Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The WaPo's sketch writer, Dana Milbank, had a hilarious take on the situation, casting Barack as the car-salesman-in-chief. I suggested in the Register's Orange Punch blog that the system we're veering toward and on thing we really are doing in a bipartisan manner -- is not so much socialism as fascism. As the great Old Right journalist John Flynn pointed out long ago in his book "As We Go Marching," (one of my seminal influences some 40 years ago) at an economic level fascism leaves nominal business ownership in private hands but government has the power to commandeer companies and make sure they operate for the State's benefit -- the Corporate State as they called it. Fascism also sees individualism and selfishness as the worst of all possible thoughtcrimes. We got a fairly lively discussion going among commenters.
Monday, March 30, 2009
This may be as good a place as any to acknowledge the sad fact that Estonia and most of the other Eastern European countries that were freed from Soviet rule and were doing so well economically, are suffering from the global downturn, perhaps more so than Western European countries. I remember numerous triumphal articles about how instituting a "flat tax" regimen had created remarkable proisperity. Well, a flat tax wasn't a bad idea, but it turns out that credit from German, Swedish and other Western European banks was a huge underpinning of the proeperity (extended probably in part because of the flat tax). With the global downturn that credit has been cut off and ther Baltic countries are suffering, flat tax, devotion to capitalism or no. It's sad, but honesty dictat5es this acknowledgment.
The Foundation for Economic Education has distributed countless copies of Bastiat's works. I'm pleased to note, however, that it was R.C. Hoiles, who bought the Register in 1935 and was published until he died at 90 in 1970, who first paid to have Bastiat's works translated into English, way back in the 1940s. I do try to be mindful that we at the Register, however troubled the company, along with almost all other newspapers, may be at this point, are the keepers of a precious legacy of advocacy for liberty.
We probably won't see widespread protest until there's widespread coverage of U.S. futility, butAfghanistan is much larger and more mountainous than Iraq, therefore more difficult to cover (I'm re-reading Robert Kaplan's "Soldiers of God," about the mujahidin driving out the Soviets, which makes poignant poiints about how difficult it was then to do journalism.)
Well, the Register's editorial makes the appropriate points and suggests immediate demilitarization and a focus on al-Qaida rather than the Taliban. Will anybody pay ettentio?
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I got a similar feeling reading Noemie Emery's recent book, "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families," which I reviewed this week for the Register. Most of us who have paid attention know that the recent generation of Kennedys has been pretty full of ne'er-do-wells, but apparently the pattern is pretty common. Emery describes the Adamses, the Roosevelts, the Kennedys, the Bushes, with a bit of the Gores. In each case patrimonial ambitions for the family spawn to go into politics led to drunks, suicides, and generally miserable lives, even among those who had a certain amountof political success (I suspect AlGore was miserable until he got out of politics. It didn't make him any smarter to get out, but I think he's a good deal happier).
It's enough to make you wonder. Is political leadership inherently toxic, not only to those unfortunate enough to be subjects of especially ambitious leaders, but to the would-be leaders themselves? So would charm, amorality and a facility for obfuscation that sounds almost sensible rate as toxic assets?
I don't know why they didn't just allow the two companies to declare bankruptcy. One justification is that some have said nobody would buy cars from a company in bankruptcy. If current sales figures are any indication, people won't buy cars from a company on the government teat either -- although I think the current situation has a lot to do with the recession. When times are tough and you're not sure whether you'll have a job in the next few months, you postpone discretionary purchases. Since most Americans already have a car that more-or-less functions, it's not that tough a decision to put off buying a new one.
I doubt very much if the government plan to save the auto companies will be better than a private-sector plan or better than bankruptcy -- indeed, it's most likely to be worse. But when you're paying the freight you can micromanage, and that seems to be what the Obamaites want to do.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
In fact, the game was an exemplar, an illustration of why it's sometimes fun to watch sports even when you don't have a rooting interest. Both teams played hard and well, and it came down, literally to the last half-second. Good fun to watch. Ready for baseball.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Quite a few people with some modicum of expertise seem to agree. The "plan" (really more a formula for muddling through and hoping for the best) doesn't address Afghan corruption. What support there is from Beltway types is lukewarm at best, butt-kissing at worst.
