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Saturday, January 18, 2003
Saturday with Colbert
Tony AdragnaLast week Colbert King wrote about Roscoe Grant Jr. and his employment as deputy director of the Child Support Enforcement division of the D.C. Corporation Counsel's Office. Colbert explains why Grant's occupation is such a tragic irony.
Today's subject is D.C. Police Capt. Hassan Rauf. Rather, that's ex- D.C. Police Capt. Hassan Rauf — he resigned after pleading guilty to second-degree theft in a scheme to defraud D.C. taxpayers via approving "paid administrative leave" for one of his officers who was ostensibly taking a course of law enforcement training, but was in fact going on vacation to Las Vegas
Twelve months later, however, and notwithstanding the police department's dim view of Rauf, the ex-captain was back on the District of Columbia's payroll. What's more, he had returned to the ranks of D.C. law enforcement. This time, however, Rauf had set up shop in the D.C. Corporation Counsel's Office with the title of "investigator" in, what else -- the Child Support Enforcement division.'Nuff said...
Will VehrsTony, I'll be accused once more of being a Glenn Reynolds toadie, but I join you in noting and applauding Instapundit's new MSNBC venture.
During my last few weeks in the wilderness, I had the occasion to check out many of the sites that depend on Glenn as a foil--sites that dismiss him as "Professor Insta-Cracker." Those proud lefty-liberals, in stark contrast to Professor Reynolds, offer almost no diversity of opinion, and extend virtually no respect whatsoever to contrary viewpoints. Many don't even provide links to Glenn or sites with even a tinge of conservative viewpoints. If I am a Glenn Reynlds toadie, then I proudly wear that mantle, because Glenn dares to give alternative views their due and honestly acknowledges that he might not always be right. His enormous and well-deserved popularity is, in my opinion, a function of his restless intellect and charming modesty.
Today, Glenn makes it to the editorial pages of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. They praise one of his "pro-gun" posts. Glenn's broad interpretation and strong defense of the Second Amendment drives his critics crazy. This is one Instapundit passion that I don't share. While I generally agree with him, I just have no interest in guns and rarely feel moved to defend pro-gun positions. I defer to those much more passionate and eloquent.
One subject that does arouse my passion is the current affirmative action debate, currently centered around the University of Michigan's policies. Last night's Shields and Brooks was an excellent discussion of the politics and substance of the affirmative action debate. David Brooks, as usual, had sharp insights about both the specifics and, for him, the larger issue of college admissions policies. Surprisingly, Mark Shields was not a vigorous defender of affirmative action. Perhaps that's because it is almost indefensible that any member of three racial groups automatically gets 20 points at the University of Michigan--more points than a compelling essay, more points than a perfect test score. There is plenty to debate about affirmative action, but that aspect of Michigan's admission policy is clearly out of bounds. I haven't found anyone who defends those numbers--they change the subject.
One subject supporters of affirmative action roll out is the "legacy" preference--four points to the children of alumni. I don't agree with that scoring, either, but note how much larger a racial preference is than a legacy preferance. They also point to preferences for athletes. I don't agree with reduced standards for athletes, but many African-Americans benefit from those preferences. Does that matter?
I recognize that college admissions must be a subjective process, but those areas of subjectivity should be debated honestly without cries of "racism."
Friday, January 17, 2003
Updated 6:30 PM
If Glenn Could Patent It, Would He?
Tony AdragnaMy belated notation of GlennReynolds.com — the latest addition to the InstaEmpire — is also opportunity for me to comment on an issue where my idealism confronts the necessity for practicality. What gives rise to this opportunity is Glenn's Jan 16 item on "COPYRIGHTS AND CREATIVITY".
Glenn looks at the Supreme Court decision in Eldred v. Reno and writes, "While many people are unhappy with the Intellectual Property implications of this decision, its most striking aspect is the strict constructionists’ abandonment of the principles of limited government." I agree — not that my agreement matters — with Glenn's assessment of "its most striking aspect" so far as Supreme Court jurisprudence is concerned. However, I'm one of the "many" who is more concerned about the "Intellectual Property implications" of the Act of Congress that Eldred upholds.
