Washington Libertarian Review

Political commentary from the State of Washington with a libertarian perspective.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Veteran White House reporter lambasts Democrats

Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas has taken the Democrats to task for backing a senseless war in Iraq. Accusing the Ds of lacking backbone, she suggests that voters will not be very forgiving in future elections.

The trouble with the argument is, unless there is a major change in election systems across the country, voters will not have a chance to vote against the war. If they vote R they vote for the war. If they vote D they, well, vote for the war.

We saw in the Perot campaigns in the 1990s the extraordinary efforts that are necessary even to place an outside candidate in the running, let alone given a fighting chance to win. If Ms. Thomas really wants the Democrats to do something, she is going to have to show how they will lose elections with their current strategy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Capitalism wins again, for this round anyway

In yet another handwringing story about the illegal drug problem, local law enforcement now says that 75% of all methamphetamine consumed in Washington is coming from California and Mexico. Why Oregon escapes opprobrium isn't clear.

Why should this be a surprise? The fact is that illegal drugs will continue to be a problem for as long as there is a profit in the manufacture and delivery of the stuff. Sooner or later, one hopes, our national and state leadership will finally get the message that decriminalization and medical treatment is the only workable solution. Witness the steady, relentless, campaign against cigarettes. Regulation is always more powerful than interdiction.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The CIA leak: Infighting, grudges, justifying a war

The Seattle Times has an interesting article that chronicles the Wilson/Plame/CIA affair. Long but worth it.

County must pay $300,000 in dispute over public records

Armen Yousoufian still isn't happy. The former landlord to the Libertarian Party of Washington sued King County 7 years ago over its failure to disclose economic impact statements related to the then proposed Seahawks Stadium.

This past week a King County judge ruled County must pay $300,000, partly as a statutory penalty for delaying in production of the statements and partly for Yousoufian's attorney fees. But according to Yousoufian the judgment will not have the deterent effect against future disclosures that the penalty provisions were designed to create.

At issue is the application of the public records penalty statute, which provides that an agency can be fined between $5 and $100 per day for failure to produce properly requested information. In 2001 a judge imposed a $5 per day fine on the county and Yousoufian appealed. The Supreme Court said that was too low and sent it back to the trial court for a reevaluation of the penalty award. The most recent judgment is based on a $15 per day fine.

I have litigated this provision in the past and I have never seen a court award a $100 per day fine. In Yousoufian's case the court specifically held the King County officials were not liable for misconduct, merely incompetence. So, the question is what the penalty is for incompetence. I have to agree with Yousoufian. $15 per day is too low.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Evolving opinion of one man

Yesterday's Seattle Times contains an interesting article about a retired UW scientist and devout Christian who was once attracted to and later repelled by the Seattle based Discovery Institute's efforts to introduce "intelligent design" into classrooms. The campaign, according to Dr. Bob Davidson, is an insult to both science and religion. I think he is probably right.

Smoking ban opponents launch campaign

The "NO on I-901" campaign will hold a news conference today in Olympia. Blaming the pharmaceutical companies for funding the anti-smoking measure, the group accuses them wanting to sell more stop-smoking patches and other drug aids. Every page of the "No on I-901" web site contains this message:

"This is not a debate on the merits of smoking. The debate is whether we wish to give our government the right to outlaw smoking by adults on ones own personal property, private business or vehicle while at the same time knowing all tribal lands and businesses will be exempt."

The Libertarian Party of Washington should go on record as opposing I-901. People who don't like to be around smokers can, and should, vote with their feet. The invisible hand of market forces will quickly tell restaurant and business owners what they should be doing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Citing Sacrifice, President Vows to Keep Up Fight

Speaking to a veteran's group President Bush vowed to keep up the fight in Iraq.

So, when is he sending his daughters over to help out?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Cantwell Watch blog online

In 2006 THE political campaign to watch is going to be the election for Maria Cantwell's seat in the U.S. Senate.

In 2000 Cantwell barely squeaked by incumbent Slade Gorton by 2200 votes out of nearly 2.5 million.

Many believe Cantwell won because Libertarian Jeff Jared, who garnered almost 65,000 votes, took more votes from Gorton than he did from Cantwell. There are others who believe that Jared merely reduced Cantwell's margin of victory.

Regardless, Cantwell's performance will be at issue in 2006, as Gorton's was in 2000. Hence I have inaugurated Cantwell Watch, a blog dedicated to tracking what Cantwell does (or doesn't do) to warrant her reelection, or ouster, in 2006.

Depending on time available I will try to provide regular updates. However, I am more than willing to turn this project over to a faithful libertarian volunteer.

Special Prosecutor Looking Into Presidential Recount In Cleveland

As a result of the complaints of Libertarian and Green presidential candidates, prosecutors have opened an investigation into the recounting procedures in Cleveland, Ohio. The state went for Bush in the 2004 election.

We're from the government and we're here to help you.

By year end all 911 dispatchers will be able to pinpoint cell phone users within a few yards. The technology is being developed at the behest of the FCC, which set a year end deadline for the system to be in place.

There. Don't you feel safer already?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Apologies for Bush

The Seattle Times has this explanation why Bush refused to see Cindy Sheehan, despite her vigil of nearly two weeks. It seems administration officials saw her demand for a meeting as the first of hundreds or thousands of similar demands from ordinary people for the president's time.

Jesus had the same problem, crowds flocking to Him for healing and encouragement. And He didn't turn them away. As the New York Times' Frank Rich puts it: "When Mr. Bush's motorcade left a grieving mother in the dust to speed on to a fund-raiser, that was one fat-cat party too far."

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Republicans tap insurance co. exec. to challenge Cantwell

Amidst trading barbs both Democrats and Republicans admitted that the race for the U.S. Senate in Washington for 2006 has begun. The Republicans have all but chosen an unknown insider, SAFECO executive Mike McGavick, to slay the Cantwell dragon.

Opinions differ whether the race will follow the 2000 Cantwell-Gorton script or the 2004 Murray-Nethercutt script. I lean to the latter. McGavick has no experience in public life. He is associated with a disliked industry. He is a virtual unknown. Of course, anything can happen in the next 16 months, but frankly, this is Cantwell's race to lose.

The question for Libertarians is whether they can tap a candidate who will gather enough votes to help her lose. Although he has not said whether he is interested in running, early interest within the party is upon alternative medicines guru Jonathan Wright. Stay tuned.

'08 hopefuls already flocking to Iowa

The Seattle Times has an interesting background article on the coming 2008 presidential race.

Besides listing those who have expressed interest, including McCain and Clinton for example, the article points out a very significant fact--Cheney isn't running. This will be the first time in 50 years when a former vice-president isn't seeking an open seat.

This is all the more reason why the LP should be seeking out qualified potential candidates now, in hopes that we don't wind up settling for everybody's second choice.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

States' Budget & Tax Picture exceeds projections

According to the National Association of State Legislature's State Budget & Tax Actions 2005: Preliminary Report: "State finances improved during FY 2005, substantially eclipsing policymakers' expectations entering the fiscal year. Year-end balances were twice as high as expected and overall budget stress eased."

Washington State is about average with between 5% and 10% of its annual budget in a rainy day account. Federal aid and reduced spending are the two biggest factors in this picture.

So much for unfunded mandates....

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Judge boots Garrett from ballot

As predicted, a King County Judge boots convicted felon James Garrett from ballot.

States complain of national ID costs

National Conference of State Legislatures, a BIPARTISAN group meeting in Seattle this week, released its unfunded mandate monitor, estimating that implementation of the heinous REAL ID Act, surreptitiously slipped into a budget bill this past summer, will cost the states 13 billion dollars to implement.

And the REAL ID Act isn't the only problem. This is from the preamble to the report:

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) first published the Mandate Monitor in the late 1980’s through the mid-1990s as a result of the increasing number of costly intergovernmental mandates. The Mandate Monitor played a key role in the enactment of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995. The provisions of UMRA clearly have shown to be effective. Only five intergovernmental mandates as determined by UMRA that exceed the threshold have been enacted over the past decade. However, the federal government continues to shift costs—at least $51 billion for FY 2004 and FY 2005 collectively—to state and local governments. This is due to the fact that state officials view unfunded mandates more expansively than UMRA. This includes legislation that: establishes conditions of grant aid; reduces current funds available for existing programs without a similar reduction in requirements; extends or expands existing or expiring mandates; creates a loss in state or local funds; compels coverage of a certain population under a current program without providing full or adequate funding for this coverage; and, creates underfunded national expectations.

"The trend has not been good," said John Hurson, a Democratic state lawmaker from Maryland and NCSL president.

