Archives: 09/2008

More Education Hypocrisy from Liberal Democrats

This is not a blog post about Senator Obama sending his kids to an expensive high-quality private school while opposing school choice proposals that would offer that opportunity to poor parents, even though that would be an understandable assumption given the “education-hypocrisy” title. Instead, we’re talking about the head of the Liberal Democrat Party in the United Kingdom, who just warned his members that he is probably going to send his kids to non-state schools even though the party is wedded to a throw-more-tax-money-down-a-rat-hole approach of propping up government schools. The Daily Mail reports:

Nick Clegg yesterday admitted he might send his children to a private school - as his party vowed to end ‘educational apartheid’. He said he would not rule out ‘ dipping into his pocket’ for Antonio, six, and Alberto, four, because of the poor quality of state schools. ‘I am not holding my children’s future and education hostage to a game of political football. I am a father before a politician,’ said Mr Clegg, who attended the independent Westminster School. He said he was concerned about the state secondaries close to his home in Putney, South-West London, claiming they were ‘too big and alienating’.

McCain for FCS?

John McCain attacked Barack Obama last week for saying that he would slow development of the Army’s $160 billion modernization program, Future Combat Systems.* That is interesting, because McCain was himself recently against the program. In a budget plan released in July, the McCain campaign said FCS should be “ended.”

Because he brought it up, it’s worth noting one curious facet of McCain’s former opposition to FCS, noted recently by Gordon Adams in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists but no major media: FCS is a Boeing-run program, as were the two other programs that McCain came out against in his July budget plan – Airborne Laser, a type of missile defense, and Globemaster, a cargo plane. These are the only three defense programs that McCain has advocated canceling during the campaign. (Obama has not mentioned any defense programs that he would cancel.) 

All three programs deserve to be ended. But it may be no coincidence that McCain opposes only Boeing programs. He has been feuding with Boeing since the aborted 2002 Air Force refueling tanker lease deal. The short version of that saga (McCain gave his summation on the Senate floor in 2004) is that the Air Force tried to push a deal through Congress where they would lease tankers from Boeing without competition, adding costs for taxpayers. Authority for the deal was in a Defense Appropriations Bill and therefore would have bypassed authorizers like McCain. McCain led the opposition, in the process disgorging documents showing Pentagon and Boeing officials working together on the deal through various chicanery including corruption. McCain won – Air Force Secretary Jim Roche lost his job and Pentagon and Boeing officials were convicted of crimes – but may still be punishing his enemies. Last fall, McCain successfully pressed the Pentagon to change the requirements for the tanker deal in two ways that aided the bid of Boeing’s rival, EADS-Northrop. Some suggest that he did this because of campaign contributions from Northrop and EADS executives and the presence of their lobbyists on his campaign. It seems more likely that McCain was just out to get Boeing.

*Here’s what McCain said about Obama and FCS, according to the Army Times: “He promised them he would, quote, ‘slow our development of Future Combat Systems’. This is not a time to slow our development of Future Combat Systems.”

Maybe McCain is pretending that he thinks Obama’s comment means he is against all future combat systems in the military rather than the program of that name. But that would be a particularly naked lie.  McCain obviously knows what Obama meant; he complained about the program on the Senate Armed Service Committee for years. So I’m being charitable and assuming that he just changed his mind.

The LA Times on Latin American Saber-Rattling

The Los Angeles Times has an editorial today on recent developments in Latin America where last week both Venezuela and Bolivia expelled their U.S. ambassadors. The basic premises of the editorial are correct: Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales are escalating their anti-American bravado in order to divert the public’s attention from the deep economic and political problems caused by their misrule. Also, the U.S. should refrain from confronting both leaders since that’s exactly what they want: a fight with Washington.

However, the editorial misses the point in two fronts: First is the insistence in presenting Evo Morales as a crusader in favor on the long-oppressed indigenous population, whose plan to “redistribute the country’s wealth” is facing strong opposition from “wealthy white landowners” that want to “secede from the country.” What Evo Morales is actually doing is pushing for a far-reaching socialist constitution that would undermine Bolivia’s shaky democratic institutions and nationalize the economy, just as Hugo Chavez has done in Venezuela. In his efforts, Morales has candidly admitted to violating the law in several occasions. He doesn’t seem to care much.