Here's another expression of a similar point of view, and a piece written a few weeks ago by my Register colleague Steve Greenhut and one by me (note that we were several weeks ahead of the mainstream media in calling attention to this situation, and almost unique in offering a solution that might work rather than doubling-down on failed policies). And here's a link to the piece in Foreign Policy magazine alluded to in the editorial.
I long ago gave up being upset at people reflexively dismissing the idea of marijuana legalization with cheap jokes, even though over the years I have spent a fair amount of time, energy and study on the subject and understand a fair amount about just how expensive, socially corrosive, counter-productive and downright cruel prohibition is. There’s something about pot that seems to demand cheap jokes. But I still reserve the right to be mildly exasperated.
In his online “town hall” meeting President Obama, who might be expected to know better, did what most conventional politicians do, noting the intense interest in the issue of marijuana legalization among those who submitted questions online and dismissing it with a couple of weak laugh lines. I suppose he thought it made him look properly middle-America, but it’s an example of serious unseriousness. The sad thing is that anyone who has given the issue more than a few moments’ thought knows legalzation would help the economy, not only by saving the money wasted on enforcement and imprisonment, but opening up huge markets that could be taxed, not only in marijuana but hemp.
I’m not quite alone in my assessment. Freddie DeBoer growls thoughtfully. Andrew Sullivan calls it pathetic. Radley Balko defends him from criticism. Pete Guither at DrugWarRant rounds up a host of responses. Steven Taylor at PoliBlog is also exasperated. And not surprisingly, the good folks at the Marijuana Policy Project are not pleased. I don’t know what it will take for the “mainstream” media to begin to take this issue seriously.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
As this Register editorial argues, not only would the move expand the power of the Federal Reserve, which was the main cause of the financial crisis in the first place (but in government nothing succeeds like failure), it would keep any number of businesses that would do better to go bankrupt or out of business sputtering along on the taxpayers' dime, diverting cap[ital and other resources from more productive uses. Expect stagnation if this stinker passes.
This emphasizes that the request from the judge in the Charles Lynch case for written clarification of the new policy from the Justice Dept. is very important. Until there's a written directive, there's the danger of rogue DEA agents continuing to try to undermine state medical marijuana law on the pretext that dispensaries are just fronts for recreational sales are are operating in violation of state law. After all, these guys are confirmed rug warriors, nd a lot of them sincerely believe that hard-nosed enforcement is the only thing saving the country from dire peril. I've noted previously that there have been far fewer prosecutions than there have been raids, which suggests strongly that the raids are more like domestic terrorism than legitimate law enforcement (not that the federal laws prohibiting (some) drugs are constitutionally legitimate, but that's another story.).
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Meanwhile, in Minnesota a medical marijuana bill cleared the House Public Safety Committee and appears to be on its way toward legislative approval. Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper has been doing yeoman work supporting it. In Maine, which has had a medical marijuana law on the books, there's a move to create state-licensed stores.
In Maryand a state legislator is pushing a bill to require the creation of a state task force to study medical marijuana. In New Hampshire, where legislatoirs have tried and failed to pass a medical marijuana bill several times recently, another effort is underway and supporters think it has a better chance this time. In New Jersey a medical marijuana bill has bassed the state senate but faces an uncertain fate in the assembly, though Gov. Jon Corzine says he would sign it. Michigan's medical marijuana law officially goes into effect April 4.
And so it goes.