ALL of Washington's congressional representatives, except Jim McDermott, voted in favor of the REAL ID bill. Although allegedly passed as an anti-terrorist measure, the REAL ID Act is a serious invasion of privacy. Here is a summary of what the Real ID Act requires. Here is what security expert Bruce Schneier and Congressman Ron Paul have to say about it.

I think the Libertarian Party should hammer our representatives on the REAL ID Act during the 2006 election cycle.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Good Space Guy running for King County Executive

It's true! Former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Michael Nelson has filed as a Democratic candidate for King County Executive. Let the fireworks begin!

Ordinary citizens bad guys again

In this week's installment car owners are blamed for increasing pollution in the Puget Sound. It seems the chemicals that come out of our tailpipes settle on the streets and eventually wash through the stormdrains into the sea.

Forget freedom and any right to mobility. Take the bus. No, don't take the bus. Stay home. Feel guilty.

But wait there is another solution. Local public works departments could easily set up storm water filters that trap the pollutants before they reach the Sound.

This, of course, raises the question of funding. Libertarians are said to be fond of user fees. And even though many Libertarians see the idea of a gas tax as heresy, I think a gas tax dedicated to area transportation needs and the consequent pollution issues should be viewed as a user fee. This is a simple solution to the multiple collateral problems created by our exercise of our freedom to travel.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Living Large, by Design, in the Middle of Nowhere

File this one under Lifestyle.

The American Dream of owning your own home is taking a decided turn toward planned unit developments set up on rural farmlands that are anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour from urban centers. Forget the quaint little cottage on a country road. More interior space and more security on smaller lots in gated communities are the guideposts. And the big box stores like Costco and Home Depot are right there to help the new homeowners fit in. Oh, incidentally, these manufactured communities tend to vote Republican.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Libertarian Party should support Tacoma City Manager's tax proposal.

As the News Tribune reports local citizens are hotly debating City Manager Eric Anderson's proposal to replace property taxes with user fees as a method of paying for police, fire and library services.

The plan is merely in the concept stage. But a few things are immediately apparent. First, depending on the final framework, only users pay, not merely a selected group of real property owners who may or may not use the service. Second, the plan introduces a transparency of public funding unavailable in a general taxing fund. Those who pay will know exactly how much they are paying, and what they are paying for. Third, a user fee system is good for local business and investment, because it lowers fixed operating costs.

Of course, there are questions to be answered. How are the police going to charge (or collect) for responding on a domestic violence call? Would landlords pass on the tax savings to tenants, who would now have to pay for library cards? But these are details to be worked out, not reasons to reject the idea at the outset.

Finally, the City Manager's proposal, regardless of its internal merits, has created an opening for significant tax reform whether or not his proposal is ultimately adopted. The Libertarian Party should ensure that its views are at the table when the final plan is hammered out.

U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq

The Washington Post reports U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq.

Yep. Now thoughts are turning to an exit strategy. "We've said we won't leave a day before it's necessary. But necessary is the key word -- necessary for them or for us? When we finally depart, it will probably be for us," a U.S. official said.

Setting aside my fundamental problem with the reasons for the invasion--wrongheaded preemptive strike foreign policy, no WMD after all, etc.--I have never understood the arrogance of the Bush administration, thinking it could impose a Western style democracy on a culture that has thousands of years of older, richer traditions. Several other tyrants, Khan, Alexander, Napoleon, the British, the Russians, have tried and failed.

The article reports that even basic elements of infrastructure--i.e., water and electricity--are in shorter supply than when Saddam was in power. And instead of a withering insurgency, it continues to grow. Barbers are getting murdered for shaving men contrary to religious custom.

And by far most important in my view, the rule of law simply has not taken hold. The very concept of a written constitution has provoked death threats. Meanwhile, administration officials scratch their heads and lower their ambitions.

"Under pressure to get a constitution done, they've lowered their own ambitions in terms of getting a document that is going to be very far-reaching and democratic. We also don't have the time to go through the process we envisioned when we wrote the interim constitution -- to build a democratic culture and consensus through debate over a permanent constitution," said Larry Diamond, a Stanford University democracy expert who worked with the U.S. occupation government and wrote the book "Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq."

The goal now is to ensure a constitution that can be easily amended later so Iraq can grow into a democracy, U.S. officials say.

Hmmm. An easily amendable constitution? What's the point? As soon as we have left (We ARE leaving, sometime, aren't we?) one of two things will happen--one faction or another will amend it to favor itself or it will be thrown out altogether.

