July 31, 2007
GUILTY PLEA: “A Somali immigrant the government says plotted to blow up an Ohio shopping mall pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.”
GUILTY PLEA: “A Somali immigrant the government says plotted to blow up an Ohio shopping mall pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.”
MOOSE LAWYERS: A moose represented my sister once. Mind you, moose lawsuits can be pretty nasty.
DAVID LAT LOOKS AT Big Law and Big Politics.
NERD-ON-NERD VIOLENCE: With lightsabers. There’s video.
FRED BROWN points out some heroes.
A TAX REVOLT in Indiana.
FREE SPEECH AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY.
Crop prices are high, driven in part by a huge demand for corn to make ethanol, which squeezes the land available for other crops and raises their prices as well. Democrats took over Congress last year, vowing to show they’re the financially responsible stewards their Republican predecessors were not. And President Bush asked Congress to direct the subsidies to the smaller, family farmers that politicians love to claim they support.
So, given this confluence of events, what did House Democrats do? Not much. Last week, under heavy pressure from farm organizations and fearing for the survival of Democratic freshmen from rural districts, they pushed through a business-as-usual farm bill that largely extends the current subsidy system for five more years. . . .
Most of the big money goes to just five crops: corn, wheat, cotton, soybeans and rice. The usual justification for the largesse is that farmers would go out of business without it. If that’s so, how do you explain that many other crops do quite well with little or none of the government help that goes to the favored five?
In addition to boosting just a few crops, the subsidies also favor a tiny sliver of the largest farms and agribusinesses: The top 10% of recipients get nearly three-fourths of subsidy payments, while the bottom 80% of recipients divide up a scant 12%.
Like the song says: “Welfare for white folks.” Make that rich white folks, mostly.
CONSUMER CONFIDENCE HITS six-year high. I guess that’s good news.
IN EXPERIMENTATION, A NEGATIVE RESULT IS NOT A FAILURE:
We must report a sad failure; the egg did not fry on the sidewalk, which means that the video evidence of this deadly heatwave will not be posted tonight.
But it doesn’t make for good video.
ARE DEMOCRATS BEING SHORT-SIGHTED ON JUDGES? Jonathan Adler and Stuart Taylor weigh in.
TREATING CHE GUEVARA LIKE DAVID DUKE. Though that comparison is probably unfair to David Duke.
QUITE SOME TIME AGO, I WROTE about signing up for “Amazon Prime” and how the free shipping changed my online shopping habits. (More here). Now this piece from USA Today suggests that I’m not the only one:
Investors saw the launch of Amazon Prime as the latest manifestation of Bezos’ fixation on free shipping, a profit drainer. They hammered Amazon (AMZN) shares down to $30 two years ago after the Seattle company began offering the unlimited free two-day shipping service for a $79 yearly fee.
“Wall Street hates it when we lower prices, give away free shipping, and offer Amazon Prime,” Bezos said in an e-mail interview. “But we know in our bones that siding with the customer pays off for everyone in the end.”
Now, Prime is starting to look like a linchpin to Amazon’s remarkable run of increases in quarterly sales â€” and investors no longer appear kerfuffled. After the online retailing giant last week reported a singularly sharp rise in sales for its second quarter, its shares shot up 25%, topping $86 â€” a seven-year high.
Plus, encouraging people to shop online is environmentally friendly!
MORE PROBLEMS WITH SPACE DEBRIS:
Traffic in space is getting so congested that flight controllers in the past few weeks have had to nudge three spacecraft out of harmâ€™s way, in one case to prevent the craft from colliding with its own trash. . . .
Officials and private space experts say episodes like these illustrate the danger of a drastic rise in satellites and space debris in Earthâ€™s orbit. Early this year, after decades of growth, the federal catalog of detectable objects (four inches wide or larger) orbiting Earth reached 10,000, including dead satellites, old rocket engines and junkyards of whirling debris left over from chance explosions and weapon tests.
Now, that number has jumped to 12,000. Chinaâ€™s test of an antisatellite weapon in January and four spacecraft breakups in February, one of them mysterious, have contributed to the buildup of debris. Space officials worry that a speeding bit of space junk could shatter an object into dozens or hundreds of fragments, starting a chain reaction of destruction.
Experts said that moving spacecraft out of the way to avoid collisions, once a rare way of dealing with potential threats, is becoming increasingly common.
Read the whole thing.
SO I’M AT THE SOUTHEASTERN ASSOCIATION OF LAW SCHOOLS CONFERENCE, and there seem to be a lot more bloggers than in the past: I had barely arrived when I got into the elevator with Paul Secunda of the Workplace Law Prof blog. But then, there are a lot more law professor bloggers in general than there used to be.
DUCT-TAPE METHODS TO SAVE THE EARTH:
Re-salting arctic waters with massive salty ice cubes? Stopping glaciers from thawing by wrapping them in insulating blankets? While these methods of preventing further environmental destruction may seem like schemes straight from the Wile E. Coyote handbook, many serious scientists are pursuing last-ditch contingency plans such as these for dealing with the effects of adverse climate change.
I’m glad people are looking at this stuff, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
WOULDN’T A PURSE-SHAPED MACHINEGUN be more useful?
REBECCA MACKINNON HAS MORE on the Yahoo! / China affair. “More documents have surfaced showing that Yahoo! employees knew that they were handling political cases when they received information requests from Chinese authorities on at least two people now doing serious jailtime. This is contrary to previous claims by Yahoo!”
YEAH, THIS IS GOING TO HURT FRED THOMPSON: Richard Cohen complaining that he’s too pro-gun.
UPDATE: Reader Jorge del Rio notes a contradiction in Cohen’s piece: “Basically, Cohen says that it’s ridiculous to think that if students were allowed to carry firearms on campus that any of them could have done something to prevent the Virginia Tech massacre. However, just two paragraphs later he says how he wished he had had a gun when his house was burglarized ‘merely to protect his life.’ I guess he knows better, since he’s not one of those young drunks filled to the brim with hormonal urges like most gun owners.”
This is a time-honored bit of hypocrisy at the Post, going back at least to Carl Rowan.
IN THE MAIL: John Brenkman’s The Cultural Contradictions of Democracy: Political Thought since September 11. This could be interesting to read along with Richard Posner’s Not a Suicide Pact: The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency.
THEY TOLD ME THAT IF GEORGE W. BUSH WERE REELECTED WE’D SEE A resurgence of anti-blasphemy laws. And they were right!
JOHN TIERNEY EXAMINES REASONS FOR HAVING SEX.
WHAT WOMEN WANT: And more, at the latest Ask Dr. Helen column!
MICKEY KAUS IS AMUSED by Rudy Giuliani’s attacks on nanny-state politicians.
TED STEVENS’ HOUSE searched by the FBI. And IRS.
UPDATE: Don Surber: “Alaskaâ€™s three Republicans in Congress are an embarrassment. They should be impeached, er, expelled.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: More on Stevens:
Top White House political advisor Karl Rove told a bunch of us over lunch last week that corruption was the single biggest issue in last fallâ€™s election that overturned the GOP congressional majority. I have always agreed with this assessment, based on exit polls that showed corruption and runaway budget spending were actually more important to voters than Iraq.
So this Stevens business has to be swept away. The GOP should not defend him if he is guilty. Just clean house.
They should. They won’t. And it’ll cost them.
BREAD AND A CIRCUS: Michael Yon posts another report from Baqubah, full of photos and firsthand observations.
Personal interests aside, the more fundamental issue is the way we treat the term disease. If something is a “disease,” it is worth treating. If it isn’t a “disease,” you should just live with it. But why? Why not treat a biological condition you just don’t like? (I’m assuming that you are directly or indirectly paying for the treatment.) We don’t have to call Restless Leg Syndrome a disease to acknowledge that it disturbs some people’s sleep and that those people would like relief. Contrary to what you may have heard, the only sort of character suffering builds is the ability to suffer–a useful ability in a world where suffering is the routine nature of life but not a virtue that makes the world a better place.
Besides, if suffering is a virtue in itself we’ve always got Middle School. And the DMV.
JAMES LILEKS REPORTS FROM A CRUISE: “Walking around and eating is hard work, apparently. I donâ€™t know how the Navy managed to win WW2. . . . Everything here costs something. I was under the impression that everything was included, but no – if itâ€™s the slightest bit fun, it costs extra. . . . The sight of the fellow passengers was quite remarkable; if you could sum it up, youâ€™d have to say this is a boat full of small whales looking to catch sight of a larger one. Everyone waddles to and fro, slowly, panting with the effort of transporting the stored energy of previous meals to the location of the next one.”
WHEN BEING A BOY hurts.
