Congress Rouses Itself ( General ) by David Boaz

At last Republican congressional leaders have found an abuse of executive power that offends them:
An unusual FBI raid of a Democratic congressman's office over the weekend prompted complaints yesterday from leaders in both parties, who said the tactic was unduly aggressive and may have breached the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.... Republican leaders, who previously sought to focus attention on the Jefferson case as a counterpoint to their party's own ethical scandals, said they are disturbed by the raid. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said that he is "very concerned" about the incident and that Senate and House counsels will review it. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) expressed alarm at the raid. "The actions of the Justice Department in seeking and executing this warrant raise important Constitutional issues that go well beyond the specifics of this case," he said in a lengthy statement released last night. "Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this Separation of Powers line, in order to successfully prosecute corruption by Members of Congress," he said.... Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), in an e-mail to colleagues with the subject line "on the edge of a constitutional confrontation," called the Saturday night raid "the most blatant violation of the Constitutional Separation of Powers in my lifetime."
If they are finally awake to the executive branch's indifference to constitutional restrictions, they could find some more opportunities for oversight and correction here and here.

Posted on May 24, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The Influential Mr. Mbeki ( General ) by David Boaz

The Financial Times selects the most influential pundits and commentators in countries around the world. Their South African correspondent writes that the opinions of Moeletski Mbeki "arguably carry more clout" than those of his brother the president. If so, that's good news for South Africa. Judging by his Cato paper "Underdevelopment in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Role of the Private Sector and Political Elites," Mbeki has a pretty insightful understanding of what Africa suffers from. He blames African poverty on mismanagement and exploitation by political elites that control the state and see it as a source of personal enrichment. Inhibiting wealth creation by the private sector, the elites use marketing boards and taxation to divert agricultural savings to finance their own consumption and to strengthen the apparatus of state repression. He writes that peasants, who constitute the core of the private sector in sub-Saharan Africa, must become the real owners of their primary asset -- land -- over which they currently have no property rights (in much of sub-Saharan Africa, though South Africa is an exception to this).

Posted on May 22, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

A New Berlin Wall ( General ) by David Boaz

On "The McLaughlin Group," John McLaughlin asks if the United States should impose tariffs on Mexico equal to the cost of providing social services to Mexican immigrants if Mexico doesn't stop illegal cross-border traffic. Pat Buchanan responded by emphasizing the need for U.S. border security, Eleanor Clift said it would be too costly for Mexico, and Tony Blankley said it would probably be a violation of WTO. Mort Zuckerman said the reaction to such a law in Mexico would move the country far to the left. It seems to me that all of these insightful pundits missed the point: McLaughlin was proposing that Mexico build a wall to keep Mexicans inside. Immigration advocates sometimes warn that a fence along the border would be "a new Berlin Wall." But that's a little over the top; the Berlin Wall was designed to keep East Germans in, to declare them the property of a repressive regime that couldn't survive if it allowed people to vote with their feet. Whatever its demerits, an American fence would be intended to protect our borders and regulate who could come in. But McLaughlin's proposed Mexican wall would be a new Berlin Wall. Anybody can stumble into a bad idea, but it's disappointing that not one of McLaughlin's four guests noticed the import of his proposal.

Posted on May 22, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Europe is hopeless

For the world's poor, only America is truly a land of hope and opportunity.

Posted on May 18, 2006  Posted to The Guardian

Enlightenment values

The principles behind the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa explain why the country's leading Anglican can embrace a gay bishop.

