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’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.

The Fraudulence of Bureaucratic ‘Accountability’

Most education policy analysts, most politicians in both parties, and both presidential candidates have expressed their support for bureaucratic “accountability” in education — the belief that government-imposed testing regimes can signficantly improve the quality of American education. They persist in this belief despite the fact that U.S. academic achievement has stagnated or declined both before and after the passage of No Child Left Behind, the signature legislation of accountability gurus.

Perhaps what is needed is a visceral example of WHY government-mandated testing has proven to be of such dubious worth. For example, this Charleston, SC school’s meteoric test score gains over the past five years have all but vanished in a single year after the administration and grading of students’ tests were taken out of the hands of school officials.

True accountability is not achieved when the quality of a child’s education is measured by a single set of government tests. It is achieved when parents are free to choose from among a variety of competing, mininally regulated schools.

“Law and Order” — YouTube Version

My colleague David Boaz posted here a few months ago with a memorable reminder of what “law and order” means. Discussing a pair of Virginia Supreme Court cases that overturned drug convictions premised on searches conducted without sufficient suspicion, he said:

Advocates of liberty and limited government should not concede the concept of “law and order” to those who engage in “excessive use of police powers.” Those who actually believe in law and order would hold police and prosecutors, as well as criminal suspects, to the rule of law; and that seems to be what the Virginia Supreme Court did.

I was reminded of this when I came across this video of a law-and-order type encountering Customs and Border Patrol agents as he attempted to drive on State Route 86 in Arizona. It’s as exciting to watch as any TV show.