A VITAL ANNIVERSARY: “Yesterday was the birthday of John S. Pillsbury, the spiritual father of the lovable Doughboy whose cheerful smile and delightful giggle blind us to the fact that his entire life is one desperate attempt to keep from being shoved in the oven. Here! Eat this! Not me! Iâ€™m self-aware!“
IMPORTANT THOUGHTS ON NERDS AND WHITENESS from Tom Maguire.
UPDATE: Related post here. Excerpt: “The article does not mention the true common characteristic of nerds: they are numerate, i.e. conversant in the language of mathematics – an odd omission for a linguist. This omission can be explained by the fact that Berkeley-style multi-culturalism is threatened by numeracy, the development of which is the hallmark of Western Civilization and the historical wellspring of western economic and military success. Consequently, it is incumbent on multi-culturalists to discredit whenever and wherever possible those who are numerate.” Ouch.
MORE: Invoking Weird Al.
SO TODAY AMAZON IS RECOMMENDING Unconventional Warfare Devices and Techniques References Tm 31-200-1, and the Improvised Munitions Handbook. Plus, a helpful volume on boobytraps.
I wonder what led to those recommendations? This is maybe taking the whole Dangerous Book for Boys thing a bit too far. . . .
GLOBAL OPTIMISM, American pessimism.
PHILADELPHIA: The details change, the narrative remains.
THOUGHTS ON FEAR.
MOLLOHAN CAST VOTES DESPITE RECUSAL:
Despite having recused himself from matters relating to the FBI â€” which is reportedly investigating his finances â€” Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday voted against an amendment that would have increased the bureauâ€™s budget by $6 million.
Republicans say Mollohanâ€™s vote proves his recusal is a sham â€” and claim the amendment was intended to draw him out. Democrats defended Mollohan, saying he had not participated in discussions about the agencies that are reportedly investigating him, though no one from his office or the Appropriations Committee would go on the record for this article. . . .
It has been widely reported that Mollohan sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee recusing himself from matters involving the Justice Department, a decision that was hailed by watchdog groups such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
But according to the committee, Mollohanâ€™s recusal applies only to four accounts within Justice: the Office of the Attorney General, the U.S. attorneys, the FBI and the Justice Departmentâ€™s Criminal Division. Neither Mollohanâ€™s office nor the Appropriations Committee would provide a copy of the recusal letter, and Republicans claimed they have never seen it.
A bit more transparency, please.
THE SPEECH POLICE, on parade.
IN THE MAIL: Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy’s The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House.
Plus, Billy Graham and Woody Allen.
MORE PROBLEMS WITH electronic voting.
MEGAN MCARDLE: “But though I disapprove of the way that both sides have turned this into a battle in some larger culture war over whether soldiers/Republicans or journalists/Democrats are the bigger jerks, it still matters a great deal whether the story was right. Just as it mattered whether Jayson Blair’s stories were right, or Stephen Glass’s, not because their stories would resolve momentous questions of public policy, but because it matters a great deal whether the information that media conveys is correct. Editors should live in fear that something they have published is wrong; that’s healthy. Whatever the motives of the critics–and I hate to point this out, but almost certainly anyone who gets caught writing a fake story, will be caught by someone who doesn’t like them very much, and has ulterior motives for desiring to disprove what they wrote–the mechanism is sound. It is the journalistic equivalent of peer review.”
MAKE BIODIESEL YOURSELF with a home processing plant.
MICHAEL TOTTEN POSTS ANOTHER REPORT FROM BAGHDAD:
â€œWe want to use you as bait,â€ Sergeant Eduardo Ojeda from Los Angeles, California, told me before I embedded with his unit on what was shaping up to be a night raid.
â€œExcellent,â€ I said. â€œThatâ€™s why Iâ€™m here.â€
Remember, he’s supported by reader donations, so if you like the reporting, you might want to hit the tipjar.
[Link was bad before. Fixed now. Sorry!]
A WAR WE JUST MIGHT WIN: “Viewed from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal.. . . Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administrationâ€™s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily ‘victory’ but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.”
It’s in the New York Times, so it must be true.
FREEZING VS. MIND UPLOADING: Ron Bailey reports on the debate. Plus, proof that Bailey actually has a heart.
MICKEY KAUS: “How about this–the DLC can stop talking about the teachers’ unions when the Democratic candidates stop talking about No Child Left Behind. Deal?”
DON SURBER: “The New York Times is a troubled franchise. I do not mean financially; I mean in its soul.”
