January 5th, 2006

Browncoat party

A Breakthrough in Punditry

Michael Barone is one of the senior pundits on the conservative side. A couple years ago he wrote the book Hard America, Soft America, comparing the easy ride we give to high school students (and their resulting incompetence) to the ruthless punishment of adult's failures in the business world (leading to world economic domination). I haven't read the book but he's referred to it in columns advocating mandatory testing, competition among schools, and other ways to hold our students to tougher standards.

A current article in Newsweek looks at the same issue in comparing America to Singapore. While Singapore's high school students excel in tests of knowledge, they don't translate that into great leadership in their adult careers. Barone writes that this may be an argument against his book:

But another implication of Zakaria's piece is that too much teaching-to-test might stifle the creativity and bumptiousness that is a vital reason for the competence of American 30-year-olds.

So rigorous training early on may eliminate the spark of later innovation. That's definitely something to keep in mind in the arguments over our education system. But the most amazing part of the post to me was the end:

There may be trade-offs here that I haven't thought about enough. It's something worth thinking about.

A professional pundit admits he may be wrong? He admits he doesn't have the answer yet? Has this happened before? Not too damn often. And I think it matters that he's writing this in his blog, not his regular weekly column. It's a good sign that blogs are a useful tool for real discussions of the issues.
  • Current Mood
    hopeful hopeful
Browncoat party

A War Quiz

I didn't expect to do LJ memes or quizzes on this journal, but Reason editor Matt Welch came out with one that belongs here:

The Pro-war Libertarian Quiz: How far are you willing to go to win the War on Terror? (His answer to all of these is "no", for those not familiar with him)

1) Should the National Security Agency or CIA have the ability to monitor domestic phone calls or e-mails without obtaining judicial approval?

Sure. Telling our enemies "We won't spy on you if you get across the border" is pretty stupid.

2) Should the government have the ability to hold an American citizen without charge, indefinitely, without access to a lawyer, if he is believed to be part of a terrorist cell?

If he's caught in a war zone with a rifle fighting for the other side, sure. If he's grabbed under other circumstances, only with a review by the Supreme Court.

3) Can you imagine a situation in which the government would be justified in waterboarding an American citizen?

Yes. See post on torture below.

4) Are there American journalists who should be investigated for possible treason? Should Sedition laws be re-introduced?

Not that I know of. Our standards for treason are strict and I'm not aware of any violations. There's several employees of the New York Times who've engaged in conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act and I'm all for them spending a long, long time in prison. As for sedition, the best answer to bad speech is more speech.

5) Should the CIA be able to legally assassinate people in countries with which the U.S. is not at war?

Yes. If someone's planning to kill us we shouldn't let him be unmolested until he gets an entire nation to join with him.

6) Should anti-terrorism cops be given every single law-enforcement tool available in non-terrorist cases?

Yes. If a tool shouldn't be used for catching killers it shouldn't be used at all, as in the next question.

EDIT: If this question meant to ask "Should anti-terrorism cops be able to use all their tools when investigating non-terrorism cases" I'd say "No", that's not a war situation and should use the regular rules.

7) Should law enforcement be able to seize the property of a suspected (though not charged) American terrorist, and then sell it?

No, nor should they be able to do that for drug or any other crime. Guardians should not work to the profit motive, it's the wrong incentive.

8) Should the U.S. military be tasked with enforcing domestic crime?

No. They're specialists and should stick to their job. We've already got the FBI to back up the local and state police forces. Now if there's a domestic terrorist or other threat requiring massive violence they should be used.

EDIT: I don't object to calling in the National Guard for dealing with major crime, but that's something they do when assigned to the state, not the federal government.

9) Should there be a national I.D. card, and should it be made available to law enforcement on demand?

No, but I'm not going to get upset if one happens. Privacy is a 20th-century fad, no sense drawing out the death. The worst consequence will be that a bad guy with a card will probably get much further than under the current system, since the national ID would carry an extra level of trust.

10) Should a higher percentage of national security-related activities and documents be made classified, and kept from the eyes of the Congress, the courts, and the public?

It could get higher? I think a lot of overclassification is driven by how much people are getting away with leaking harmful information. Better enforcement of Espionage Act violations (such as the NYT revelations of eavesdropping methods) would make it easier to concentrate on the crucial data.
  • Current Mood
    thoughtful thoughtful