Archives: March, 2011

Thursday Links

  • There is a growing gap between Washington policymakers, and the taxpayers and troops who fund and carry out those policies.
  • Why do budget and deficit hawks keep sidestepping growing entitlements?
  • Don’t forget to join us on Monday, March 28 at 1pm ET for a live video chat with Julian Sanchez on the growing surveillance state.
  • The individual mandate in Obamacare is another example of the growing congressional power under the Commerce Clause:

They Were for the War before They Were Against It

Doyle McManus at the Los Angeles Times highlights the zigging and zagging of some leading Republican presidential contenders when it comes to war with Libya.

Particularly noteworthy is Newt Gingrich. “Two weeks ago,” McManus writes: 

the former House speaker and possible presidential candidate denounced Obama for not intervening forcefully against Kadafi.

“This is a moment to get rid of [Kadafi],” he urged. “Do it. Get it over with.”

Then Obama intervened in Libya. Was Gingrich pleased?

“It is impossible to make sense of the standard for intervention in Libya except opportunism and news media publicity,” Gingrich said Sunday. “Iran and North Korea are vastly bigger threats…. There are a lot of bad dictators doing bad things.”

That sounded like a flip-flop, so I asked Gingrich what he meant. He responded with an e-mail: “The only rational purpose for an intervention is to replace Kadafi. That is what the president called for on March 3, and after that statement anything less is a defeat for the United States.”

Actually, Gingrich was wrong both before and after Obama (inexplicably) chose to follow his advice. The only rational purpose for the use of the U.S. military is to advance U.S. national security. The Libya operation has never been justified on those grounds – it is a humanitarian mission to protect civilians – and it might actually make a minor and manageable problem far worse.

Qaddafi is a clown and thug; and no one will shed a tear if and when he leaves Libya – feet first or otherwise. But declaring Qaddafi’s ouster to be a suddenly vital U.S. interest, when a few mere months ago he was our supposed great ally in the fight against al Qaeda, epitomizes absurdity. If nothing else, Gingrich and other boosters of military action in Libya should have pondered – before we risked the lives of our troops, and committed the country to a potentially open-ended mission – whether some of the vaunted rebels might, in fact, be even worse than Qaddafi.

But I guess that never occurred to them.

Police Shootings in Miami

Today’s New York Times reports that seven African-American men have been shot and killed by Miami police officers over an eight month period.  One officer, who has since been discharged for unrelated misconduct, was responsible for two of the shooting incidents over a span of just days. 

Each shooting should be scrutinized on its own merits.  The circumstances of each incident matters.  However, one question concerns the aggressive culture often found in police “tactical” units, which too often enagage in a reckless style of police work.  Since 2009, the Times reports, more than 100 officers have been added to Miami’s tactical units.  Another question is whether the Miami police department should be the agency investigating these cases.  An impartial investigation into these shootings needs to be conducted.

Go here for related Cato work.

Julian Sanchez Talks Online Privacy on Monday, March 28 at 1pm ET on Facebook

Please join us this coming Monday, March 28 at 1pm Eastern on our Facebook page for a live video presentation, powered by Livestream, from Cato research fellow Julian Sanchez on the current state of online privacy policy.

Here is a brief list of topics he’ll cover:

  • An update on current challenges to overturn FISA, and what it means for you and me if those challenges succeed or fail
  • How this relates to current and recent efforts to reauthorize the Patriot Act, including a recap of testimony Sanchez recently delivered to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
  • What’s on the FBI’s surveillance wish list
  • Reflections on the idea of an “online privacy bill of rights

We hope you can join us next Monday at 1pm Eastern for this event. Be sure to log in to Livestream with your Facebook account so you can chat with each other and submit questions–we’ll try to take as many as we can.

Not a fan of the Cato Institute yet? Join us below:


Allow More Latin American Students into the U.S.

