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Oh no, Moe, where did you go?

California correspondent Bill reports that Moe is missing.  The simian Tanzania transplant, raised in West Covina, escaped from Jungle Exotics near Devore, California last Friday.  And really, do you blame him?  Moe's loved ones are worried about him, as he's around 50 years old.

Where would Moe go?  At fifty, he must move real slow.  Maybe he felt the tow to go with the flow.  Perhaps he has a friend named Joe.

This is getting Seussian.

Here's a link.
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Iran begs world: please please please attack us!

Iran threatens to close off the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf:
"Naturally every country under attack by an enemy uses all its capacity and opportunities to confront the enemy. Regarding the main route for exiting energy, Iran will definitely act to impose control on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz," IRGC commander-in-chief Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari told Jam-e Jam newspaper.
Never mind that much of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz doesn't belong to Iran.  My guess is that the U.A.E., Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and even Iraq might have something to say about that.

Now, it seems to me that an excellent way to get the entire world really, really pissed at you (hello, India, China, and Japan) is to cut off their oil supplies.  The US would be OK if the Iranians shut down the oil flow from the Middle East.  Sure, we'd have shortages and probably mandatory gas rationing, but we would survive.  You'd be amazed how fast some of our marginal oil wells here domestically could be opened up, if we really, really had to.

Not entirely coincidentally, the US is the only power in the world that can prevent the Iranians from doing what they plainly want to do:  exert military control over the critical waters of the Middle East.

I'm fairly well convinced that the Iranians will do something extremely provocative.  I think some like Ahmadinejad over there really do want to bring forth the Twelfth Imam. And that means war. With us.
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The Constitution--a bad idea?

Hmm.

An essay from the Ludwig von Mises Institute, one of the more deep-thinking of the libertarian think tanks:
Worse still, given that, in every society, more "have-nots" of everything worth having exist than "haves," the politically talented who have little or no inhibition against taking property and lording it over others will have a clear advantage over those with such scruples. That is, open political competition favors aggressive, hence dangerous, rather than defensive, hence harmless, political talents and will thus lead to the cultivation and perfection of the peculiar skills of demagoguery, deception, lying, opportunism, corruption, and bribery. Therefore, entrance into and success within government will become increasingly impossible for anyone hampered by moral scruples against lying and stealing.
. . .
Moreover, the constitutionally provided "separation of powers" makes no difference in this regard. Two or even three wrongs do not make a right. To the contrary, they lead to the proliferation, accumulation, reinforcement, and aggravation of error. Legislators cannot impose their will on their hapless subjects without the cooperation of the president as the head of the executive branch of government, and the president in turn will use his position and the resources at his disposal to influence legislators and legislation. And although the Supreme Court may disagree with particular acts of Congress or the president, Supreme Court judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate and remain dependent on them for funding.

OK, NOW I'm depressed.
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On differences, left v. right

At Cato.org:
Contrary to popular belief, conservative justices are about as likely to vote in favor of individuals bringing First Amendment challenges to government regulations as are the liberals. Indeed, the justice most likely to vote to uphold a First Amendment claim is the "conservative" Justice Anthony Kennedy. The least likely is the "liberal" Justice Stephen Breyer. Consistent with general conservative/liberal patterns in commercial speech cases, Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia have voted to invalidate restrictions on advertising more than 75 percent of the time. Justices Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, meanwhile, have voted to uphold such restrictions in most cases.
For conservatives, libertarians, and classical, old-school liberals, rights are fundamental; for leftists, rights are conditional.  It's as simple as that.  Do you really want someone sitting on the Supreme Court saying that your rights depend on other things, beyond your control?  That's what four of the nine current Justices believe.

Maybe it's time to start asking the two main Presidential candidates what kind of Justices they would appoint to the Supreme Court.  Justices that believe that rights are fundamental, or Justices that believe that rights aren't.

(Of course, a right that depends on external factors isn't really a right at all, is it?  It's a priviledge--a gift from those in power, like for instance Supreme Court Justices.  Just a thought.)
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. . . and, gee golly, Americans have rights, too!

The Supreme Court strikes down the District of Columbia's gun ownership ban. (Link is a PDF file.)

People have forgotten that in the United States, people possess rights innately--nobody gives anybody any rights here.  We already have them.  We have ALL of them.

In the interest of a stable society, we, the people (hey, nice phrase, where have we heard that before?) agree through a Constitution (oh, yeah, that's where) to delegate a few of those rights to a limited government.  That's how it's supposed to work.

My only problem with this decision is that some people still have a little reading comprehension problem with the phrases "Congress shall make no law" and "shall not be infringed."  If you want to know why, just go read Breyer's dissent to this opinion, where he takes the stand that it's "reasonable" to do exactly the opposite of what the plain text of the Constitution says.  I think a fair term for his dissent's argument is "laughable."  It is so convoluted and nuanced that it is quite obvious that he is bending over backwards rhetorically to try to prove that black is, in fact, white.

Everybody's homework assignment tonight is to read the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution.

Meanwhile, here's the preamble to today's decision:
Held:
1.  The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

(a) The Amendment's prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause.  The operative clause's text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. 

(b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court's interpretation of the operative clause.  The "militia" comprises all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.  The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizen's militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule.  The response was do deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizen's militia would be preserved.

(c) The Court's interpretation is confirmed by analogous arms-bearing rights in state constitutions that preceded and immediately followed the Second Amendment.

(d) The Second Amendment's drafting history, while of dubious interpretive worth, reveals three state Second Amendment proposals that unequivocally referred to an individual right to bear arms.

(e) Interpretation of the Second Amendment by scholars, courts and legislators, from immediately after its ratification through the late 19th century also supports the Court's conclusion.