Posted on May 16, 2006  Posted to The Guardian

Media Bias? ( General ) by David Boaz

Two consecutive stories on NPR's "Morning Edition" Friday took very different approaches to the issue of medical risk and scientific proof. First Snigdha Prakash reported on a new study showing that heart problems from Vioxx can last up to a year after you stop taking the drug. She quoted only critics of Vioxx and gave no indication that there might be another side to the story. She noted that Merck has won three trials and lost three so far; she didn't remind us of the famous quote from Merck's highest-profile loss:
Jurors who voted against Merck said much of the science sailed right over their heads. "Whenever Merck was up there, it was like wah, wah, wah," said juror John Ostrom, imitating the sounds Charlie Brown's teacher makes in the television cartoon. "We didn't know what the heck they were talking about." (Merck Loss Jolts Drug Giant, Industry, August 22, 2005, The Wall Street Journal)
In the next story Joanne Silberner reported on concerns that four California women "had died after taking the two-drug abortion pill combination, Mefipristone, sometimes called RU486, and Misoprostol....The deaths appeared to be a horrific side effect of the drugs." But Silberner immediately noted that "it's not likely to be that simple." She quoted experts who cautioned against jumping to conclusions. She noted that the numbers were small. We need to know much more before we could assume there was a problem with these abortion drugs. It was a good example of careful, cautious reporting. But why are journalists seemingly much more cautious in reporting medical risks involving abortion than in reporting other kinds of risks? There are plenty of critics of the "junk science" involved in the Vioxx stories; why aren't they interviewed in Vioxx stories? The numbers were small in the Vioxx study, as in the case of the abortion drugs, but that fact was dismissed in one report and emphasized in the other. Cato's Jerry Taylor noticed something similar in a Wall Street Journal column 11 years ago (January 3, 1995; not online). He noted that the Journal of the National Cancer Institute
caused quite a stir by publishing an epidemiological study suggesting that women who have abortions are 50% more likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not...."Not so fast," countered epidemiologists; a 1.5 risk ratio (as epidemiologists put it) "is not strong enough to call induced abortion a risk factor for breast cancer."
Taylor agreed that a 1.5 risk ratio is below the appropriate level of concern. But he wondered why "the same risk ratio that was so widely pooh-poohed by scientists as insignificant and inconclusive when it comes to abortion was deemed by the very same scientists an intolerable health menace when it comes to secondhand smoke. Actually, that's not quite true. The 1.3 risk factor for a single abortion was significantly greater than the really hard to detect 1.19 risk ratio for intensive, 40-year, day-in-day-out pack-a-day exposure to secondhand smoke (as figured by the EPA)." Taylor worried that too many people fail to understand statistical probabilities or assume that correlation equals causation. He also wondered whether even scientists are susceptible to a political bias against smoking or for a woman's right to choose. How much more true that must be for journalists.

Posted on May 15, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Dean’s foot and mouth disease

As Democratic chairman, Howard Dean is alienating one group after another.

Posted on May 15, 2006  Posted to The Guardian

Microsoft and Big Brother ( General ) by David Boaz

Microsoft has agreed to remain under Justice Department supervision until 2009, to ensure that it continues to be forced to give away its property to competitors. (That is, it will continue "to provide access to Windows communications code that would let competitors write software to link with Windows-powered personal computers with the same facility as servers using Microsoft software.") Given the relative success of Microsoft and the U.S. government when it comes to innovation, help for the American economy, and customer satisfaction, it would probably make more sense to put the U.S. government under Microsoft's supervision until 2009.

Posted on May 15, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Reagan Alert

Tonight at midnight EDT (11 p.m. Illinois time, 9 p.m. Bel Air time) Turner Classic Movies will broadcast "Knute Rockne, All American." Win one for the Gipper!

Posted on May 12, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Reagan Alert ( General ) by David Boaz

Tonight (5/12) at midnight EDT (11 p.m. Illinois time, 9 p.m. Bel Air time) Turner Classic Movies will broadcast "Knute Rockne, All American." Win one for the Gipper! BlogEditor's note: An additional reason for liberty-lovers to tune into TCM: Cato H.L. Mencken Research Fellows Penn & Teller will serve as TCM guest programmers on May 22nd. Among the films they have spooled up: The Marx Brothers' oft-overlooked 1939 gem At the Circus.

Posted on May 12, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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