As expected, President Obama’s speech on Latin America, given on Monday in Santiago, Chile, was full of rhetoric but short of substance. He briefly mentioned the willingness of his administration to “move forward” with the pending free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama, but didn’t say when he’s submitting them for a vote in Congress. He recognized (again) that drug consumption in the U.S. is fueling drug violence in Mexico and Central America, but stayed away from saying how his more-of-the-same policies will change anything.

Obama’s only tangible pledge was the announcement that his administration will work to increase the number of Latin American students in the U.S. to 100,000. This is laudable, but still unambitious. According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), last year there were already over 65,000 Latin Americans studying in this country. This poorly compares to other regions and countries. For example, South Korea alone has over 72,000 students in the U.S. Increasing the number of Latin Americans studying here to 100,000 would still leave the region behind China (127,628) and India (104,897). These countries each may have populations greater than that of Latin America, but, as President Obama said yesterday, Latin America and the U.S. share a common history, heritage and values. One would thus expect that the U.S. would be especially open to students from the region.

Of course, the number of Latin Americans studying here doesn’t depend exclusively on the United States. It depends mostly on the ability of people in the region to afford pursuing a degree in a U.S. college or university. However, it’s telling that, despite Latin America’s growing incomes, fewer people from the region come to the United States to study than a decade ago. The IIE shows that in the school year 2001/02 there were over 68,000 Latin Americans studying in the U.S. After 9/11, new visa requirements had a negative impact on the ability of Latino students to come to the United States.

President Obama should be commended for looking at an area where the U.S. can help Latin America. Still, the U.S. should be more welcoming to students from south of the border. The region is at an important stage in its road towards economic development, and having more U.S. educated Latin Americans can have a significant impact on the region’s fortunes. Just ask Chile’s Chicago Boys, for example.

At First Anniversary, ObamaCare on the Run

One year ago today, President Barack Obama signed ObamaCare into law. I recap ObamaCare’s first year in my latest Kaiser Health News column. Here’s some additional news surrounding the law’s anniversary.

Politico reports that supporters won’t have the vast war chest to defend the law that they once said they would:

Democrats are under siege as they mark the first anniversary of health care reform Wednesday — and they won’t get much help from the star-studded, $125 million support group they were once promised…[N]ine months later, the Health Information Campaign has all but disappeared. Its website hasn’t been updated since the end of last year. Its executive director and communications director are gone. There’s no sign that it has any money. And neither [former senator Tom] Daschle nor [former White House Communications Director Anita] Dunn will return calls asking about it.

Politico also reports on what everyone knows, but few reporters seem willing to say.  ObamaCare is unpopular, and growing more so:

Although Democrats insisted that the [law] would become more popular once the congressional debate ended and the benefits started to kick in, the reverse has actually happened. According to a Kaiser Health Tracking poll released Friday, 46 percent of the public opposes the law, up from 40 percent a year ago. Only 42 percent support the law, down from 46 percent a year ago.

Finally, Politico (again) reports that yet another governor – Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal (R) – has refused to implement ObamaCare:

The Louisiana governor’s office gave PULSE the first definitive answer on whether it would run its own health exchange, and it took them only two letters: no. “Obamacare is a terrible policy that needs to be repealed and replaced,” Gov. Bobby Jindal’s press secretary Kyle Plotkin tells PULSE. “It creates enormous new costs and future unfunded liabilities for states financing their Medicaid programs.” That puts him in a similar camp with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who recently told us that Florida is “not doing anything with regards to the exchange, I don’t believe in the exchange. It doesn’t do anything to improve access to care. It does nothing to drive down health care costs.”

It’s worth emphasizing that Scott and Jindal probably know more about health care than the other 48 governors.

Wednesday Links

  • “Since Congress has not declared war on Libya, is American involvement in the Libyan war unconstitutional?”
  • A year later, Obamacare still faces bipartisan opposition.
  • Public sector unions have awakened a sleeping giant.
  • It is irrelevant which way public broadcasting tilts–the problem is that it tilts at all.
  • Cato founder and president Ed Crane made a rare media appearance yesterday, joining talk radio host Neal Boortz to discuss Libya and…well, a bunch of other things: