Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Aiding and Abetting Legislators
That large number results from the longstanding process known as gerrymandering, by which districts are drawn, not based on natural geographical boundaries, but on partisan political ones. Politicians, both state and federal, who are in "safe" districts drawn so that the vast majority of their voters share their own party affiliation, don't mind conducting themselves in ways that should be offensive to most citizens. Political parties can usually hold off primary challenges through promises and threats to any interlopers, and the nature of the district will prevent members of the competing party from having much of a chance.
Proponents of government reform who worry themselves over whether lobbyists take public officials to dinner consume themselves with matters that create paperwork but make no difference. Reform that would bring an end to gerrymandering would bring real change to our political culture.
Supporters of what the legislators did are noting that the pension increases are reasonable and bring Tennessee into line with comparable states. That may be fine, but it does not justify the process. Average Tennesseans, who are familiar with the concept that an employee can be fired for punching someone else's timecard, should have a difficult time understanding that legislators can vote for colleagues who are not present. Corrupt processes facilitate corrupt intentions, particularly by those who have been in power too long.
Yes, that would be you, Speaker Naifeh.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Friday, May 26, 2006
Ridiculous Item of the Day
A judge in Wyoming sentenced a child molester to probation, claiming that he was too short to survive in prison, the AP reports. A spokesman for an organization committed to short adults says that it's about time that someone recognized the challenges of being short.
You can't make this stuff up.
Republican Blogger: "Republicans Deserve to Lose"
In America, politicians are not supposed to be above the law. Though at times through history some have been, few have had the audacity to proclaim it. The Music City Oracle normally calmly debates politics, not wanting to be associated with ranters in the blogosphere. This, coming from the party with which the Oracle claims allegiance, is absolutely infuriating.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Question for Congressman
As a citizen in your district, I would be interested in knowing if you believe that investigators who have found compelling evidence of bribery against a congressman can obtain a search warrant and investigate that congressman in the same manner in which they could investigate any private citizen, such as myself. Thank you and your staff for your consideration of this question.
The Oracle will post any response. By the way, anyone who wishes to question their representative similarly can find contact information at the House of Representative's website: www.house.gov.
Hastert and Pelosi to the American People: Go to Hell
Every single scoundrel in Washington who agrees with that notion should be retired in November, regardless of party affiliation. Members of Congress are effectively telling ordinary people who dare challenge their imperial prerogatives to go to hell.
The Tennessean Advocates Ignoring Individual Rights
That would be a considerable stretch, though employees may get more exercise if they have to leave the building to take a drag. And is the editorial suggesting that savings will come because the reduced absenteeism and fewer breaks will instantly result in a decrease in the number of state employees due to the sudden reduction in lost work time? That would be doubtful, but the advertising campaign by the state might be amusing: "stop smoking so that we can lay several thousand of you off." The state employee union might launch a "start smoking" campaign in response.
It is refreshingly, or perhaps distressingly, honest, however, for the editorial to admit that it is asking legislators to "look beyond ... arguments about individual rights." Our society seems to be quick to invite legislators to look beyond those rights, as long as they belong to someone else. Find an issue where there is some advantage in looking beyond the rights of individual journalists, and the editorial page will likely find that concept shocking.
The Music City Oracle always strives for consistency.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Republicans to the Left of Frank
When Republican leaders sell out on earmarks benefiting K-Street cronies, argue that congressmen apparently guilty of bribery are protected from having their offices subject to subpoena, and find themselves to the left of Barney Frank on economics, those leaders show that they have truly lost their souls.
Republican Puts Hold on Bush's Judicial Nominee
Read about it here.
Stop the Criticism?
Reynolds perhaps forgot that they already tried that: it is called McCain/Feingold. No doubt they will try again.
Bipartisan Tone Deafness
To their credit, Democratic congressional leaders have publicly called upon Jefferson to voluntarily and temporarily resign from his position on the powerful Ways and Means committee, a position that would be the primary reason that someone would want to give Jefferson the $90,000 that was placed in cold storage. To date, Jefferson is saying that he will not do so if asked. However, a few congressional leaders, and numerous leftist bloggers, are less concerned about Jefferson's alleged corruption than they are worried that the episode might cost them an advantage in the ethics wars (?!) leading up to the fall elections. Ironically, those partisans' quick assurance that Jefferson's problems do nothing to show that some Democrats have the same problems that perhaps more Republicans do also makes them less trustworthy in the eyes of uncommitted voters caught in the middle.
