Friday, October 31, 2008
"I don't think that's decriminalization," Walters said. Yet he actively (and unethically and probably illegally) inserts himself on the wrong side in the campaign to medicalize marijuana (a much more modest proposal) in Michigan. And while I haven't heard of activism on his part, I would be amazed if he doesn't oppose an initiative in Massachusetts to eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana possession,l making it simply a civil offense. And he opposes Prop. 5, which would offer drug treatment instead of jail to certain nonviolent drug offenders in California.
Mexico, of course, is experiencing significant violence as a result of the government's efforts to break up drug cartels. It's ruined the tourist industry in Baja. Obviously the government thinks limited decriminalization might help to reduce violence. It would work in this country too. Too bad John Walters can't see that.
It’s not utterly impossible that John McCain could pull off an historic upset, and I’ll suggest some ways in future posts. But for those who see most polls as imperfect but reasonably genuine attempts to discern the mood of the public rather than as pieces of a gigantic liberal conspiracy to dupe the public into thinking there’s a landslide and going along with it, the smart money has to be on Obama.
So what kind of president might he be. Stuart Taylor of the National Journal, a self-described centrist, has a remarkably thoughtful article in the current issue. He doesn’t see Obama as a sinister terrorist-loving extremist, but looking judiciously at the evidence, he sees a fairly dogmatic, even radical leftist, largely on the evidence of his associations and his 1995 autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” who since becoming a candidate for public office (especially the presidency) has carefully cultivated an image as a pragmatic, cool, calm moderate capable of listening to all sides and bringing people together.
Doubt the radical aspect? He spent his teenage years searching for his black identity, in part mentored in Hawaii by Frank Marshall Davis, “a black-power activist who had once been a member of the Communist Party” who had moved from Chicago. During his first years in college, here at Occidental, he tells us, he chose his friends carefully so he wouldn’t appear to be a sellout, preferring politically active blacks, foreign students, “The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets.” After college he became a community organizer and met and was inspired by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. After law school he returned to Chicago to do socially-conscious law and had a much closer association with Bill Ayers than he has since acknowledged.
During the campaign he has appeared much more pragmatic, and he has won support from moderates and even some conservatives. He has acknowledged that “America’s free market has been the engine of America’s great progress” and said he doesn’t want to return to tax rates of 60 or 70 percent. He has glancingly talked about charter schools and merit pay for teachers and even questioned whether affluent blacks like his children need preferences.
If he governs as a left-liberal ideologue, Taylor asserts, he will be a failure. If he governs as a pragmatic centrist he could be successful. There will be forces pulling him both ways. I suspect we’ll find out.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Thank goodness there are still a few conservative commentators with a sense of proportion and a certain respect for principle, like George Will and to some extent Peggy Noonan. I don't know if I want the modern conservative movement to reconstitute itself on somewhat more sophisticated principles or just disappear into the mist, which just might leave an opening for libertarians, constitutionalists, Paulistas and genuine devotees of limited government. Obama will surely do many stupid things that have dire consequences, but who will be there to point them out in a coherent way?
I take some comfort from Adam Smith's admonition that there's a great deal of ruin in a country. But I fear we may have to endure a good deal of it.
-- Susan B. Anthony
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The Register ran an editorial today that made a similar argument. Coincidence? I think not. I'm afraid my former colleague John Seiler misunderstood the import of the editorial and attacked it in his own blog. We ran the editorial in part to undercut the idea that the United States needs to be actively interventionist overseas to counter these countries, because the threats are petering out of their own accord -- not only because of the falling price of oil but because that falling price exposes some inherent weaknesses in the economies of those countries. I agree with almost everything John wrote, in fact, except for the part where he said the Register had become economic nationalists, for heaven's sake. John and I will remain friends, of course.
As for the Clips, in addition to Baron, I expect Al Thornton and Thomas to have good years. But after the first quarter tonight, the Lakers were just too good.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I'm sad that drug law reform has not been an issue at all in the presidential campaign. Early on various advocates got most of the Democratic candidates, including Obama, to vow not to use the feds to go after patients and dispensaries in states with medical marijuana laws. McCain, of course, took exactly the wrong position on the issue. But it really hasn't come up since. I remember 1992, when Clinton won, going to a Drug Policy Alliance convention and finding most reformers ecstatic, convinced real reform was on the way. But Clinton soon set new records for marijuana arrests. Never underestimate the capacity for hypocrisy of a politician.
