Ice Cream Man!!!!

I wonder if administration officials camped out at the U.S. District court to deliver this message, the way college kids camp out for tickets to the biggest game of the year?

Moving quickly to implement the bill signed by President Bush this week that authorizes military trials of enemy combatants, the administration has formally notified the U.S. District Court here that it no longer has jurisdiction to consider hundreds of habeas corpus petitions filed by inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

In a notice dated Wednesday, the Justice Department listed 196 pending habeas cases, some of which cover groups of detainees. The new Military Commissions Act (MCA), it said, provides that “no court, justice, or judge” can consider those petitions or other actions related to treatment or imprisonment filed by anyone designated as an enemy combatant, now or in the future.

Beyond those already imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, the law applies to all non-U.S. citizens, including permanent U.S. residents.

That would cause whiplash if it wasn’t so unsurprising. That sort of reminds me of this routine by Eddie Murphy:

Any guesses as to which character President Bush is? And let’s not forget what happens to his ice cream in the end.

I don’t trust either, which is why I want divided

From yesterday, two editorial essays describing what Democrats would do if elected. First, from Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post, explaining why returning the Democrats to the majority would be good:

Should they make it through both houses, many of these measures will face a presidential veto. George W. Bush has already vetoed stem cell legislation, and he has staunchly opposed raising the minimum wage since the day he entered politics. What will congressional Republicans do if they’re confronted with a series of vetoes of popular legislation? How large will the lame duck president loom in their calculations?

If they’re so popular, and the public is clamoring for them, how can Mr. Meyerson believe that Republicans wouldn’t try to raise at least one of those flags? Does he believe that the current GOP isn’t so shallow as to support an issue for its supposed popular appeal, regardless of its policy impact? That assumes that President Bush would even sign the legislation. I suspect he’d find his Stem Cell Research-only veto pen.

Of course, it’s worth stepping back from that and asking the more fundamental question of whether or not public policy should be set by popular demand. I hope that popular demand correlates to good policy, but it doesn’t. That makes majoritarian arguments unacceptable.

Next, from Mallory Factor of the Free Enterprise Fund, explaining why returning the Democrats to the majority would be bad:

Next, let’s look at spending. One has to admit that the Republicans have given into the spending temptation, too, in the last few years. But the answer is structural reform to fight Congressional earmarks, not a change in party control. Rep. Pelosi suggests that most new spending would be “pay as you go.” At first, this sounds good, with its hint of not adding new government programs until we can afford them. But “pay as you go” really means “pay before passing go”—and certainly don’t collect any $300 tax refund checks as with the Bush tax cuts in 2001. Rep. Pelosi would be much more convincing on spending if her party had not already proposed $90 billion in new government spending, even before it takes control of the House. The only way to “pay as you go” and fund these programs is for “you” (the taxpayer) to “pay” more. That’s why Rep. Rangel has to say that middle class tax increases have to be considered, too—just raising taxes on the rich won’t pay for everything.

Who will enact this structural reform? The current GOP? Please. And Rep. Pelosi’s spending increases still must pass the president’s desk before we need to worry about her “pay as you go” theory. And does Mr. Factor really believe that the $300 refund check was fiscally responsible, as opposed to political opportunism?

For fun, consider this one extra bit of wishful thinking:

With $90 billion in spending proposals, and 12 years out of power, can we really believe that Democrats will turn on a dime to become the party of spending restraint? Instead, let’s hope that this year’s near-death experience for the Republicans will help keep them focused on cutting government spending and keeping taxes low.

Let’s assume the Republicans might discover fiscal restraint, just for giggles. The word keep in Mr. Factor’s prayer is an interesting choice. For this year’s near-death experience to keep them focused on cutting government spending, they would have to already be focused on it. Who believes that, other than partisans more interested in keeping power than fiscal restraint.

Both sides are wrong, regardless of how they got there. Giving us popular spending won’t help our mess, and arguing that we’re bad, but they’re worse is dumb. Neither party should have complete control. Ever.

I forget that private property is public property

I’ve experienced this before:

Rose Rock, the mother of comedian Chris Rock, claims she was racially discriminated against when she was seated but ignored for a half hour at a Cracker Barrel restaurant along the South Carolina coast.

Of course, I considered it bad service, not discrimination. I find it better to leave than linger. Or to sue.

Rock said Tuesday she planned to sue the Lebanon, Tenn.-based company. A Cracker Barrel spokeswoman said the restaurant chain was investigating and taking the complaint “very seriously.”