To be sure after decades under Social Democrats, Sweden now has a right-leaning government that, if not determined to roll back socialism, at least resists further state intervention and ownership. And when I posted an item on this phenomenon on the Register's Orange Punch blog, a commenter pointed out that Saab is owned by GM, so it's not quite the patriotic icon it once was. Still, there are plenty of workers in Trollhatten, where the plant is located, eager to complain to reporters about how hard-hearted the Swedish government is.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Lera Auerbach (also a composer) plays the piano in a demonstration that having one talent doesn't preclude having another. I'm not sure I would want any of the music I wrote as a teenager, when one plan was to become a diplomat and write memorable tone poems describing each of the countries in which I served, but there's no danger of that. It's safely gone.
Monday, March 23, 2009
The other is to send a message to Congress urging it to eliminate federal marijuana laws and let the states -- which have traditionally regulated health issues, a tradition that is far from entirely dead -- decide what kind of marijuana policies they want. This is the kind of bold suggestion I like to see drug reformers take. I've advocated taking marijuana off Schedule I numerous times, but this is a much better idea. It would be wonderful to see Congress get a lot of e-mails on this.
Just in case you want more information than anyone could possibly want about Tim Geithner’s latest plan to save the banks from themselves, here is the Treasury Department’s official news release on the plan and Geithner’s op-ed in the WSJ. Paul Krugman at the NYT is spitting mad because it isn’t socialist enouogh, while Brad DeLong is a little more optimistic. I talked with Alan Reynolds at Cato, who said it is a bit less-worse than most of the previous efforts, which tanked the stock market. Peter Wallison at AEI, who had sounded the alarm about Fannie and Freddie for years, thinks he has a plan for pricing the er, “legacy” assets, while Alex Pollack recommends a genuinely independent quasi-corporation along the lines of the Depression-era Reconstruction Finance Corp.
Seems to me that taxpayers assume a lot of risk, especially if they’re guaranteeing the private-sector investors Geithner hopes to lure into this scheme. But short of letting a few bad banks fail, which would have been the way to handle it if the Bushies hadn’t panicked back in September, this might work, at least for a while. Of course we’ll have to see how many private investors want a piece of the action considering Congress’s proclivity, as shown in the bonus-tax legislation in the House last week, for changing the rules midway through the game.
How could anyone resist a story of good Scotch and good stewardship? The worldwide downturn may affect this initiative negatively before long, but it turns out that rich Asians, especially in China, love good Scotch, and consumption worldwide has increased 15 percent in the last 10 years, leading to expanding the industry. So in Speyside, Scotland, a consortium of distillers plans a biomass-powered heating and electricity plant. It will be powered by wood chips and something called draff, a solid grain product that is removed from the mash before fermentation, and is expected to produce enough electricity to power the plants and 9,000 homes. They're also adding a plant to turn pot ale, another by-product that had previously been discarded, into a concentrated organic fertilizer.
For more first-hand information, go here. For more on Scotch, my favorite whisky, in general, try here and here.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
It's still a bit mysterious to me why this particular set of bonuses, admittedly hardly typical corporate practice, set off such a firestorm. I suspect there's something kinda cumulative going on. People have been having second thoughts about the whole magilla -- bailouts, pork spending called stimulus, baigger spending yet, failure to get serious about the bank crisis -- and were just ready to explode in disapproval. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
What is clear is that Villanova admninistered an old-fashioned ass-whupping on the Bruins yesterday. I believe in respecting opponents and being able to admire what they do well, but this was painful to watch. At least the Bruins weren't acting as if they had given up toward the end, but for whatever reason they never had close to Villanova's energy. And I have to admit that while Villanova played hard and physical, they didn't really play dirty.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
The Philadelphia is hardly the only classical music institution hit by the recession. Opera Pacific in Orange County had to close not long ago. But many of its troubles seem to be unique to it. I think Christoph Eschenbach, who served as conductor five years until last year, had a good deal to do with it. I was never impressed by his musicianship and apparently he was unable to establish much chemistry with the players. Charles Dutoit, a fine conductor, is filling in temporarily. Don't know if he would be considered for the job permanently or not.