My idealism informs a principled objection that I share with Dr. Franklin. In his autobigraphy Franklin tells of his1742 invention
In order of time, I should have mentioned before, that having, in 1742, invented an open stove for the better warming of rooms, and at the same time saving fuel, as the fresh air admitted was warmed in entering, I made a present of the model to Mr. Robert Grace, one of my early friends, who, having an iron-furnace, found the casting of the plates for these stoves a profitable thing, as they were growing in demand.But, the practical necessity of patents is evidenced in Franklin's next paragraph. The London ironmonger got no dispute from Franklin on what is the theft of Franklin's idea, and I won't try to contrive such an argument, because Franklin in fact gave away his idea. But, I can make a principled argument that individuals ought be fairly compensated for their work — whether that work is the production of self-owned & created intellectual property, or making widgets for Gizmos R Us. Just as we have labor laws that protect the individuals' right to not have their labor stolen by Gizmos R Us, patent & copyright laws are needed to ensure the same sorts of protections for creators of intellectual property.
And Franklin could not but agree that protecting the interests of inventors does promote new invention. For, though Franklin had "no desire of profiting by patents", the "exclusive right" does make possible innovation that might not otherwise be so — allowing for the recouping of costs — and provides a "profit" incentive to those, unlike myself & Dr. Franklin, not so disposed to offering of themselves "freely and generously." On balance, the greater good produced by more invention provides a rational defense of "exclusive rights" that Franklin would probably find agreement with.
While I would like to see more free sharing, I don't think it ought be compelled by anything other than that to which Franklin makes his appeal — an individual's own conscience.
So far I've written only a defense of protecting intellectual property, so what's my problem with Eldred? Because, in the words of Justice Breyer's dissent, "[...] unless the [Copyright/Patent] Clause is construed to embody such a categorical rule [prohibiting retroactive extensions],Congress may extend existing monopoly privileges ad infinitum under the majority ’s analysis." Indeed, it seems to me that Congress & The Court have lost sight of the the purpose of limiting IP protections — to move these properties into the public domain as soon as possible...
Update: In my haste to publish the above, I mis-attribted the above citation — it is actually from Justice Stevens' dissent. Also, since I hadn't yet read Justice Breyer's dissent I missed a citation more on-point to my attempt at balancing private & public interests. Breyer writes
[...] I would find that the statute lacks the constitutionally necessary rational support (1) if the significant benefits that it bestows are private, not public; (2) if it threatens seriously to undermine the expressive values that the Copyright Clause embodies; and (3) if it cannot find justification in any significant Clause-related objective. Where, after examination of the statute, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, even to dispute these characterizations, Congress’ “choice is clearly wrong.” Helvering v. Davis, 301 U.S. 619, 640 (1937)Whether there's any public benefit to extending the scope of time during which copyright protections obtain is a debatable point. But, that the current rubric grants "significant benefits that [...] are private, not public" is indisputable. Breyer goes on to cite Madison on Monoplies
Madison noted that the Constitution had “limited them to two cases, the authors of Books, and of useful inventions.” Madison on Monopolies 756. He thought that in those two cases monopoly is justified because it amounts to “compensation for” an actual community “benefit” and because the monopoly is “temporary”–the term originally being 14 years (once renewable). Ibid. Madison concluded that “under that limitation a sufficient recompence and encouragement may be given.” Ibid. But he warned in general that monopolies must be “guarded with strictness agst abuse.” IbidSo, we've got a Clause with the primary objective of "stimulat[ing] artistic creativity for the general public good" [Breyer citing Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S. 151] but providing for "compensation". I'm with Breyer here.
Congress itself agrees with Breyer's argument on "primary purpose", as is noted in a quote from H. R. Rep. No. 100—609, p. 17 (1988)
“Under the U.S. Constitution, the primary objective of copyright law is not to reward the author, but rather to secure for the public the benefits derived from the authors’ labors. By giving authors an incentive to create, the public benefits in two ways: when the original expression is created and . . . when the limited term . . . expires and the creation is added to the public domain.”Nor does the majority opinion in Eldred opine anything else on the purpose of the Copyright Clause. But, this is where the majority opinion notes Congress doing something it oughtn't be doing, but doesn't say it oughtn't be doing it, and upholds the enactment. From the majority
By extending the baseline United States copyright term, Congress sought to ensure that American authors would receive the same copyright protection in Europe as their European counterparts.The CTEA may also provide greater incentive for American and other authors to create and disseminate their work in the United States. Additionally, Congress passed the CTEA in light of demographic, economic, and technological changes, and rationally credited projections that longer terms would encourage copyright holders to invest in the restoration and public distribution of their works.The enactment was primarily about providing a benefit to the authors, while there "may" be some public good that comes of granting authors "greater incentive", and, by the way, we'd like to "encourage copyright holders to invest [their own time & money] in the restoration and public distribution of their works", which we wouldn't need "encourage" if the work was already in the public domain after some reasonable amount of time lapsed during which the author recieved "compensation" for the labor.