Moreover, the opposition to Morales’ autocratic rule doesn’t come from “wealthy white landowners” looking to secede from Bolivia, but from five provinces whose populations voted overwhelmingly in favor of greater autonomy for their regions. If only “wealthy landowners were behind the unrest, then the Eastern half of Bolivia would be one of the wealthiest regions in South America, since between 60 to 80 percent of their voters backed the autonomic constitutions approved in recent referenda. Nor is it a conflict between “whites” and “indigenous.” The governor of one of these restive provinces is a 45 year-old Quechua woman. These provinces don’t want to secede from Bolivia. They just want greater control in their local affairs, given that Bolivia is one of the most centralized nations in all Latin America. The autonomy they are proposing is similar to the one enjoyed by the 50 states here in the U.S.

The second shortcoming of the editorial lies in implying that Obama would be the candidate best positioned to deal with Chavez and Morales, since his popularity in Latin America would weaken their rampant anti-Americanism. However, let’s not forget that the harshest words to Chavez coming from a presidential candidate have been Obama’s. The democratic candidate even referred to the Venezuelan as “the enemy” in a recent interview. Not a good way to avoiding fights.

Suppressing Terrorism Videos Does No Good

It exalts terrorists and terrorism to try chasing their videos off the Internet, and it doesn’t work. Senator Lieberman’s quest to cleanse the Internet of terrorism has won a battle in a losing war by convincing Google to take down such videos. They can still be found on LiveLeak and can be hosted on any of millions of servers worldwide.

[In his eager anti-Google gafliery (“gadfliery” - the nominative case of the verb “to gadfly,” which I just invented), I’m sorry to say that TLF friend Scott Cleland has gotten it wrong.]

The better approach is to treat terrorists as the losers that they are. Their videos do not scare us, but provide us opportunities to observe, comment, and deplore them, perhaps even mocking their foolishness. In this video, at minute 2:18, terrorists appear to be training for the circus. We’ll really fear them when they can fend off lions with a chair.

More on the Calvo Home Invasion

Yesterday, Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher had a nice piece about the Calvo incident.  Mr. Fisher was in attendance at our policy forum last week .  Also, the popular blog site Boing Boing  picked up our event and our podcast interview with Mayor Calvo.  Today, we have a podcast interview with Radley Balko, author of the Cato study, Overkill.

Five More Years of E-Verify: $572,000,000

More than half-a-billion dollars is the cost that the Congressional Budget Office estimates it will take to run “E-Verify,” the federal government’s immigration background-check system, for five more years. That’s about five dollars per U.S. family, according to WashingtonWatch.com’s net present value calculation. (Disclosure: I run that site.)

Think that’s not much? Take five dollars out of your wallet and tear it up. Then imagine every family in the country tearing up five dollars at the dinner table - before eating a meal made more expensive by the dearth of good workers in the United States to grow, harvest, process, ship, and vend their food.

E-Verify is about spending money to worsen our country’s economic situation. And if E-Verify were to go national, it would be used to give the federal government even more regulatory control over law-abiding Americans.

My paper on the topic is “Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification: Franz Kafka’s Solution to Illegal Immigration.”

“Four Hours Later, They Left Us With an Unsecure Door, a House Turned Upside Down, and Two Dead Dogs”

Yesterday, Berwyn Heights, Md., mayor Cheye Calvo spoke at the Cato Institute about his experience on the receiving end of a misdirected drug raid. He sat down later to record today’s Cato Daily Podcast [MP3].

Calvo recognizes that he is one of the lucky ones because nobody in his family was hurt and because he is in a position to object to this kind of treatment.

If you haven’t felt outrage at the drug raid epidemic across the country, and the danger it creates for citizens and law enforcement, maybe it will help you to know that they shot the dogs.

Audio and (soon) video are on the Cato website. Radley Balko’s study “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America” can be purchased here.

They shot the dogs.