Friday, May 16, 2008

Botswana and Zimbabwe: A Tale of Two Countries.

In most African countries, even those that are nominally democratic, the leaders are so far removed from day-to-day public scrutiny that they behave with impunity and in an embarrassingly rapacious manner. Of course, Botswana’s free media plays a vital role in keeping her politicians honest. My visit to Botswana, to give one example, coincided with President Festus Mogae’s last “state of the nation” address. One of the country’s weekly newspapers, Mbegi, carried a page-long response to the president written by the leader of the opposition, who railed against the government’s “laissez-faire” policies. Though I disagreed with the substance of his arguments, I was happy to see his freedom of expression honored, especially considering that Botswana has been ruled by the same political party, the Botswana Democratic Party, since 1965.

That brings me to probably the most important legacy of Khama’s presidency: a limited government and one of the freest economies in Africa. (In its 2007 Economic Freedom of the World report, Canada’s Fraser Institute ranked Botswana’s economic freedom on par with that of Belgium and Portugal.) According to Scott Beaulier, an economist at Beloit College, “Khama adopted pro-market policies on a wide front. His new government promised low and stable taxes to mining companies, liberalized trade, increased personal freedoms, and kept marginal income tax rates low to deter tax evasion and corruption.”

h/t Maggie's Farm

Home for the Lost Tribes of Israel.

Look at Gaza today. No Israeli occupation, no settlements, not a single Jew left. The Palestinian response? Unremitting rocket fire killing and maiming Israeli civilians. The declared casus belli of the Palestinian government in Gaza behind these rockets? The very existence of a Jewish state.

Israel's crime is not its policies but its insistence on living. On the day the Arabs -- and the Palestinians in particular -- make a collective decision to accept the Jewish state, there will be peace, as Israel proved with its treaties with Egypt and Jordan. Until that day, there will be nothing but war. And every "peace process," however cynical or well-meaning, will come to nothing.

California Supreme Court Voids Gay Marriage Ban; Opponents Vow to Continue Fight.

Unless you've been under a rock for the last 24 hours, you're aware that the California Supreme Court overturned the state's ban on same sex marriages yesterday.

I have some mixed feelings about this issue. I'm personally more or less agnostic on the issue of gay marriage. On the one hand, I have had the pleasure and privilege of knowing a number of committed gay couples who would enjoy the opportunity of marrying one another and who frankly regard it as a basic civil and human right. Furthermore, a substantial part of my adolescence was spent in San Francisco during the 1980's where I got a chance to observe the the gay subculture up close. I found it distinctly unscary. If yesterdays events brought joy to my gay friends and neighbors, I rejoice with you.

On the other hand, I am also a cultural and religious conservative (or perhaps a better term might be traditionalist). Through the travail of ages, institutions of great and lesser importance have come and gone. Through it all however, marriage has remained one of the basic building blocks of human civilization. And whether a society was Pagan, Christian, Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, or Zoroastrian, marriage has always meant the union of a man and a woman.

Marriage has of course changed and evolved over time. The abandonment of concepts like dowry, arranged marriage and polygamy have improved it enormously. The legacy of no-fault divorce, "starter marriages", and widespread acceptance of illegitimacy is at best, more mixed. Still, it's hard to imagine a more fundamental change in the nature of marriage than to to make it a same sex affair. Whatever one might think about the normalcy of homosexual relationships, you have to concede that gay weddings are mighty strange (at least to most of us).

I am like all people, a product of my times. I have no special insight on how the future will regard prohibitions on gay marriage. Perhaps in time it will be viewed like bans on mixed race marriage which were once common. Then again maybe not. As America becomes more Hispanic and religiously conservative (Populations of conservative denominations are booming, more left-wing minded groups like mainline protestants are at best, stagnant) I think it's likely to be less receptive to demands from homosexual activists.

If the future looks bleak for gays, the present isn't that great either. Gay marriage is opposed by something like 60% of Democrats and about 80% of the overall electorate. If we take them at their word, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and John Edwards are all on record opposing gay marriage. Obama and Hillary have tried to finesse the issue by saying the issue should be left up to the states (when is the last time you heard a democrat say that?) but when pressed come down as being "personally opposed" whatever that means. Given that reality, it's not difficult to understand why gay activists have taken a judicial approach to achieving gay marriage as opposed to a legislative one. The hard truth is if they can't get approved by voters or legislators in California or Massachusetts, they can't get it approved anywhere.

The problem with a judicial approach is that voters tend to resent it...bitterly. If you out organize and out hustle me that's one thing. Imposing your agenda on an unwilling electorate by judicial fiat on the other hand, tends to get peoples dander up.

In the early 90's after he was safely elected Bill Clinton promised to sign an executive order integrating homosexuals into the armed forces. The backlash was devastating. The Joint Chiefs of Staff threatened to resign en masse. Panicking, the Democrats who controlled both houses of Congress then made "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" the law of the land-in most ways a much harsher rule than had been the case previously. Not that it helped them any. In the following election the Republicans took back the Senate and gained control of the House for the first time since the Eisenhower Administration.

The statute which the state Supreme Court invalidated yesterday had been enacted by ballot initiative by the people of California in 2000. In a high turnout election, in a state that Al Gore won handily, it passed with over 61% of the vote. It appears likely that this fall California voters will be asked to amend the state constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman-thus overruling the court. It needs only 50% plus one vote to pass.

Any bets?