(f) None of the Court's precidents forecloses the Court's interpretation.  Neither United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 553 nor Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 264-265, refutes the individual-rights interpretation.  United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, does not limit the right to keep and bear arms to militia purposes, but rather limits the type of weapon to which the right applies to those used by the militia, i.e., those in common use for lawful purposes.

2.  Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited.  It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose:  For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues.  The Court's opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools or government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications for the commercial sale of arms.  Miller's holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those "in common use at the time" finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.
3.  The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment.  The District's total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of "arms" that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense.  Under any of the standards of scrutiny the Court has applied to enumerate constitutional rights, this prohibition--in the place where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acute--would fail constitutional muster.  Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional.  Because Heller conceded at oral argument that the D. C. licensing law is permissible if it is not enforced arbitrarily and capriciously, the Court assumes that a license will satisfy his prayer for relief and does not address the licensing requirement.  Assuming he is not disqualified from exercising his Second Amendment rights, the District must permit Heller to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.  Pp. 56-64.
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Apes have rights, too!

In Spain, anyway . . . Q&O Blog links to a Reuters article:
Spain's parliament voiced its support on Wednesday for the rights of great apes to life and freedom in what will apparently be the first time any national legislature has called for such rights for non-humans.
Maybe Cheeta could now get a star on the walk of fame in Madrid, or Barcelona.  Oh, one can dream . . .
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Health Care

The Bush Administration's Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt, seems to understand the fundamental problem of our health care system, in Investors Business Daily:

What if we bought cars the same way we buy health care? The dealer would say, "Look, we don't really know the price of our cars, but we know you really need one. So, why don't you just come by and pick one up."

Then three weeks later you would begin receiving a blizzard of bills — a bill from the people who made the chassis, a bill from people who made the transmission, a bill from the seat maker and the paint people and the folks who made the sound system.

Then you'd get the bill from the dealership, including a $27.90 charge for the coffee you drank while in the showroom.

Gratefully, cars aren't sold that way. All of those costs are packaged and managed by a car company. Consumers get one price, and it's a price they can understand.

We need packaged deals for health care, too.
The current system of health care financing is totally broken.  The nickle-and-dime nature of the industry is a huge problem, it's true.  The inability of the industry to give people prior knowledge of the costs (something that the rest of the world refers to as an "estimate" is another huge problem.  The inordinate power of insurance companies is another problem--one which will only be exacerbated if you replace private insurance companies with an unresponsive government bureaucracy (reference Canada, Britain).

My problem with the current proposals from Leavitt and others currently running the show is that their solutions continue to be half-hearted half measures, doomed to failure.  Health care needs to be returned to a focused relationship between a consumer and someone selling their services--the doctor, the nurse, the technician.  Government and insurance companies need to get the hell out of the way.
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Unsustainable

Our medical system.

An essay in the New York Times:
Not long ago, fed up with what he perceived as a loss of professional autonomy, Dr. Bhupinder Singh, 42, a general internist in New York, sold his practice and went to work part time at a hospital in Queens.

“I’d write a prescription,” he told me, “and then insurance companies would put restrictions on almost every medication. I’d get a call: ‘Drug not covered. Write a different prescription or get preauthorization.’ If I ordered an M.R.I., I’d have to explain to a clerk why I wanted to do the test. I felt handcuffed. It was a big, big headache.”

The problem with the American system of medicine, in my opinion, is precisely that the concept that medical insurance should "cover" anything and everything but the most extreme maladies.  No other major economic element of our society is organized like that.  Everywhere else, it's a matter of "what can you afford."  The only reason why health care is any different is that we're unreasonably emotional about it.  Emphasis on "unreasonably."

You are entitled to the health care you can afford, just like you're entitled to the house you can afford, the car you can afford, the vacation you can afford, the clothes you can afford.  Life isn't fair.  Some people live in shacks, some live in mansions.  You don't make things better by taking people out of their shacks and giving them mansions, despite that meaningful life lesson provided by "The Beverly Hillbillies."

An economic system which utterly divorces price information from the consumer.  Today, in medicine, for a patient, money is no object--all that's important is getting the pill, the treatment, the operation.  Yes, it's hard to ask someone who's in pain "can you afford this?"  But our failure to take that necessary step dooms the entire medical system to certain failure.  The surprise is not that the health care system is in crisis, the surprise is that it's working at all.

Many, I'm sure, will be troubled by the harsh, cold, uncaring tone of what I'm saying.  How can I possibly be opposed to ensuring that everyone has the best possible health care?

Easy.  The same way I'm opposed to everyone owning mansions that they did nothing to earn.

Sixty bloody, dirty, corrupt, wasteful, lost years of the Soviet Union and world communism should have proved to the world that you can't repeal or override the fundamental laws of economics.  But I'm afraid that will be a lesson that humanity is doomed to learn and re-learn for a long, long, long time.

How did all of those 1960's housing projects turn out, anyway?
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More about that alleged unstoppable global warming

Watts Up With That has a very interesting post discussing the trend lines for the various computer models.

Guess what?  They're all trending downward right now, not upward.  Even the most questionable one, NASA scientist James Hansen''s GISS model.

Look for yourself:
Image credit: Basil Copeland

Considering that "the science is settled" there does seem to be quite a lot of valid questions around the very foundations of the theory of unstoppable, "anthropogenic" global warming.

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There goes the Red Green vote

That's as in the Red Green show.

Obama drops the Truthy Possum version of the Great Seal of the United Statesl.
. . . it was the kind that has a big old eagle on it and some Latin (Vero possumus, which translates very loosely to "Yes we can"). It's also a seal that combined elements of Richard Nixon's White House police uniforms and George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished." And it went over about as well.
He's an idiot to use it in the first place.  That's something you'd expect from Colbert's presidential campaign, not one from a major political party.

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