NOBODY TELL MCCAIN AND FEINGOLD: “New Zealand’s Parliament has voted itself far-reaching powers to control satire and ridicule of MPs in Parliament, attracting a storm of media and academic criticism.”
GOOD NEWS: “Iraq completed one of sport’s great fairytales by beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the Asian Cup final on Sunday to provide a rare moment for celebration in their war-torn homeland. The Saudis had been bidding to become the first four-times winners of the tournament but Iraq, riding a wave of global sentiment, upset the hot-favourites for a rare slice of sporting glory.”
And Omar writes: “I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that today has been as exciting as one of those election days in Baghdad. Our national soccer team is playing for the Asian cup for the first time in its history. By comparison this is as if the American team is playing for the cup of Copa America against the team of Brazil or Argentina! But of course here in Iraq we care way more about soccer than Americans do. No offense meant of course!”
None taken. Everyone cares about soccer more than Americans do. But follow the link for his liveblogging of the match. He concludes: “Our players, tonight our heroes, learned that only with team work they had a chance to win. May our politicians learn from the players . . . The fear is gone, the curfew is ignored, tonight Iraq knows only joy.” May there be more days like this, and with more occasions than soccer.
PORKQUEST: Mary Katharine Ham goes looking for John Murtha’s missing million-dollar earmark. Watch her visit various Johnstown, PA landmarks, and get the runaround from various PR flacks. (Bumped, because — well, just watch it.)
LOTT V. LEVITT: An update.
MORE ON RECESS APPOINTMENTS TO THE SUPREME COURT: “According to C-Span, there have been 15 recess appointments to the Supreme Court. The first was John Rutledge, who was given a recess appointment to be Chief Justice by President George Washington in 1795. As noted in this report, President Eisenhower made three recess appointments to the Court â€” Earl Warren, William Brennan, and Potter Stewart. Brennan, in particular, was placed on the Court in the midst of the 1956 Presidential campaign, arguably for political reasons.”
I’m ready for my closeup! Er, but not holding my breath.
STEVEN DEN BESTE, quoted in the New York Times.
The guy hung up his blog ages ago and he’s still unstoppable. So unstoppable, some readers note, that the NYT is even attributing a Mickey Kaus statement to den Beste along with his own. But in the context of the quote, I think that’s okay, since den Beste was quoting Kaus himself, and not really an error on the part of the Times.
UPDATE: Kaus comments: “Print editors do have to save space. But web editors don’t. That’s a major, unremarked virtue of blogs over newspapers when it comes to the newspaper’s alleged unique selling proposition: accuracy. In fact, the need to fit copy to a limited space is a powerful error-creating machine in both dailies and magazines. Harried print editors compress, and get it wrong. Or they fool around trying to simplify attribution and get it wrong. Or they guiltlessly edit quotes within quotation marks and (by definition) get them wrong. … In cyberspace,, if it takes one more line to get it right, you can take one more line. I haven’t killed a widow in so long I’ve forgotten what it feels like.”
ACCORDING TO THIS ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN, the Bush Administration was already supporting torturing suspects back in 1998. “The report criticises the Bush administration’s approval of practices which would be illegal if carried out by British agents. It shows that in 1998, the year Bin Laden was indicted in the US, Britain insisted that the policy of treating prisoners humanely should include him. But the CIA never gave the assurances.”
UPDATE: Bill Quick asks the inevitable question: “Did Hillary Clinton support torturing Osama bin Laden?”
MORE COOL UNDERSEA PHOTOGRAPHY.
I MENTIONED A WHILE BACK that I was reading Michael Belfiore’s new book, Rocketeers: How a Visionary Band of Business Leaders, Engineers, and Pilots Is Boldly Privatizing Space, and I had a review in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Now there’s a free link available, thanks to OpinionJournal.com. The Belfiore book is very much worth reading for anyone interested in space, capitalism, or technology. And thanks to Scott Johnson for the undeserved praise.
SAVING ENERGY BY SWITCHING from Google to Blackle.
Color me, er, skeptical.
SUNSHINE: NOT SO BAD AFTER ALL:
Ever since scientists convicted sunlight of causing skin cancer, many seemingly sensible people have been running around slathered in sunscreen, using hats and long sleeves to hide our skin from the sun as if we were vampires. Now it looks like we may have gone too far: We may be missing out on the benefits of sunshine.