Mortimer Adler once said, "America doesn't fix it's problems. It leaves them behind."

Just as Nixon's "peace with honor" exit strategy for Vietnam failed, here is one more mess for us to be embarrassed about.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Should felons be allowed political rights?

King County has ruled James C. Garrett, a convicted felon who filed as a candidate for Mayor of Seattle, can't vote. They are also taking steps to take Garrett off the ballot altogether.

State law prevents felons from participating in the electoral process unless and until their rights are restored by court order. Although this issue played a major role in the recent gubernatorial election contest, it has been a continuing controversy in election law circles for several years. The debate isn't merely about civil rights either, because the prevailing assumption is that felons tend to vote Democratic.

So, here are the questions:

1. Do felons tend to vote Democratic? Or are they more likely to vote Libertarian? Or Republican? Or Green?
2. Should felons be deprived of their right to vote? And if so, for how long?

Democrats Conflicted on Playing Rough

The Washington Post has this interesting article discussing the disarray within the Democratic Party over the Roberts nomination.

In essence, it appears, the NARAL ad did more to damage the opposition to the Roberts nomination than it did to help it. Rather than rallying behind NARAL, as the Republicans had rallied around the Swift Boat Veterans, the Democrats ran for cover.

Astroturf campaign for Roberts comes to Washington

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna and former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton now head WAforJudgeRoberts.com, an organization created to support the nomination of John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court. This effort is being paid for by Progress for America, a Republican led soft money laundering operation with close ties to the Bush Administration.

Claiming to be an "ad-hoc coalition ...formed to ensure that Judge John G. Roberts receives genuine consideration for the Supreme Court Associate Justice vacancy, not baseless attacks," the group exhorts, "Judge Roberts deserves an 'Up or Down' vote."

If you want another Supreme Court justice in the Scalia/Thomas mold, then Roberts is your man.

But setting all of that aside, these web sites are slick. The "UporDownVote" site, for example, wants to "Restore the Constitution". But this part of the site really relates to the Republican goal of ending filibusters of judicial nominations. Never mind that the Democrats wanted to do the same thing when they were in power.

And, designed to do more than merely inform, they invite action: Readers can "Donate", contact "Congress", "Tell-A-Friend" and "Sign the Petition".

This, I think, is a classic example of what has become known as astroturf lobbying, or the organized arrangement of an ersatz grassroots movement. There is nothing "ad-hoc" about it.This is all part and parcel to the new face of politics in an IT world. Goebbels would be proud.

Friday, August 12, 2005

IRV moves forward in Tacoma

Citizens for Instant Runoff Voting - Tacoma held a public forum at UW-Tacoma yesterday to promote Proposition 1, an initiative to provide for election of non-partisan candidates by order of preference. For an explanation how IRV works see IRV - Wikipedia.

IRV has received a lot of attention from left leaning groups such as the League of Women Voters and other grass roots organizations around the country. And in non-partisan races IRV makes a lot of sense.

However, the Libertarian Party should be wary of IRV in a partisan arena. Most supporters of IRV assume that minor party candidates are preferred by many voters who perceive (rightly or wrongly) that the minor party candidate has little chance of winning. Consequently, goes the logic, many voters choose a less preferred candidate but one with a chance of winning; see, e.g., wasted vote. While this is theoretically possible I am aware of no polling or other empirical evidence that it is true. (And if any readers of this blog know of any such evidence I want to hear about it!)

And what if this premise isn't true? What if most voters still prefer "D" or "R" candidates over minor party candidates? Then the minor party candidates are eliminated in the first or second round of counting and the "D" and "R" candidates can claim not merely a plurality of support but an outright majority of support (i.e., a mandate). Worse still, minor party candidates lose the "balance of power" factor, the ability to gather enough votes to swing the election.

In a partisan arena IRV probably does more damage to minor parties than good. In my view proportional representation makes far more sense.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Another observes the cultural segmentation phenomenon

The New York Times' David Brooks says All Cultures Are Not Equal, noting that globalization of technology has not brought about homogeneity but rather segmentation of cultures.

This is, of course, a double edged sword. While it suggests that Libertarians, for example, are likely to gain respect in a multifaceted society it also suggests that the LP, for one, may never benefit from a national groundswell.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

League of Women Voters weighs in on election reform.

Amidst a spate of angst and worry, there is a call for more standards and more federal involvement, i.e., not much new here.