The MySpace Suicide Indictment -- And Why It Should Be Dismissed.

Orin Kerr explains:

Problem One: The first major hurdle is a legal question that I wrote an article on in 2003: Is it a federal crime to violate contractual limitations on use of a computer? The federal statute, 18 U.S.C. 1030, generally prohibits accessing a computer "without authorization" or "exceeding authorized access." But what makes an access "without authorization"? If the computer owner says that you can only access the computer if you are left-handed, or if you agree to be nice, are you committing a crime if you use the computer and are nasty or you are right-handed? If you violate the Terms of Service, are you committing a crime?

In my article, Cybercrime's Scope: Interpreting "Access" and "Authorization" in Computer Misuse Statutes, 78 NYU L. Rev. 1596 (2003), I argue that the answer should be "no." I won't recite the legal arguments here, as you can just read the article itself. (You can imagine the basic idea, though: Since everyone who uses computers violates dozens of different TOS every day, the theory would make everyone who uses computers a felon.) However, I will point out that the MySpace case is to my knowledge the very first federal indictment that has tried to claim that violations of Terms of Service for an Internet account amounts to a crime under Section 1030. In fact, I wrote my NYU article in part because I figured it was only a matter of time before a sympathetic case came along and some aggressive prosecutor would try the argument and see if it flew. It looks like this is the test case.

Problem Two: The second and third legal hurdles to the prosecution are less intellectually interesting but clearer and easier for the defense to make. The first problem is that the crime requires the government to show that Drew intended to violate the Terms of Service. That is, lack of authorization must be intentional — it must have been Drew's conscious object to have violated the TOS. But here there is no evidence that Drew even read the TOS. Most people don't, of course; I would be surprised if 1 person in 100 actually tried reading it. If Drew wasn't aware that she was violating the TOS, she couldn't be exceeding her authorized access intentionally. (Paragraph 11 of the indictment lamely notes that a copy of the TOS was "readily available" to MySpace Users if they went looking for it, clicked the link, and read it. But the statute requires intent, so whether the TOS was "readily available" is irrelevant.)

Problem Three: The third hurdle, and perhaps the easiest way for the defense to win, is that the government's theory requires proof that the goal of the conspiracy was to obtain information. The alleged underlying crime here is 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(2)(C), which prohibits exceeding authorized access to a computer to get information. Think hacking in to get credit card numbers, to get a copy of a special computer file, or to take data from a database. But based on the facts discussed in the indictment and the news stories, it doesn't seem that Drew had the intent to obtain information from her victim. Her apparent goal was to harass her victim and to cause emotional distress, not to obtain information from her. That may not make it morally or ethically any less objectionable; indeed, perhaps it is more so. But the statute wasn't violated unless Drew was acting to try to obtain information, and it doesn't seem like that was her intent.

Daniel Solove on the other hand, has some doubts:

"I'm not so sure I agree. The news accounts I read about the case indicated that one of Drew's primary motivations for creating the fake profile was to learn information from Megan Meier. She wanted to know information from Megan that pertained to her own daughter, who was a classmate of Megan's. The harassing came later on." I haven't read the news reports closely, so maybe we'll have to wait and see how the facts unfold on the third issue.

This Deeply Unpopular War.

Ignorant folk might be tempted to see this sort of thing as intellectually dishonest. But as Keith Olbermann so trenchantly reminded us, when the stakes become high enough, abstract principles like journalistic ethics are the first thing to go out the window.

After all, winning "this deeply unpopular war" is of the utmost importance. In the end, it's really just a question of whose set of emergency rules will carry the day. Of course, it always helps when you own the microphone.

Russians Unveil a Monument to Laika.

On November 3, 1957 Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow became the first earthling to slip the bonds of earth and venture into outer space. Though many have followed since, she was the first and deserves all our respect and admiration.

The Last of the Tigers.

There was a military reunion last Friday at Lackland AFB in San Antonio. But it was anything but your typical gathering of veterans and their family members. In fact, the reunion may be the last of its kind, since it brought together the last surviving members of the American Volunteer Group (AVG), the famed "Flying Tigers" who fought in China during the early days of World War II.

via Theo.

Fred is Back! Woot!

Fred is blogging at and he says he is writing a book to avoid doing real work...LOL. ;)
Here is an excerpt from his blog:

Spending some time on the campaign trail has confirmed a couple of thoughts I’ve had before I entered the Republican primary race.

First, conservatism is alive and well in America; don’t let anyone tell you differently. And by conservatism, I don’t mean the warmed-over “raise your hand if you believe …” kind of conservatism we see blooming every election cycle. No, I’m speaking of the conservatism grounded in principles based upon enduring truths: an understanding of the importance of human nature in the affairs of individuals and nations. Respect for the lessons of history, the importance of faith and tradition. The understanding that while man is prone to err, he is capable of great things when not subjugated by a too-powerful government. These are the principles that inspired our Founding Fathers, and resulted in a Constitution that delineated the powers of the central government, established checks and balances among the branches of government and further diffused governmental power by a system of Federalism.

read the rest here

Indy Swooning... ;)

This YouTube video of his interview on Fox and Friends this morning is also posted but it is so good I just had to put it up here as well. He touches on Obama's knee jerk sensitivities to Bush's comments about negotiating with terrorists and appeasement. Thompson says "If the shoe fits..." I so hope that we continue to hear from Fred.

and just because, I still gotta crush...