A study (press release) released today in the journal Neurology indicates that children who spend more time in the sun may have a decreased risk of multiple sclerosis. In pairs of twins where one twin had multiple sclerosis, the MS-free sibling had spent more time outside, playing team sports and sun tanning. Scientists theorize that ultraviolet rays in sunlight trigger a protective response that protects the body from this chronic nervous system disorder, either by altering the immune system or by producing vitamin D. . . .
Getting more vitamin D-drenched sunlight might be a good idea, regardless of your genetic risk for multiple sclerosis: Scientists say most people arenâ€™t getting enough. Researchers at Boston University published a paper last week in the New England Journal of Medicine said that more than 1 billion people worldwide donâ€™t get enough Vitamin D. Too little vitamin D for too long can result in dramatic results like ricketsâ€”a softening of the skeleton. But other dangers include Hodgkinâ€™s lymphoma, a range of cancers, Crohnâ€™s disease, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.
Well, I’m en route to the beach now. For my health!
UPDATE: More thoughts here. I wouldn’t throw away the sunscreen. But I wouldn’t avoid the sun completely, either.
THOUGHTS ON PLASTER SAINTS and war stories.
I’m pretty lame about carnival-blogging these days, but there are lots of carnivals listed at BlogCarnival.com, with highlights in my right sidebar.
THIS SOUNDS COOL:
Researchers have developed a remarkably simple way to convert ordinary graphite particles into very thin but superstrong sheets that are tougher than steel and as flexible as carbon fiber but can be made much more cheaply. The discovery could spawn entirely new types of materials for applications as diverse as protective coatings, electronic components, batteries, and fuel cells.
I can see a lot of applications.
ROBIN HENIG LOOKS AT ROBOTS:
Sociable robots come equipped with the very abilities that humans have evolved to ease our interactions with one another: eye contact, gaze direction, turn-taking, shared attention. They are programmed to learn the way humans learn, by starting with a core of basic drives and abilities and adding to them as their physical and social experiences accrue. People respond to the robotsâ€™ social cues almost without thinking, and as a result the robots give the impression of being somehow, improbably, alive.
Read the whole thing.
BROWN UNIVERSITY WELCOMES Duke rape case victim.
MICHAEL SILENCE IS grillblogging. Looks yummy!
POLITICAL CAPITAL is John Harwood’s new blog over at CNBC.
“FIND OUT WHAT HE’S DRINKING, and give some to my other astronauts.“
HILLARY, OBAMA, and a return to normalcy.
MORE THOUGHTS ON GUANTANAMO, from Prof. Kenneth Anderson.
INCONSISTENCIES regarding Yahoo! and China.
MARK STEYN offers suggestions for improving prosecutions.
KEITH MILBY GIVES THE SIMPSONS MOVIE a rave review.
STRATEGYPAGE: “In Iran, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is rapidly losing popularity and respect. It’s feared that his only option is to somehow get the United States to attack Iran. This would instantly boost Ahmadinejad’s popularity, and save his political career. For a while, anyway.” Read the whole thing.
ERIC SCHEIE ON WINDSHIELDS, BAMBI, AND ROBERT BYRD.
K.C. JOHNSON ON the real Ward Churchill scandal:
Beyond illustrating the flawed conception of academic freedom too prevalent in the contemporary academy, the Churchill case illustrates what happens when universities abandon excellence as the primary criterion in the personnel process. Well before Churchill ever uttered his “Little Eichmanns” line, the University of Colorado – a Tier I research university – had hired, then tenured, and then promoted to department chairman a woefully underqualified academic charlatan. In this respect, the affair provides a case study of “diversity” hiring practices gone awry.
And the result was trouble.
PATTERICO OFFERS a tale of airport security.
FIGURING OUT WHY ROBERT NOVAK hates blogs.
“I GUESS HE SHOULD HAVE JUST BURNED A FLAG.”
RICH PEOPLE READ? Ann Althouse is unimpressed.
IS PEGGY NOONAN TURNING INTO MAUREEN DOWD? What’s the point of this column? Rich people make money in ways a WSJ columnist can’t understand? Which has something to do with salespeople being too “aggressively friendly”? Which she thinks represents something new? And then there are all those people talking on cellphones all the time. People didn’t used to do that! What’s wrong with people today . . . .? Actually, on rereading it’s more like Andy Rooney than Maureen Dowd. This isn’t a column, it’s a collection of unconnected — and somewhat crotchety — complaints. Just bizarre. I’ve written enough columns to know that they can’t all be gems, but, well . . . this isn’t one of the gems.