I hope they get their act together and reestablish the orchestra's preeminence. The first classical LP I ever bought, longer ago than I care to remember, was the famous Serenade for Strings with Ormandy conducting album, with Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and, of course, Samuel Barber's magnificent and moving Adagio.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I note that Cato emphasized that this decision respects federalism. That's an aspect many still misunderstand. One news story said federal law "supersedes" state law, which just isn't so. I was at the Supreme Court when they argued the Oakland case, and Justice Ginsburg asked the government attorney why the doctrine of federal supremacy was not being invoked. She replied that this was simply one of many cases where state laws and federal laws are different, and law enforcement at each level is bound to enforce the laws of the jurisdictions to which they are sworn. (I would contend that if they took the oath to the constitution federal agents wouldn't enforce federal laws, which are unconstitutional, but I wouldn't depend on any current court -- well, maybe certain panels on the 9th Circuit -- to go along with me on that.)
Thursday, March 19, 2009
The shout-out, of course, is due to the fact that President Obama in his televised tournament picks, had UCLA losing in the first round -- though with a question mark. And on the eve of visiting SoCal! He also had USC losing, and it would be sweet if he were proven wrong on that one as well.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Word is that the OC Fair folks got the word Friday that Obama wanted to do an event on Wednesday, so it was obviously set up rather hastily. The building was far from suitable, essentially a big barn-like structure usually used for trade shows and the like, with terrible acoustics (if any).
Must say Obama handled the event very well, and the audience was utterly gaga for him. If one expected intellectual coherence, however, one had come to the wrong place. I wonder if he actually believes this stuff. The financial crisis was caused by the banks being mysteriously loose with credit (the government played no role in this explanation) and the cure is to get credit markets going again with $1 trillion from the govt. and subsidize refinancing. I thought law professors were supposed to value at least a modicum of logic.
Here are the blogs Steve Greenhut and I produced on the event. Editorial here, with a little more detailed critique of the event.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I hope to be able get answers to those and more questions if possible.
A fair amount has been made of the supposed boldness of Barack Obama in venturing into Orange County, which has the reputation of being one of the most Republican places on earth. That's much less true than it has been in the past -- I think Obama pulled 48% in November and the demographics have been changing for at least 20 years; we may even be a "majority minority" place now. And judging by people willing to wait overnight last night for tickets, there are a lot of Obama fans in the county.
I'll probably be home later than usual tomorrow night, but should be able to record some thoughts and impressions here in the evening.
Monday, March 16, 2009
On the other hand, he has hardly been a crusader for drug law reform, as his predecessor as Seattle chief, Norm Stamper, has become. (It does seem to be the case that police and people in law enforcement tend to see the unwisdom of drug prohibitiuon after they have retiured -- their careers done and their pensions secure. All the more reason I have so much respect for my friend Judge James P. Gray, who began questioning prohibition in the early 1990s, when he was still a sitting judge; he only retired last year. I know his decision hurt his career.) And the word is that Joe Biden, an unreflective drug warrior who sponsored the bill to create the "drug czar" position, will play an active role in drug policies. Furthermore, they're talking about focusing on problems emerging from the bloody drug-police-cartel war in Mexico without a hint that they understand that U.S. encouragement has increased the violence and the least dangerous course would be to legalize drugs and reduce the monstrous profits.
But then there's Loretta Sanchez, not someone I ever expected to be a leader on an important issue, taking what is potentially a leadership position. Maybe she's found her issue? I hope so.
Then again, I happened to be at a Drug Policy Alliance function shortly after Bill Clinton was elected, and most everybody there was anticipating a new and more sensible day dawning. As we know, however, he set new records for federal marijuana arrests and prosecutions.
Keep your powder dry, pitchforks at the ready.