Debunking the Drug War, again

So, every once in a while somebody in the mainstream points out the absurdity of the drug war. Here is the most current installment.

My guess is, now that the "leaders" of the United States have the "war on terror" to rant and wail about, the war on drugs will eventually disappear, and a more rational treatment agenda will be adopted.

Could Tacoma's new city manager be a closet libertarian?

Last night Tacoma's recently hired City Manager unveiled a radical vision for tax reform in the City. The city's portion of the B&O tax would be gone, and utility taxes would be lowered. In their place would be user fees for police, fire and library services.

Of course the City Council had plenty of questions and the City Manager was short on answers. And it may be too radical for timid city officials. But the basic idea sounds very libertarian to me.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

National Libertarian Party abandons dues requirement for membership effective 1/1/06

The National Libertarian Party announced today that it is moving to Zero-Dues Membership system.

For its entire life the National Libertarian Party has based membership in two things: (1) payment of annual dues, and (2) certification of a non-aggression pledge. This past weekend the Libertarian National Committee voted to set the dues requirement at zero, leaving only the pledge requirement for membership in the party. The move to the zero-dues structure will take effect on Jan. 1, 2006.

At the same meeting the LNC voted to end the United Membership Program (UMP) that served as an agreement between the LNC and the Libertarian Party's state affiliates. Through that agreement, states where provided with revenue based on how many dues-paying members they had. The UMP will begin phase-out on Sept. 30, 2005. The party announced its intention to develop training programs to assist states in making the transition, but the announcement provided no specifics what those programs would entail.

While at first blush this may seem to be a mistake, we must recognize that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans require payment of dues to be considered party members. Both operate almost exclusively on donations.

I believe this decision will ultimately strengthen the party. I think voters are far more likely to join the party if joining is merely a matter of endorsing a non-aggression pledge. I also think potential donors are far more likely to donate sizable amounts if they know the party doesn't have a dues structure to depend on.

Bush signs bill for special elections if more than 100 members of congress die

On August 2, 2005 President Bush signed a legislative appropriations bill that had a curious, and largely unnoticed provision for a special election in "extraordinary circumstances", i.e., if more than 100 seats in the House of Representatives are vacant. See, Title III of H.R. 2985.

The questions are why did Congress think this provision necessary and why hasn't the press picked up this story?

- Thanks go to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for this tip.

High-Profile Prosecutor to Run Against Clinton - New York Times

Click here for an interesting article about the newly annointed challenger to Hillary in New York's 2006 U.S. Senate race, which race many are watching as a prelude to Hillary's bid in 2008 for president.

The strategy seems remarkably similar to Bush the younger's annointment for his presidential bid, and, for that matter, Dino Rossi's annointment for Washington's governor.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Maybe Americans aren't sheep after all.

After three years in Iraq we still don't have a workable exit strategy. Meanwhile Newsweek reports a mere 34 percent of Americans approve of the way Bush is handling it, and the mother of a fallen soldier leads a protest to Bush's Texas ranch.

But where it will all lead is anyone's guess. America swallowed Bush's claim about WMD hook, line and sinker. And now that the truth is out Congress still isn't holding hearings.

There was a time when "My country, right or wrong" was overshadowed by "Question Authority." Its quite clear, as long as Republicans dominate congress the mantra is "My President, right or wrong".

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Why the Red Delicious No Longer Is

Today's Washington Post has this interesting (and somewhat depressing) article about one of Washington State's major exports.

Bush as anti-intellectual

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson points out the Bush administration is obstructing science in three major areas; stem cell research, global warming and most recently in resurrecting creationism as basic curriculum in schools. Even some top Republicans are complaining.

This is not to say that the scientific community is always right about its theories. Even Darwinism has been proven only anecdotally, and not yet conclusively. And assuming natural selection is valid where did the mathematical reality of chance, on which natural selection ultimately depends, come from? If the concept of odds-making and statistical relationships for the propagation of species is fixed and immutable, why is that so? Who planned it that way?

But this note is not intended to open a debate about "intelligent design." It is merely to point out there are two sides to every issue.

But Bush really doesn't care about that. He has demonstrated over and again that his primary purpose is to help his friends and family, and the rest of the world be damned.

America became great because it championed freedom and ingenuity. Ever since 9/11 that forward looking policy ethic, in Bush's hands, has all but disappeared. Now its all about power and security, both of which are the marks of an society in decline.

