January 28, 2009

Rehabilitating Williamson

Posted by TMLutas

Bishop Williamson of the SSPX has had his excommunication lifted. This has caused Israel's rabbinate to react rather negatively and, unfortunately, unwisely.

The Holocaust denying Williamson is wrong on the facts and very likely undertook his provocative recent interview in Sweden to make it more difficult for the Vatican to regularize him and bring about unity and a restoration of Vatican discipline.

What the Vatican understands and the rabbinate does not is that one can be a thorough loon with reprehensible views and not be excommunicate. Excommunication is a specific punishment for a specific act, in bishop Williamson's case a schismatic act of being raised a bishop in defiance of Rome. The way the Western Church works, this was punishment was imposed without due process. No trial, no defense, no airing out of issues. He was raised a bishop without the right paperwork so he's out.

Obviously Williamson has "other issues" and when he's actually back in the Church those issues can be addressed. If they are not, the rabbinate would have a point at that time. I strongly suspect a monastic life for Bishop Williamson inside the Catholic Church, a very quiet one.

January 25, 2009

Guantanamo and the death penalty

Posted by TMLutas

One of the things that has gone under remarked in the Guantanamo saga is the eligibility of so many of those prisoners for the death penalty. A key anti-death penalty argument is crumbling before our eyes and few, if any, are taking note.

The argument is that in modern penal systems, killers are simply not going to kill again. Supermax facilities and their like are supposed to bring us an era where the death penalty is unnecessary to protect society. But what is happening in the military context of the death penalty at Guantanamo?

As the AFP notes we have the spectacle of "Two ex-Guantanamo inmates appear in Al-Qaeda video" announcing to the world that after committing a death penalty crime (fighting without uniform) they're very likely going to do it again. In fact, we've got 11% of released detainees going back to kill again as a fact of our forbearance to apply the full extent of US military justice. How many more will join them to kill and maim again is a very open question now that Guantanamo is going to be quickly shut down.

Death penalty opponents who oppose the penalty in all cases on ideological or moral grounds have a bit of a problem here, if anybody's going to take them to task for their false claims. I'm not holding my breath.

January 12, 2009

The Elephant in the Room

Posted by TMLutas

The dead weight loss of stupid regulation and poor state activity is the elephant in the room regarding the current recession. Megan McArdle's recently blogged car tribulations where she finally managed to register her car bought August 3, 2008 on January 10, 2009. The delay is due, in large part, to PA state bureaucrats misapplying state law and putting a national hold on McArdle's ability to get a drivers license. There is no left wing or right wing justification for this. Nobody particularly supports the practice of the government making regulations up as they go along and then quickly retracting their claims when somebody calls them on it.

So why does this sort of thing persist? Two reasons spring to mind. Once you've caught them, correcting the problem for everybody looks so daunting and fixing it for yourself looks so cheap that the vast majority of people just fix their own paperwork and get on with their lives. The second is that there seems to be no political advantage to undergo a crusade to fix this sort of stuff.

But sometimes the waste is just sitting right in front of you and nobody even notices. Sean O'Neill wanted to see his travel dossier so he did a FOI request. The response was mailed, twenty pages. Sending paper is more expensive than sending bits. It's slower, too.

An agent from U.S. Customs and Border Protection can generate a travel history for any traveler with a few keystrokes on a computer.

A well thought program development effort would have rated each data field whether it needed to be censored in an FOI request and enabled a "few keystrokes" report that automatically generated an electronic version that had the appropriate black boxes where sensitive data would otherwise be. Instead we have a print, a manual black box strategy (the sample page from the record has the black boxes tilted off of horizontal by a couple of degrees), and unnecessary paper mailing. Multiply this by thousands of FOI officers throughout the federal government and hundreds of thousands of requests every year and you get a system that is slow to respond and expensive.

And that's the problem of dead weight loss in a nutshell, government that is slow and expensive even when it isn't being capricious and not following the law. We can do better.

January 05, 2009


Posted by TMLutas

I've been using Twitter lately under the label TMLutas. If anybody's interested in following me...

January 04, 2009

What did they know and when did they know it?

Posted by TMLutas

I think that it is pretty generally accepted (if unremarked on) that there is absolutely no difference in the level of corruption of Governor Rod Blagojevich before and after his arrest. If anything, the arrest has probably reduced any actual Blagojevich corruption (though anything is possible). So what did his conversation partners know and when did they know it?

Specifically in the case of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who tried to steer the appointment and then famously said than nobody appointed in this process would be seated when did he come to his opinion that Governor Blagojevich was corrupt? And when will the press ask him? What other corrupt Democrats is Sen Reid willing to play footsie with until the indictments are announced? What sort of culture of corruption is being unearthed here?

Thanks Terrorist Guys

Posted by TMLutas

I don't understand why the Israelis don't run ad campaigns between these violent dust ups with their more violent lunatic neighbors. We just had a 6 month "cease fire" where Hamas' Gaza Strip was the launch site of hundreds if not thousands of rocket and mortar attacks into Israel. I can see the theme now, "Thanks Hamas".

You take a cute kid, an innocent woman, an everyman dad and thank Hamas for their war crimes that will, some time in the future, doom their family to destruction and death.

"Thanks Hamas! By launching your mortars from my olive grove, Israeli return fire destroyed 70% of my orchard. I know I owe my family's hunger to you."

"Thanks Hamas! When you stationed your missile storage depot in the basement of our school. When our school is destroyed in the middle of the night we won't have to go to the trouble of getting an education."

"Thanks Hamas! By filling my children's ears with the glory of suicide bombing I've lost three of my children to a death that has sent them to the fires of hell."

A parallel Thanks Hezbollah! and Thanks Al Queda! campaign writes itself.

No doubt many media outlets will refuse to carry such ads. This just makes the campaign more interesting and gives it lots of free publicity.

January 03, 2009

Small Government Philosphy I

Posted by TMLutas

In all the noise over where conservatism, especially small government conservatism, should go in the future a little retrospective why small governments work might just be in order.

The idea of running a polity with a small government is all about recognizing a few facts. Humans aren't perfect. They aren't perfectible. Humans work best when they have well developed feedback loops. Voluntary institutions have the best feedback loops. Coercive institutions have the poorest feedback loops. Government is a coercive institution. To date we haven't figured out how to run everything with voluntary institutions.

These facts lead to the inescapable conclusion that all things being equal, a small government society will work better than a large government society, the smaller the better, until we've hit the limits of our present ingenuity and civilizational level to run things.

It is a very good bet that a durable majority of voters will fundamentally agree with these facts. There will be disagreement as to how far we can go down the path of private institutions solving problems but most people do believe in that intellectual framework.

A product of BruceR and Jantar Mantar Communications, and affiliated contributors. Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's half-informed viewpoint on the world.

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