If the company did discriminate against her because she’s black, that’s despicable. She should publicize it, given that she has the press access of being Chris Rock’s mother. But sue? Why? Cracker Barrel is a private business, and should be free to refuse service, even if it plays the game of seating a customer.

From Richard Bach’s The Bridge Across Forever, describing his reaction to diner displaying a “We reserve the right to refuse service” sign:

You reserve the right to do absolutely anything you want to do, I thought. Why put up signs to say so? Makes you look frightened. Why are you frightened?

Ms. Rock reserves the right to sue. And I reserve the right to laugh when she fails. If she fails. If not, I reserve the right to sigh at our legal system.

Traditional marriage would decrease marriage

La Shawn Barber has an entry today about outing closeted public officials. It’s a topic worth considering, but a passage in the middle caught my attention.

… When I say I don’t care who people sleep with, I mean it…as long as it’s not in my face. Keep your business to yourself, and don’t define yourself by or try to turn your bedroom activities into a political cause. But that is what the homosexual agenda is about. Two to three percent of the population, people whose sexual orientation got mixed up somehow — genetically, environmentally, or how ever — want to flip the culture upside, demand special rights, and tell the rest of us how to think. It won’t work with me.

I read Ms. Barber’s blog because she’s intelligent and I agree with almost nothing she writes. Reading opposing views helps me flesh out my ideas and beliefs. I don’t see this issue as gay Americans fighting for special rights based on their sexual orientation. They are asking for the equal recognition of their rights by our government. It’s that simple. If they’re right, and I think they are, it doesn’t matter if that flips the culture upside, causes a few minor blips, or results in a collective yawn. Rights are inherent, not granted by the majority (telling the minority how to think).

More to the point, turn your bedroom activities into a political cause is not exclusive to gays within the realm of marriage. With accusations that gays have done that by asking for their right to marry, supporters of “traditional” marriage have turned their (heterosexual) bedroom activities into a political cause. Just yesterday, I posted a quote from a gentleman who claimed that marriage is about procreation. If that’s truly the case as it surely must be with a push for “traditional” marriage, then the freedom that heterosexuals maintain to marry anyone they please is unjustifiably broad. If this is the legitimate standard, we must begin reducing the right to marry to those who may create children. No one else would hold the right to state-sanctioned civil marriage. Or to procreation outside of marriage, if we want to be consistent in our defining our rights by some standard of values.

For example, my grandmother became engaged recently. She’ll be married with the full sanction of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Yet, I reasonably assume that she is beyond her child-bearing years. Some other criteria must be at work. Love? Happiness? What is it? Are those enough, since she will have no more children? Whatever it is, surely gay Americans possess the same capacity and desire to exercise this fundamental right.

Any color you want, as long as we like it

Our government certainly creates issues with the way it inserts itself into commerce, but the European Commission’s involvement with Microsoft puts our central planners to shame:

The European Commission has said it will “closely monitor” the impact of Microsoft’s soon-to-be-launched Vista operating system on the market.

But in a statement the EC said that while it has been “informed” of Microsoft’s plans it has not given a “green light” to Vista’s delivery because “Microsoft must shoulder its own responsibilities to ensure that Vista is fully compliant with EC Treaty competition rules and in particular with the principles laid down in the March 2004 Commission antitrust decision concerning Microsoft”.

I’m sure Microsoft will be presumed innocent of any anti-socialist behavior until the EC proves that Microsoft is breaking the rules. I’m not serious about that belief because the phrase I highlighted says everything. (The rest is instructive, as well.) In a free market, which Europe clearly isn’t, customers get to decide if they like a company’s product. Instead, the EC stands in the way telling Europeans whether or not they’re allowed to like it. The European Commission is stupid.

A glimmer of libertarianism

The (D) after his name suggests there are cases where Rep. Barney Frank has voted against the principle he states here about the anti-gambling bill, but for now, it’s useful to point out that at least one Representative in Congress has a clue about his role:

“If an adult in this country, with his or her own money, wants to engage in an activity that harms no one, how dare we prohibit it because it doesn’t add to the GDP or it has no macroeconomic benefit. Are we all to take home calculators and, until we have satisfied the gentleman from Iowa that we are being socially useful, we abstain from recreational activities that we choose?… People have said, What is the value of gambling ? Here is the value. Some human beings enjoy doing it. Shouldn’t that be our principle? If individuals like doing something and they harm no one, we will allow them to do it, even if other people disapprove of what they do.

That’s 89% fantastic. I’d change only the last sentence, to something like this:

If individuals like doing something and they harm no one, we do not have the power to prohibit it, even if other people disapprove of what they do.