I was in the Supreme Court chambers when the court heard the original medical marijuana case, the request by the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club to have a "necessity" defense recognized for certain medical marijuana users under federal law. The court denied that, but during the course of oral argument Justice Ginsberg asked the government attorney why the government wasn't invoking the "supremacy clause" to invalidate California's medical marijuana law. The government attorney replied that this was simply one of those instances where, given the federalist nature of our constitutional structure, some states would simply have different laws regarding the medical use of cannabis than federal law, and it would be up to federal agents to enforce federal law and state agents to enforce state law. That was a welcome recognition of federalism by the Bush Justice Dept., which hardly did so consistently. The likelihood that the government would try to invoke the supremeacy clause now, after all these years, seems low.
Here's the Register's editorial on the subject.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: letter to Alexander Pope, from the field of Karlowitz, Prince Eugene's victory over the Turks.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
The Penn State-Ohio State game was similarly interesting until very late, but even though an Ohio State win would have benefited USC (I'm West Coast-centric even when it's USC, though I'll have a different attitude in early December) I was kinda glad to see old Joe Pa's team doing so well this year. And the USC-Arizona game, finally won by USC, was hard-fought and could have gone the other way with some different breaks, even though I think USC is better talent-wise.
As of the UCLA-Cal game, what can I say? at the start of the 4th quarter I thought the Bruins had a chance, but they came up a yard short on the 3rd-and-forever and things just fell apart. I don't know if Kevin Craft will start the next game or not.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Russell Westbrook, who was at UCLA last year and with Oklahoma City this year, also looks good, especially for a rookie. Will he and Kevin Love be competing for Rookie of the Year.
It looks like another deep-into-the-playoffs and quite likely more season fro the Lakers this year -- if they can stay healthy.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
That's eloquent, but I'm not sure it's true. Though I know at some level I am almost ready to admit that I am closer to death than to birth that deceitful feeling, the heat of life, is almost as strong as when I was 18. I'm convinced that Eric Hoffer had it right when he commented that what the Greeks meant by the saying that the good die young, was that the good (viewed expansively, perhaps meaning those who are good at life) is that the good are young at heart and in seizing the joy of life to the end of their lives.
As this Register editorial outlines, based on various news reports, John McCain, who has survived both torture and melanoma, allowed some pool reporters to look over 1,200 pages of medical records for three hours, but not to make copies or take notes. Joe Biden had emergency surgery for a brain aneurysm in 1988, and he released some info, but nothing on whether he had recently had neurologicalo tests. Obama at first released a single-page lettter from a doctor saying he was in excellent health but no details, and finally, under pressure, results of some routine lab tests. Sarah Palin has released nothing, and although she said she would in her interview with Briabn Williams, it apparently took the campaign completely by surprise.
Is wanting such information an invasion of privacy? These people are seeking positions of awesome (even excessive) power over the rest of us. Knowing whether they're likely to keel over under stress is the least we should expect.
Talked to Ethan Nadelman, head of the Drug Policy Alliance, today, about Prop. 5, which would replace incarceration with treatment for most nonviolent drug offenders. He noted that almost none of the news stories mention that the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that it would save taxpayers around $2.5 billion over time in the cost of prisons that don’t need to be built, or even that the LAO estimates that the costs of setting up better treatment programs would be offset by the reduction of costs associated with prisons (which is presumably why the prison guards union has donated a million bucks to the No campaign). In fact, the best I can figure it, Prop. 5 is the only proposition on the ballot that the LAO estimates would actually save taxpayers money at a time when the state is in a deep fiscal crisis.
He also noted that beer distributors have donated around $100,000 to the No campaign and various Indian casinos have kicked in around a quarter million. The keepers of the legalized vices apparently have a profound special interest in making sure nonviolent drug offenders go to jail.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I had met him before, when he came by the Register for and editorial board meeting just as the Iraq war was getting underway. Then as this time, he had come to Chapman University in Orange to give a talk. My appreciation to Chapman for sharing him with us, and to him for being so gracious. Incidentally, he has a new book out, "The Age of the Warrior," which I've just begun to dip into. I'll offer a more complete report when I've read more.