Franklin's principle is just so much easier to follow...
Thursday, January 16, 2003
Updated 6:40 PM
Incredibility Meets Implausibility
Tony AdragnaLet me give this one last go at my bit of unconventional wisdom in re what the administration has been up to on North Korea.
I'll first clarify my thinking by noting my agreement with critics who cite "mis-steps" by the Bush administration. The administration's error in judgement [my own subjective opinion] begins at that bit of rhetorical excess — the "Axis of Evil" speech — that, despite its truthfulness, would've been better left unsaid. Many who agree with my opinion on this point would disagree with citing it as the "begin" — they trace the "begin" to the administration's deprecation of the '94 agreement and refusal to build something better onto it. Problem is that they're wrong.
Certainly the Bush Campaign spent much time deprecating the '94 agreement and the Clinton aproach. And there is still within the administration, and its party, a "camp" that leans toward less diplomacy & more action and a more confrontational approach to North Korea. But, what has been the administration's policy? Critics and supporters of Mr. Bush might be surprised to find that since June '01 — not but 5 months into his presidency — he has been pursuing what is in essence the prior administration's policy and looks to the "goals" of South Korea's government
I have directed my national security team to undertake serious discussions with North Korea on a broad agenda to include: improved implementation of the Agreed Framework relating to North Korea's nuclear activities; verifiable constraints on North Korea's missile programs and a ban on its missile exports; and a less threatening conventional military posture.Then, in July '01 Testimony before the Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, House Committee on International Relations, Charles L. Pritchard, Special Envoy for Negotiations With the D.P.R.K. and U.S. Representative to KEDO, said
In the week following the President's announcement of our policy review conclusions, I transmitted to my North Korean counterpart, Vice Minister Kim Gye Gwan, our interest in meeting for bilateral talks. We set no preconditions, and I deferred to Vice Minister Kim to select a date and venue. Our interest is not to get bogged down in procedural matters but rather to discuss issues of concern and offer North Korea the opportunity to demonstrate the seriousness of its stated desire for improved relations with the United States.And I can go on citing instances where the administration uttered variations on the same theme, but to no avail. The North Koreans alternately complained — as they did at the July 13, '01 agenda-setting meeting in New York — that the U.S. is acting in bad faith, or they do something stupid to set back attempts at improving relations 'til conditions meet their criteria — that is, 'til they've ripened a crisis that's got everybody worried 'bout worst case outcomes.
So, how do we break the diplomatic impasse? We go to North Korea, but only one item on our agenda matters: Confronting North Korea on their HEU program. We expect a denial, but at least we've broached the issue, and we can start talking from there with the leverage of international pressure against North Korea on our side. But, we didn't expect an admission and "what're you gonna do 'bout it" from North Korea — there's where we got sacked. The fall-back position was a knee-jerk return to "no negotiations" and calls for isolation, but that wasn't where the administration set out to when it charted its course back in October.
Efforts at getting us back on track are going to look wobbly — you've got to steer several different headings to get back to where you want to be. If it looks improvised, that's because it probably is — nobody planned on having to take this path...
Update: Washington Post Staff Writer Glenn Kessler's analysis adds some weight to my "recap" and some of what I wrote above
For the first 18 months of the administration, advocates of isolating North Korea clashed with those pushing for engagement. The engagement camp, led by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, appeared to have finally won the argument just when officials in July received conclusive evidence of a clandestine North Korean program to enrich uranium. Despite the intelligence, Powell went ahead with a brief meeting with the North Korean foreign minister at a conference in Brunei on July 31.
Wednesday, January 15, 2003
Could Mr. Bush Have "Engineered"...(cont.)