Wake up America!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Technology and Politics

Imbedded in a shirt-renting complaint about the difficulty of using cell phones in subways, New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman says this:

"Message: In U.S. politics, the party that most quickly absorbs the latest technology often dominates. F.D.R. dominated radio and the fireside chat; J.F.K., televised debates; Republicans, direct mail and then talk radio, and now Karl Rove's networked voter databases.

The technological model coming next - which Howard Dean accidentally uncovered but never fully developed - will revolve around the power of networks and blogging. The public official or candidate will no longer just be the one who talks to the many or tries to listen to the many. Rather, he or she will be a hub of connectivity for the many to work with the many - creating networks of public advocates to identify and solve problems and get behind politicians who get it."

The Libertarian Party is overrun with computer geeks. Its time it made the best use of its resources. Readers of this blog are welcome to comment.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Supreme Court candidate John Roberts' record on voting rights analyzed

Today's L.A Times has an op-ed by Loyola Law School professor and election law expert Rick Hasen in which he suspects that Roberts will vote to gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act whenever it comes up for review. While the act has so far had little impact on minor party ballot access rights, Roberts' writings on the VRA, according to Hasen, reflect an antagonism by Roberts to minority representation in government. Setting aside the question whether Hasen has Roberts pegged, I can not fathom why Hasen, who is an avowed supporter of "top two" election systems, would find this objectionable.

Who should be the next LP presidential candidate?

Given the LP's track record for picking presidential candidates, including, for example, a dead-beat dad, a shameless self-promoter and most recently a virtual unknown (who may have been articulate, but an unknown nonetheless), it seems appropriate to start asking the question: Who can best represent the principles and values of the LP in its most visible public position during the next presidential election?

Some have suggested John Mackey, the brains behind Whole Foods Market, a national grocery chain for the granola crowd. Setting aside the substantial question whether he has any interest, I think it will be hard to find another candidate with advance coverage such as this.

Readers of this blog are invited to suggest their own favorite candidate.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Crossroads for mainstream thinking

In a thoughtful and lengthy New York Times article entitled Bad News Richard A. Posner, judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School (and a small "l" libertarian) discusses the fragmentation of mainstream media. Newspaper subscriptions and market share of TV news programs is in continual decline. The culprit is, of course, the IT revolution and specifically the advent of extremely cheap methods of disseminating information, i.e., blogging.

While many bemoan this turn of events, Posner welcomes it. Just as FOX News keeps tabs on the reporting of CNN, and vice-versa, millions of bloggers keep tabs on the media, and on the important stories that are sometimes too hot to handle or might otherwise offend advertisers.

The result, of course, is a tendency toward polarization of news focus and style. If the Wall Street Journal is hogging conservative readers the New York Times has to drift to the left to keep its circulation up.

Sooner or later this same phenomenon will likely happen to the major political parties, and the minor parties, all of them, will come into their own. How it will happen, and when, is a topic for another day.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Church/State debate moves back to public schools

Ever since ENGEL v. VITALE, 370 U.S. 421 (1962) outlawed school prayer controversy has raged over what schools should teach children about religion and the metaphysical. The debate is reaching a new crescendo in Odessa, Texas, where local school board recently voted to add an elective Bible Course for students. But even though it will be offered as an elective opposition to the course is strong. Predominately, the opposition relates to the evolution/creationism debate.

Matters of faith are, of course, always emotional. And by definition they exist outside the realm of scientific proof. And so the question ultimately devolves to whether schools should be trusted to teach children what they should believe in the arenas where proof--in the Newtonian sense--doesn't exist. It should be obvious there are as many answers to that question as there are people with an opinion. And because opinions and beliefs are philosophical cousins it is equally obvious that there can be no "correct" or "one size fits all" answer to the question what our children should be taught while in school.

Families who can afford it home school their children or send them to private schools that teach the curriculum they prefer. Families who can't afford private schools or a stay-at-home parent develop compensatory strategies or else ignore the problem. While some recognize this solution fosters economic discrimination, few recognize that the public schools are themselves a "religion" of sorts, i.e., a belief system that denies the existence of the supernatural.

This is not to say that religion is "right" and atheism is "wrong". It is to say that public education has a long way to go before it meets the needs of all people. It is also to say that many on the left--those who preach diversity and tolerance when it comes to race or gender--are outright hypocrites when it comes to creed.