That gets to the true principle, based on the liberty guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Congress gets its powers from us. It does not grant us our rights. Kudos to Rep. Frank for stating what needs to be said.

Hat tip: Hit and Run

This is not an argument for unions

Why do we keep hearing that employees are powerless against big, bad corporations? Lately, it’s always Wal-Mart, as it is in this story, except the story reveals the lie in the anti-capitalist sales pitch:

For months, politicians and activists have been saying that the low prices at the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), come at a tremendous cost to its low-paid employees. They point to lawsuits that contend the company discriminates against women and forces low-paid employees to work through lunch breaks and after their shifts, without extra compensation. Wal-Mart has also been boosting its political contributions to stop initiatives aimed at forcing the retailer to raise pay and benefits … .

Using contentions in a lawsuit is little more than hearsay until the case is resolved, of course. And I’m not sure how any company could “force” employees to do anything. Barring accusations of slavery, grudgingly acquiescing to an employer request isn’t a forced action.

Oh, wait, sorry. I got lost on the way to the bulk of the story. Here it is:

Now, as Wal-Mart rolls out a new round of workplace restrictions, employees at a Wal-Mart Super Center in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., are taking matters into their own hands. On Oct. 16, workers on the morning shift walked out in protest against the new policies and rallied outside the store, shouting “We want justice” and criticizing the company’s recent policies as “inhuman.” Workers said the number of participants was about 200, or nearly all of the people on the shift.

This demonstrates an intelligent response. If they don’t like what’s going on, they should leave. Granted, stopping at the front entrance isn’t quite far enough, and chanting “We want justice” is probably excessive. But I’m missing the forced part that amounts to an injustice. They’re equal partners in a transaction. When they accept that, they’ll find they’re not as powerless as they’re told. This concept is simple enough, and here is another data point, if they’re interested in learning the real lesson.

What else should we amend out of the Bill of Rights?

I’d planned to write something about a poll in today’s Washington Post indicating that 53% of Virginians support the proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriage. But David Boaz explained this story in the perfect context, so I’ll excerpt a bit here.

All these journalists are doing the supporters’ work for them. Bans on gay marriage have passed everywhere they’ve been placed on the ballot. That’s what the supporters of the Virginia amendment want voters to think they’re voting on. But that’s not what the Virginia amendment really does.

Same-sex marriage is already prohibited in Virginia, and there’s no prospect of legislative or judicial change in that fact. So this amendment is touted as banning something that is already banned.

Read his commentary. It’s short, and spells out exactly what the bigots want to achieve.

From the article, there are two useful quotes from people who clearly slept through their civics lessons while still in school.

“My religion teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, and quite frankly, that’s all I need to help me understand how I need to vote,” said Sandy Ledford, 57, a housewife from Botetourt County, in the state’s rural southwest. “It’s pretty simple for me.”

“I’m not a homophobe,” said Charles Wortham, 60, a dentist from Hanover County, outside Richmond. “My view is simply that marriage is there to establish a legal process for the procreation of children. It’s Mother Nature. Same-sex couples can’t naturally reproduce, so it doesn’t seem like they should be able to marry like a traditional family.”

So we should enact the parts of the Bible that suggest stoning, slavery, and other such actions we’ve abandoned? And when will we implement fertility tests into the marriage licensing process? Worth asking, since he’s not a homophobe.

Will he figure out how the Constitution works on November 7th?

Until today, we were nothing more than a nation of lawlessness strangely organized with sham system of courts, laws and rules. Thankfully, President Bush fixed that oversight by signing the torture bill into law. Consider these quotes from our Dear Leader:

  • “With the bill I’m about to sign, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people will face justice,” Bush said.
  • “It is a rare occasion when a president can sign a bill that he knows will save American lives,” Bush said. “I have that privilege this morning.”
  • “We will answer brutal murder with patient justice,” Bush said. “Those who kill the innocent will be held to account.”

That last quote deserves a little ranting. Patient justice is an interesting euphemism for beating the shit out of detainees until we get the answer we like. And it’s worth noting that our president wants refuses to hold those who torture the innocent to account. Worth noting, since more than 200 years of legal, ethical, and historical precedent suggests this is the wrong action.

One more quote warrants attention:

“Over the past few months, the debate over this bill has been heated, and the questions raised can seem complex,” he said. “Yet, with the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few. Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously? And did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?”

With time the question we’ll most ponder is whether or not this generation took the threat seriously. As long as we scrunch up our faces with mad determination, we’re doing well. This president sees no distinction between accepting the threat and taking specific actions to counter the threat. He is incompetent.