Of course I was opposed to "rescuing" AIG with taxpayer money in the first place, and it seems pretty apparent that it hasn't worked. And on the general "he who pays the piper calls the tune" principle, the government, having funneled billions, might seem to have a legitimate interest in telling AIG how to run its business. Specifically, however, as I understand it not all of AIG is unprofitable; some branches of the company are still quite profitable. And some of their executives had contractual arrangements prior to the bailout to the effect that if they performed to certain standards they would get bonuses. Even Tim Geithner and Larry Summers acknowledged that there were valid contractual arrangements that the government didn't have the power to void -- especially since that kind of micromanagement wasn't written into the TARP bill that was used to bail out AIG (differently from the way TARP was sold, if you want to talk about at least implied contractual arrangements). So the government doesn't seem to have any legal leverage here.
All that said, it would have been far preferable if at least a few AIG executives had said that considering the bailout and the predictable public perception, that they weren't going to take the bonuses. But we seem to live in a culture in which adhering to the letter of the law is considered the same as being moral, which is hardly the case -- indeed, a case can be made that the opposite is true. So Obama had his populist moment delivered to him on a silver platter.
As I and a few others have suggested, the important thing to remember is that al-Qaida and the Taliban are not one and the same, that the Taliban is an indigenous Afghan outfit while al-Qaida has international ambitions. Our core interest in Afghanistan, therefore, whoever nominally rules there, is that al-Qaida not be able to use the country as a base from which to plan attacks on the U.S. (and Western Europe). They're not able to do so now, so the best course would be to remove our military forces, which have about as much chance of prevailing as the Russians in the 1980s and the British in the 19th century, and inform whoever reigns in Kabul that if we detect al-Qaida activity we'll take it out by whatever means promises to work, and might, if we feel like it, give the nominal government maybe five minutes' notice. But it looks as if the Obama administration is preparing for a long-term commitment
It was nowhere near so dramatic as the last time I was called. I got very close to going on a trial in which, from what I could tell, I would probably have voted to convict. But when they asked the key question -- will you follow and abide by the law as explained by the judge scrupulously and without exception? -- I said I probably would but I couldn't guarantee it. That's because I believe as a juror and a free American I have the right to interpret the law myself, and if I think applying it in a specified way will lead to an injustice, I have the right to vote according to my conscience rather than according to the law and the judge's instructions.
The prosecuting attorney and I then had about a five-minute colloquy, in which I explained that as a newspaperman I was especially attached to this right of jurors because of my belief that the jurors who voted not to convict John Peter Zenger (I won an award named after him a few years ago) of libeling the government in colonial America led to our freedom of the press. However juries are instructed now, this is a proud tradition that also resulted in many slaves not being returned to their masters when slavery was still the law in part of the country. This all took place in front of a large courtroom filled with prospective jurors. He asked if I had ever heard of "jury nullification," and I said had, of course, though I preferred the term "jury rights." He then asked the judge to dismiss me for cause but the judge, who seemed quite amused by the whole proceeding, declined to do so, and he had to use one of his peremptories to dismiss me as I was walking toward the jury box. I don't know if saying similar things would have gotten me dismissed in a civil case.
I don't recommend doing this yourself unless you really believe in it and know a little more about it. A good source of information is the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) and Cato's book titled "Jury Nullification."
Sunday, March 15, 2009
The Supreme Court rejected Summum's argument that it was a matter of free speech to which it had a right in the "public forum" that was the city park. The court said it was the government's park and the government had the right to decide what could be put there permanently. But that seems to make the Ten Commandments monument "government speech." Could it then be removed on establishment grounds. I think the issue is far from settled, and the Supreme Court, which is supposed to provide guidance on confusing matters, has muddied the waters again.
To be sure, earmarks are a tiny part of the massive federal budget -- 1-3% of discretionary spending -- but are still indicative of a spending system out of control.
Well, maybe if the unions get this one they'll be less intense about seeking protectionism during a global downturn, which just might tip it into a global depression.