Tony AdragnaHow plausible is the scenario I laid out below? Let me recap my thesis:
Mr. Bush wants to talk with the North Koreans about their HEU program, and has been trying to get to the table for awhile. Mr. Bush knows that the "talks" are going to involve some kind of quid pro quo — the only question is which side of the "pro" we end up on. But, to even hint at negotiating with the North Koreans brings Mr. Bush a heap of trouble with defense "hawks". So, what does Mr. Bush do? — He brings the "crisis" forward by confronting North Korea with evidence of their HEU program. This accomplishes three things: a) gets us to the table on North Koreas non-compliance, b) does so in a that way mitigates criticism from within Mr. Bush's own party, and c) pre-empts North Korean "engineering" in such a way that increases our chances of ending up on the right of the "pro".I find evidence for this "wants to talk" not only in the administration's tendency toward diplomacy, notwithstanding contrarian rhetoric, but also in that as late as August 29, '02 we have a statement from John R. Bolton, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, saying
During his visit in February to South Korea, President Bush made our intentions clear. He stipulated that we have no intention of invading North Korea. Rather, he said, "We’re prepared to talk with the North about steps that would lead to a better future, a future that is more hopeful and less threatening." We continue to stand by this offer of dialogue -- anytime, anyplace.[emphasis added]But, what's got me convinced that Amb. Kelly's October trip to North Korea was a bit of maneuvering meant to reclaim the initiative in diplomacy, rather than an attempt at pushing the "hawk"ish line? Well, look at what else was going on during the August '02 to October '02 time-frame — the dabate on how to handle Iraq. We ended up at the U.N. and coercive diplomacy.
Could it be that Mr. Bush intended something along the same line vis a vis North Korea: First turning everybody's attention to a problem, then pushing the international community to deal with that problem, and only then — after making clear how serious we consider the problem — offering to engage in a bit of coercive diplomacy?
I know it strains credibility to suppose the Mr. Bush set this whole thing up, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. I'd like to believe I'm correct, because the alternative is that the administration either didn't have a plan, or is changing its plans under pressure — neither of those two choices is acceptable...
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
What's Hitchen's Got Against Clinton?
Tony AdragnaI think Hitchens is correct in arguing that the Iraq Liberation Act was "evasion" where we need "invasion" Where I think Hitchens is being quite smart is in implicating Clinton — Hitchens' disparaging use of " the Clinton era" and "the Clinton period" — and Democrats "Sens. Lieberman and Kerrey (the Nebraska one)" as responsible for the "evasion".
Hitchens ought read the Congressional Record. I did, and here's what I found.
The legislation in question — the Iraq Liberation Act — was introduced in the House of Representatives Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman (R - NY). When Mr. Gilman (R - NY) introduced the bill he said
Some suggest that our nation should go to war and rid the Persian Gulf of the threat posed by Saddam. We may yet be compelled to do so, but before we put American lives at risk in that far away land, we have a duty to explore the alternatives. One alternative is to assist freedom-loving Iraquis.When the House again took up the matter, Mr. Gilman (R - NY) reiterated
The dilemma of current U.S. policy is dramatically illustrated by the events we have witnessed this past year. In January and February, our Nation was on the verge of launching massive military strikes against Iraq in order to compel Saddam to afford U.N. weapons inspectors access to certain sites that he had declared off-limits. Our Nation stood down after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Anan brokered a deal in which Saddam promised to behave better in the future. But, our leaders said, if Saddam violates his agreement with Kofi Anan, we will retaliate swiftly and massively.Mr. Rohrabacher, definitely no Clinton supporter, said of the bill, "This resolution is exactly the right formula, and we should have used it long ago."
When the House bill [versus the Senate version, which was never enacted] was called up by unanimous consent in the Senate, Mr. Helms claimed co-sponsorship and said
This bill will begin the long-overdue process of ousting Saddam. It will not send in U.S. troops or commit American forces in any way. Rather, it harkens back to the successes of the Reagan doctrine, enlisting the very people who are suffering most under Saddam's yoke to fight the battle against himFurther, original co-sponsors of the Senate version were
Sen Kerrey, J. Robert - 9/29/1998Let's see, the two Democrats and five Republicans.
So, how is it that the "evasion" had something to do with Mr. Clinton? And how does Hitchens square his intimations vis a vis Clinton in light of the fact that 'twas Clinton who argued for military intervention — the bombing campaign in Dec '98, and the Kosovo intervention — over the objections of Republicans?
Could Mr. Bush Have "Engineered"