece of great libertarian art. 300, of course, is a fictional account of the Battle of Thermopylae, where King Leonidas defends ancient Greece against the imperial aims of Xerxes and his Persian hordes. As a pure action movie, I give it a big “thumbs up”. It has a great style to it and is a wonderful visual feast. As a piece of libertarian art, it doesn’t fare so well. While the basic premise of an independent city-state engaging in a defensive war against an aggressive leviathan is sound, once one gets into the details, it starts to falter.

The film has three basic problems. First and foremost is that it glorifies war, death and service to the state. And in the case of Sparta, it’s a pretty evil state as well. The movie doesn’t hide the fact that imperfectly born children are left to die in the wilderness and that at the age of seven, they are taken from their parents and forced to undergo military training until adulthood. But even with that nastiness, the evil nature of Sparta is underplayed. The required rite of passage for young men, not seen in the movie, is to kill an innocent slave! Thus, each of the "noble" Spartan warriors seen in the movie, is, in fact, a confirmed murderer!

The second problem is the the deeply distorted picture painted of Athens. In reality, it was Athens that led the call to fend off the Persian army and who contacted Sparta to form an alliance. In the movie, Athenians are depicted as dithering philosophers and "boy-lovers". The reality is that the Spartans would have failed miserably without the support of the Athenian navy. In the movie, the Persian navy is depicted as being wiped out by weather, not by Greek ships led by Athenian commander Themistocles. Indeed, it is Themistocles who later causes the Persian forces to withdraw. Where's his movie?

The last problem is in the larger context of the war. The Persian attack is depicted solely as imperial expansion, but there is good reason to believe that Xerxes, the Persian King is motivated, not by empire, but by revenge. Decades earlier, the Athenians had supported the Ionian revolt in Persia and sacked the city of Sardis, burning it to the ground. If only Athens had pursued a non-interventionist foreign policy, it could have avoided completely the Battle of Thermopylae and the earlier battle at Marathon as well!

Naturally, simplifications of real events are necessary in any movie that aims to describe such a sweeping event in history, but all the simplifications in this movie favor the militaristic Spartans.

I know some libertarians see this as a great story about freedom, but I just can’t recommend it as a truly pro-freedom movie.