Some months ago Kathy Smith and a few others of us (I think Judge Jim Gray was along) visited Loretta's district office and urged her administrative assistant to urge her to get out front on marijuana reform. We were mainly talking about halting federal raids on California medical marijuana dispensaries, but the conversation was pretty wide-ranging. I have no idea whether this visit played a role in her decision to go out front on this issue, but one can hope. At least we made the effort.
Then today we had chores and shopping to do and didn't get back until fairly late. Perhaps it was just as well. I might have been inclined to be in a funk about UCLA losing on Friday. Can't do anything about it except to congratulate the Trojans and hope for a better-than-seeded run in the NCAA Tournament.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Of course USC has nothing to lose and (maybe) everything to gain by winning tonight. It just might give them a chance to get to the NCAA Tournament, whereas the Bruins are already in, though hardly guaranteed a good seed.
Arizona State, which has beaten UCLA twice this year, was impressive in beating Washington, the champion after league play, in the first game. This is shaping up to be a terrific tournament.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
The withdrawal of former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and China Charles W. “Chas” Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council, which prepares those sometimes controversial, often-politicized National Intelligence Estimates, has raised anew questions about the possible power in Washington of what we might call the Israeli Lobby. I don’t know Freeman, but by most accounts he is very bright and rather opinionated. He’s one of the unusual denizens of Washington willing to criticize Israeli policy in public, as in a 2005 speech to the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, referring to Israel’s “high-handed and self-defeating policies” its “occupation and settlement of Arab lands” which he called “inherently violent.”
More commentary from various sides later, but two things are especially interesting here. The first is that almost the entire controversy over Freeman took place in the blogosphere rather than in the newspapers or on TV. Neither the NYT nor the WaPo ran a story about the controversy, which was bubbling rather actively, until it was over. The second is that Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair (holder of the position created when the Bushies streamlined the “intelligence community” by adding another layer of bureaucracy) said he wanted Freeman precisely because he was outspoken and opinionated; he said he wanted a mix of independent thinkers working on intelligence. I would question whether you would want someone with such a long paper trail in charge of preparing intelligence estimates, as compared to contributing information and ideas, to be compiled by people with less skin in the game. But Blair isn’t stupid, and right up until Freeman withdrew his name he defended the choice.
It does seem that Freeman had other baggage. He served on the board of the China National Offshore Oil Corp., a past position his critics said could lead to conflicts of interest in the proposed new job. Critics also unearthed old e-mails that might seem to justify China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown, though Freeman said they were taken out of context, that he was describing the prevailing view in China, not expressing his own opinion.
As to where various players stood: The Zionist Organization of America jumped into the fray early and publicly. AIPAC, the American Israel Political Action Committee was more circumspect. Its former top official Steve Rosen (who resigned after being indicted for violating the Espionage Act for allegedly passing secrets to Israel, no trial yet), campaigned against Freeman on his own blog beginning three weeks ago. But AIPAC itself officially took no position, though spokesman Josh Block said he had given information to bloggers and reporters on background, which concealed his involvement.
Cranky semi-conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan was outraged at the campaign against Freeman, though he later recognized that Freeman would probably have been under attack after taking the job, which would have undermined his effectiveness. He also hypothesized that it was a clever ploy by the Obama people who wanted cover because they plan to change the pro-Israeli tilt of U.S. foreign policy, but if a critic like Freeman was proposed and then gone it couldn’t be hung on him. Seems unlikely.
Jonathan Chait at the New Republic fulminated against Freeman. At the WaPo venerable columnist David Broder regretted that he felt pushed to resign, but the paper’s editorial page said good riddance. Joe Klein at Time was dismayed.