Tonight was a case of good pitching beating good hitting, on both sides, with Cole Hamels being just a bit better and the Rays pitchers stranding 11 Phillies and Brad Lidge, the Phillies closer being lights-out in the ninth. Both teams earned their way here by winning over teams that mnight have been expected to beat them, both are fairly young, with guys likely to be stars for some time to come, and both have fairly interesting stories. I could be wrong; maybe one team will close it out quickly, but I still expect an interesting series with most of the games competitive. For a fan with no strong allegiance either way, that's close to perfect.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
My friend Milton thought my colleague Mark Landsbaum, who saw things somewhat more pessimistically, had the better of the argument. Steve Greenhut expressed ambivalence. Never say we aren't fair and balanced.
There's a current flap in Washington about top appointed officials having traveled to key congressional districts at the behest of White House political operatives during 2006 to support Republican congresscritters, whether by handing out federal grants or other goodies or even by appearing at campaign events (it didn't work very well since the GOP lost control of the House, but that's another matter). John Walters did this 19 times. It almost certainly violated federal law, which forbids government employees to use taxpayer money for trips on official business to try to influence the outcome of an election.
He's at it again. Last week he traveled to Michigan to oppose Proposal 1, which would allow patients with a recommendation from a doctor to use medical marijuana. Of course he lied, claiming there is no valid medical use for marijuana. Then just today he came to California to join the prison guards union, one of the most notoriously self-serving (and unfortunately politically effective) lobbying groups in the state to oppose Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act, which would take important steps toward replacing incarceration with treatment for nonviolent drug offenders. I think this is illegal, but whether or not he's done sufficient twisting to cover himself there, it surely is unethical. Some drug reformers tried to get him prosecuted after he blatantly asserted himself in a Nevada drug reform initiative campaign. I think somebody should do it now. Put the SOB in jail, where he thinks nonviolent and utterly harmless marijuana smokers should go.
Of course it's hardly a news flash that the only way the drug war can be sustained is through systematic dishonesty. But Walters has taken it to a new level.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Actually they played with some intensity much of the game. And once Stanford got those two early touchdowns, the Bruin defense (mostly) shut them down pretty well. But I have to say Stanford's Gerhart is a helluva runner. Have to hope Bell or Coleman eventually breaks out similarly sooner or later, but the offensive line is so young.
Seems strange to see Stanford playing three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust smash-mouth football after so often being a finesse team. Even better to see that although the bent a bit the Bruins could hold up against such a team. Hope it's something to build on.
As an effort to implement the initiative that carves out exceptions to California’s anti-marijuana laws for patients with a valid recommendation from a licensed physician, the legislature passed SB 420 which among other things requires counties to set up a voluntary ID card system for patients to help police and patients identify bona fide patients. San Diego County sued the state in 2006, arguing among other things that federal law preempted state law and that California’s medical marijuana law should be declared invalid. The San Diego Superior Court rejected that argument in December 2006, and the Fourth District Court of Appeals also rejected it in July of this year. The decision by the state Supreme Court not to review it means counties must set up an ID card program and perhaps most importantly, as Joe Elford, chief council of Americans for Safe Access noted, “that federal law does not preempt state law relating to medical marijuana.”
There are still plenty of police agencies dragging their feet when it comes to recognizing the legal rights of patients, sometimes including harassing patients. This decision makes it clear that they have no legal standing to do so. Now it’s time for reluctant law enforcement agencies to do what they should always have done — enforce the law on the books, not the law as they might have preferred it to be.
(Cross-posted at Orange Punch)
Friday, October 17, 2008
But we have seen Mrs. Palin on the national stage for seven weeks now, and there is little sign that she has the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for, and expects, in a holder of high office. She is a person of great ambition, but the question remains: What is the purpose of the ambition? She wants to rise, but what for?
Peggy sees the Palin choice as an example of the infantilization of American politics. We want people who drop their g's and say "mom and dad,"people who are "like us" rather than adults we might consider looking up to. I might suggest it could be more like a sign of the decline of the empire.
Even so, the game last week against Oregon was frustrating because with a few breaks (or a lot fewer dumb mistakes) it was quite winnable. The offense finally showed some life (though we still don't seem to have a running game). Perhaps this is the week they'll jell into a real team. I certainly hope so. We're going out to Jen's brother's house in Desert Hot Springs for his birthday, so I'll be watching it there. But don't expect a halftime report. Would love to deliver a triumphant whoop come Sunday.
When I played freshman football at UCLA (back when they had such a team and still played the single wing) our guards coach told us before the Stanford game that through our college careers we would come to hate Stanford, because those guys thought they were superior to everyone on the west coast and their shit didn't stink (we did beat them). I never quite bought into that hate the other school stuff, and over the years, after visiting the place quite a few times and spending a week as a media fellow at the Hoover Institution I became rather fond of Stanford, to the point of sometimes wondering if I shouldn't have tried harder for more scholarship money and gone there. Water under and all that. Still, I want to clobber them badly tomorrow.