INDIGENOUS PEOPLE VS. ENVIRONMENTALISTS:
The Navajo president, Joe Shirley Jr., said his tribe felt similar pressure. Mr. Shirley said the plant here would mean hundreds of jobs, higher incomes and better lives for some of the 200,000 people on the reservation. The tribe derives little direct financial benefit from the operation of the existing coal-fired plants and it has not yet invested heavily in casinos.
â€œWhy pick on the little Navajo nation, when itâ€™s trying to help itself?â€ he asked. . . .
The staff of Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democratic presidential aspirant, recently issued a statement saying that the plant â€œwould be a significant new source of greenhouse gases and other pollution in the regionâ€ and that Mr. Richardson â€œbelieves, as planned, it would be a step in the wrong direction,â€ undoing his proposed reductions in emissions.
Read the whole thing. Sierra Club members vote for Presidents. Navajos on the reservation do not.
A GONZALES GRAYMAIL problem?
ANDREW BOLT looks at Guantanamo and doesn’t like what he sees.
THE KNOXVILLE NEWS-SENTINEL HAS AN EDITORIAL on the Gubernatorial Succession Committee that’s had me traveling to and from Nashville lately. It’s a good one, but the quote from me — â€œThereâ€™s going to be a lot of scrutiny over this processâ€ — was actually about the process described in the proposed constitutional amendment, not the process of adopting the amendment. But it’s true both ways.
SO WE’VE NOW GOTTEN TWO COPIES OF Garden & Gun magazine in the mail. It’s not bad — kind of a Town & Country for the Southern well-to-do — part upscale Sports Afield and part less-partisan Vanity Fair or some such. It could do with a bit more gun and a bit less garden, though.
MORE VOTE FRAUD ALLEGATIONS IN FLORIDA: “Local party leaders say they found 60 instances in which people with the exact same name and birth date voted both in Palm Beach County and in New York in the November elections. . . . State and local governments are spending millions of public dollars, even dumping state-of-the-art equipment, to deliver a paper trail, hoping it brings peace of mind and confidence in voting to skeptical Floridians. Investigating complaints of voter fraud, and bringing any double-voters to justice in the land of the infamous butterfly ballot, should be a no-brainer.” I’m all for a paper trail, but it doesn’t matter if the voters themselves are bogus.
CHILLING AT THE AL RASHID.
THOUGHTS ON FEDERALISM FROM FRED THOMPSON: And I certainly agree with this bit:
Law enforcement in general is a matter on which Congress has been very active in recent years, not always to good effect and usually at the expense of state authority. When I served as a federal prosecutor, there were not all that many federal crimes, and most of those involved federal interests. Since the 1980â€™s, however, Congress has aggressively federalized all sorts of crimes that the states have traditionally prosecuted and punished. While these federal laws allow Members of Congress to tell the voters how tough they are on crime, there are few good reasons why most of them are necessary.
For example, it is a specific federal crime to use the symbol of 4-H Clubs with the intent to defraud. And donâ€™t even think about using the Swiss Confederationâ€™s coat of arms for commercial purposes. Thatâ€™s a federal offense, too.
Groups as diverse as the American Bar Association and the Heritage Foundation have reported that there are more than three thousand, five hundred distinct federal crimes and more than 10,000 administrative regulations scattered over 50 section of the U.S. code that runs at more than 27,000 pages. More than 40 percent of these regulatory criminal laws have been enacted since 1973.
I held hearings on the over-federalization of criminal law when I was in the Senate. You hear that the states are not doing a good job at prosecuting certain crimes, that their sentencing laws are not tough enough, that itâ€™s too easy to make bail in state court. If these are true, why allow those responsible in the states to shirk that responsibility by having the federal government make up for the shortcomings in state law? Accountability gets displaced.
But read the whole thing. And I have some related thoughts on federalism, special interests, and accountability here.
Also, Mark Tapscott has some further observations on Thompson’s essay.
UPDATE: Ilya Somin comments: “I fully agree with Thompson’s view here. . . . However, there is a major elephant in this federalism room that Thompson doesn’t mention. He is right to note the massive growth in the federal prison population over the last 20 years, but fails to point out that most of that growth is due to the War on Drugs. As I explained here, convicts incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses represent 55% of the total federal prison population. And it was the War on Drugs that led to the Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Gonzales v. Raich, which largely gutted constitutional limits on federal power.” True. Read the whole thing.
SIMPSONS UPDATE: A look at the science of Springfield.
“Lisa, in this house we OBEY the laws of thermodynamics!”