As a not-uncritical fan of Israel, I’m not quite sure what to think of all this. I don’t know if Freeman is really the paragon his friends and supporters make him out to be (though it’s interesting that those who know him well seem most impressed). I also don’t think the U.S. has tied its foreign policy slavishly to Israel over the years (though Dubya did seem to) so it seems aparent that while the Israel Lobby is powerful, it is not all-powerful. So I don’t know whether the incident is tragic or not. But it sure is interesting.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
It's just possible that the original e-mail represented compliance with the apparent new Obama administration policy against trying to subvert state medical marijuana laws. Or it could have been a recognition of the obvious: that they just don't have the personnel to go after all the dispensaries in L.A. But what about rescinding the order? A reversion to primal drug warriorism? Embarrassment that the first order became public?
Just don't know, but I'll try to look into it.
I'm a little surprised that MPP and other drug-law reform groups haven't taken note of the fact I noted: that the FDA-approved drug in question whose side effect for improper application was gangrene(!), while there's another effective anti-nauseant available, cannabis, whose only side effects might be a scratchy thorat and a cheerful disposition.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The idea that Bush's "ban" on federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells deterred progress toward a cure for Parkinsons and Alzheimers by eight years is wrong on several counts. He didn't ban all federal funding, but limited it to existing lines of stem cells. He didn't ban state or private research, which he (still) didn't have the power to do. California famously passed a law allowing state government-funded stem cell research, but the program has mainly been tied up in bureaucratic wrangling and turf battles. That brings us to the most egregious fallacy: that government funding is the key to progress in scientific endeavors. More often it is a deterrent to progress.
Years ago (late 1970s) when I was an aide to Bob Bauman in the House, some of us came up with a proposal to have a congressional veto on National Science Foundation, and it actually passed the House so I had to do a lot of research in preparation for Senate testimony. The short version is that the government is most likely to fund "safe" projects that promise measurable, minor, integral results, and it ties these in miles of red tape. The real innovators are almost always despised and on their own until they make a breakthrough that is widely recognized, whereupon they tend to become respectable and tamed (neutered?). Grant masters tend to be the least innovative scientists. The whole process is poison for real scientific innovation.
Brandeis, by my lights, was not consistent in his concern for liberty, but this is a wondrously enlightened remark. I suppose it seemed appropriate today because I attended a luncheon where the speaker was John Yoo, author of the notorious "torture" memos and noted advocate of "plenary" or "unitary" power in the executive, especially in time of war or national security crisis (defined much more broadly than I would). The speech was not on the record so I'm not at liberty to say much beyond that it was about Lincoln's use of extraordinary powers during the civil war -- one reason why, in contrast to establishment historians, Lincoln vies in my mind with Wilson and FDR for worst president in our history rather than best, where a recent C-SPAN-sponsored poll of historians put him. Yoo didn't find his conduct shocking or especially reprehensible, not surprisingly.
I hate it when people whose political views I find dubious or even reprehensible turn out to be pleasant and likeable, and that is the case with John Yoo. He is soft-spoken, pleasant and unfailingly civil, and I liked him personally. Maybe that's an advantage, however. He agreed to spend a couple of hours with me in the near future in an on-the-record interview. He says he's almost libertarian on domestic issues but thinks the constitution gives the president extraordinary latitude when war or near-war is the issue. I'll see if I can't prod him to be a bit more libertarian on foreign policy.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Regardless of what one thinks of the outcome of this case, notice that the drug with the potnetially horrendous side effects was an anti-nauseant. It happenes that cancer patients and oncologists have discovered that cannabis has anti-nauseant qualities when used by patients undergoing chemotherapy, which often leads to patients throwing up uncontrollably (and miserably) for hours and even for days. Yet it has virtually no unpleasant side effects, and certainly none remotely approaching causing gangrene if improperly ingested. It should be removed from Schedule I immediately so doctors can at least prescribe it as an alternative to genuinely dangerous anti-nauseants.
I have mentioned previously how much I enjoyed talking with Jagdish Bhagwati and how much I got out of his great wisdom and knowledge regarding these issues. I hope you'll agree that I used the information he gave me fairly deftly. Tell me if I'm wrong.