I still think that the Hermit Kingdom is trying to come out of its isolation and sees threats and nuclear programs as the only way to get U.S. attention. Anne Applebaum over at Slate sees things in a much less sanguinary light.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I talked to Dave Nolan today, which I hadn't done in a couple of years, and he was more mellow toward Barr than I expected. He agrees with me that Barr has sincerely become a soft-core libertarian; his turnaround on the drug war is notable and remarkable. He thinks Barr's real goal may be a constant slot as a talking head on the cable news channels, which wouldn't be an entirely unpleasant outcome.
The government will be getting preferred or non-voting stock that will require a 5 percent payment for the first five years and 9 percent thereafter, which is an incentive for the banks to buy back the stock if they're in any kind of decent shape at all, so it could turn out to be temporary.
However, as today's results demonstrate, the stock market didn't exactly render a favorable verdict. I think Bernanke and Paulson are going on the tube too much. When they're out there every day with a new warning or wrinkle, they create uncertainty rather than confidence. When people don't know what's coming next, the impulse is to get out of the market while the gettings good -- or at least without further losses
On several occasions, when Obama came back with a fairly smooth response to one of McCain's charges or criticisms, McCain would come back with a relatively dismissive reference to Obama's "eloquence." I think I know what he was trying to do: dismiss what Obama had just said as merely a smooth but fact-free statement, and perhaps trying to garner some underdog sympathy for the plain-spoken straight talker. But in using the word "eloquence," I think he gave Obama more credit than he should have; I suspect people value eloquence in a president. Maybe a word like "smooth talker" would have been more effective.
Botoom line: I think this was McCain's best performance, and he certainly did some attacking on specifics. He may even have won on points if you were scoring as a debate judge would. But I think he didn't come close to doing enough to turn the race around, and I'm not sure what he could do that would. As I've mentioned before, I think he lost his best chance by not opposing the $700 billion bank bailout. I haven't talked to anybody who isn't in the political or chattering classes who favored that ill-conceived move, and the stock markets seem to agree.
Finally, only 20 days. I will be so happy when this endless election is finally over and the next president has to confront the mess Dubya (and his predecessors, to be fair) have left him. Maybe the partisan hormones will recede for at least a little while.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
My old friend Doug Bandow seems to have similar ideas.
I guess what's most dismaying to me, though perhaps not all that surprising in the middle of a political campaign, is the extent to which most people view the thing through strictly partisan lenses (see the first two comments to the Register article. The governor had the right to fire Walt Monegan, the state public safety commissioner, for any reason or no reason, so there was nothing illegal there. And while what the family and administration did in continually filing complaints and pressing Monegan was probably not illegal, it was certainly unseemly and, I would argue, unethical. But people want to see her either as a deep dark villain or as completely pure and innocent. We know few people are either, but who wants nuance in the middle of a political campaign?
Saturday, October 11, 2008
I'm more convinced than ever that Paulsen and Bernanke aggravated the crisis by yelling that the sky was falling.
However, I have the guacamole ready and the beer chilled for the game, which starts at 7:15 tonight. Go Bruins!
Friday, October 10, 2008
Yes, this is something of an experiment to see if it drives noticeable traffic to that site.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
The purpose here is to figure out what genetic traits are associated with pest, disease and drought tolerance. Apparently most cocoa is grown by some 6.5 million families working small farms about 70 percent in Africa, so having a user of cocoa with money is the best way to get this done. Using computers is expected to shorten the time it takes to come up with a new strain of tree with superior properties from five to seven years down to 18 months.
I have nothing in general against genetic engineering. But working for better chocolate? That's change I can believe in!
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Nonetheless, a few cases are likely to attract some attention: a quasi-religious outfit called Summum that wants to erect a stone monument with it's Seven Aphorisms in a city park in Utah that has a Ten Commandments monument, a case that will decide whether a union that charges "agency" fees to non-members can use the money to help other unions recruit, and a challenge to the absurd fine the FCC issued for incidental f-bombs during awards ceremonies. My thanks to John Eastman, dean of Chapman University's Law School for advice and counsel on this one.
But look at the others. Barack Obama is hailed as a great orator for speeches with virtually no intellectual content. Joe Biden is viewd as a seasoned "expert" on foreign policy yet he makes almost inexplicable gaffes and buys into the standard mythology on NATO and Russia. As for John McCain, he's an unstable angry man who has been that way since childhood who equates honor with bellicosity. If this crowd of third-raters vying for the "highest" offices in the criminal enterprise our imperial government has become isn't a sign of decline, I don't know what would be.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Anyway, we are doing a Christmas concert December 5 with a brass ensemble (Palestrina, Benjamin Britten, Wm. Hall, Daniel Pinkham, various traditional carols and anthems, 3 or 4 Glorias) at the performing arts center in Fallbrook. It's a private-party event, so I can't dun you to buy tickets, but since we'll have a program prepared, we're looking for other venues in which to perform them. I'll pass along more information as I get it.
I'm inordinately pleased that I've been able to perform music in various instrumental and vocal ensembles for most of my life. Jen thinks it's good for my lungs. I know it's good for my soul.
The editorial found Sarah at least coherent, if ill-informed, and rather dangerously so on foreign policy, while Joe Biden did what he had to do -- avoid condescension. A pretty low bar for both. Incidentally my colleague Steve Greenhut found Sarah even less enchanting than I did, arousing foul-mouthed wrath and threats to cancel subscriptions from several dozen of Orange County's true believers. I'll be so happy when this election is over and the partisan hormones settle down a bit.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Saturday, October 04, 2008
I had hoped the defense would get better -- figured it had to happen sooner or later -- and in this game it did; I was especially pleased that they got some sacks toward the end of the game. Kevin Craft keeps improving, Kahlil Bell is inspirational and good, and it's starting to look like a real team. I know WSU is hardly the strongest team ever -- third-string quarterback in his first start after some injuries and all -- and Oregon, coming off a clobbering by USC, is going to look to exact revenge on us next week. And I suspect this is still a rebuilding year. But this win really felt good.
Actually, a great night for Southern California sports, with USC bouncing back and the Dodgers sweeping Chicago -- sorry, Cubbies fans. Now if only the Angels can find a way to suck it up and win tomorrow.
The only action that might help was the decision by the SEC to lift the rigid "mark to market" accounting rules that were triggering a downward spiral. Many think this will be enough to arrest a credit crisis -- that, by the way, had not yet developed into a crisis, given that lending, including mortgage lending, was actually up in the middle of September over last year. If the crisis is arrested, however, most people will give the bailout credit.
To add to the silliness (one has to scoff to keep from crying), people talk as if the taxpayers might even make a "profit" on the deal. That's unlikely, but if it does happen, do you think actual taxpayers will see a penny? Of course not, because it isn't the taxpayers but the government that will be buying these toxic assets, and if they end up reselling them for more the money will go to the government, not to us. Delusion and self-delusion all around.
And the stock market tanked after it was done. Of course one-day declines are not necessarily indicative, but it sure didn't suggest widespread confidence that it is going to "rescue" us. Nice that libertarians were almost the only ones expressing the voice of the people on this issue, but sad for the country that it seems nobody listened.
Friday, October 03, 2008
I did my part, wearing my Vladimir Guerrero jersey through the whole game (and he did get three hits), but it obviously wasn't enough. We Southern Californians have been dreaming of a Freeway Series for 45 years or so, and based on regular-season records it seemed as if the Angels would do their part but we weren't so sure about the Dodgers. So much for prognostication. Now the Dodgers are 2-0 and the Angels are 0-2.
Ah, well, there's always Sunday. By the way, in the middle of the season we were wondering if Joe Torre might be having second thoughts about leaving the Yankees. I doubt if he is now. I first became aware of him in the '80s, when he was an Angels "color" announcer and I thought this guy knows so much about about baseball and he can explain it so well that he ought to be managing somewhere. At least that was a good call.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Here are a couple of preview posts, and a couple more here and here. I wouldn't be surprised if Sarah does better than most people expect, especially based on the fact that she performed pretty well during the 2006 Alaskan gubernatorial debates, especially when she knew what she was talking about, and sometimes when she didn't.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
The polls actually show No ahead on this measure, 55-38 in the most recent poll, probably because gays have been getting married steadily since May, and nobody has felt the institution of marriage crumbling. It's hard to understand the hysteria that remains on the topic, but as you can see if you peruse the comments, it's alive and well.
Here's Lew's piece on the House vote Monday, as well as pieces by Frank Shostak and Robert Murphy, as well as the Mises Bailout Reader, which includes a number of pieces on the Austrian business cycle theory, which sadly seems to have been validated once again.