It can be hoped that both Republican and Democratic activists across the nation -- one can not expect this from those entrenched in Washington -- will set aside partisan wrangling over ethics and work together to resolve what is actually a systemic problem affecting all of the political class. Republicans, who's party holds the balance of power in Washington and thus is more culpable, should admit that their party has betrayed Republican principles and shown itself to be in need of reform. Democrats should acknowledge the same. If the system is not attacked, we will get more of the same, regardless of who holds the reins. If anyone doubts that, they should consider the tone deafness and impropriety of the two parties, both of which have been trying to find ways to use ethics as a wedge to their advantage.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Leader of the Court
Roberts said, "Division should not be artificially suppressed, but the rule of law benefits from a broader agreement. The broader the agreement among the justices, the more likely it is a decision on the narrowest possible grounds."
This is sound jurisprudence. Ever since Roberts came into the public arena, he has shown both a keen analytical mind and a capacity for sound judgment. More and more, it appears that he may become one of our greatest Chief Justices.
Hat Tip: Jonathon Alter
Krumm Right on Spending
Here's to hoping that men and women with the foresight of Krumm will be elected to the General Assembly and then not forget their principles when they get there.
Can the Democrats Win the House?
To win, the Democrats will have to win 15 Republican seats. Since 1994, no more than 10 seats have changed hands in any election cycle. However, this is the most combustible election in recent memory, with Republicans having succeeded in alienating their base and Democrats failing to demonstrate the capacity to govern.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Damned if They Do or Don't
While I also think that Republicans capitulated by passing a new entitlement program with questionable funding and few specifics, there is another way of viewing it for those whose political views are more aligned with those of Democrats. If one believes in the necessity of a new program designed to replace benefits lost with the demise of TennCare, wouldn't such a person believe that by voting with Bredeson that those Republicans in a principled manner set aside politics and passed legislation that was good for the state.
Given this criticism, will Daughtrey state categorically that he would not have accused Republican senators of playing politics if they had killed Bredeson's program? I didn't think so.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Random Baseball Thoughts
On another front, can anyone explain why A.J. Pierzynski was thrown out of the Cubs - White Sox game today? I am not a fan of either team, but the way that the Chisox catcher crashed into Michael Barrett at home plate was completely legitimate. It is what you have to do if the catcher blocks the plate. Barrett was completely out of line in throwing the punch that set off the melee. Both Barrett and Cubs manager Dusty Baker seem to be acknowledging as much.
So why was Pierzynski tossed?
Finally, for everyone who thinks Ken Griffey, Jr. is done, he remains a marvel when healthy. It was nice to see him turn on a 98 mph fastball.
So why was Pierzynski tossed?
Friday, May 19, 2006
Caretakers of the Calamity
I would only add one general observation to what these have said. The public school system, particularly as it exists in large urban areas such as Nashville, stands as perhaps the most serious societal failure in modern western civilization. Indeed, it fails the most in its responsibilities toward those who need it the most. Yet, the more evident the failure is seen, the more determined its leaders become to resist innovation or involvement by those who have not been part of this failure.
I don't know enough about Brooks to know if she has the right ideas for improvement. It is quite apparent that the establishment responsible for and defensive of this enormous failure is not worthy of our support.
On Journalists and Journalism Schools
Last is right. This is not to deny that the various facets of journalism constitute a professional craft that must be learned. However, one of the largest factors contributing to the decline in media credibility is the prevalence of young journalists, both print and broadcast, who simply lack the background to understand the context of what they are reporting on. While some people talk about the loss of trust in media primarily in terms of biased reporting, that is a mistake. The larger issue is one of competence.
The Democratic Party had room for Scoop Jackson and Sam Nunn, but many in the party would now close their doors to anyone who deviates from their own orthodoxy, even the distinguished Senator Lieberman.
Status Quo at the CIA?
As an interesting sidenote, the leftward portion of the blogosphere (see here for a good listing of local examples) immediately reacted against a military man being appointed to this position; however, this shows both the knee jerk reaction of many leftist bloggers against the military and also the informational disconnectedness that frequently appears between liberal spectators and those who actually play the game. One may recall that liberals also could not get their story straight on Tony Snow -- was he a Fox News shill, or had he been so critical of the President that he couldn't serve?
According to the Washington Post, Hayden told the committee, "It's time to move past what seems to me to be an endless picking apart of the archaeology of every past intelligence success or failure." But wouldn't those very failures, particularly in the lead up to the Iraq War, be the matters that most require consideration by the new director? Whatever the failures of previous CIA director Porter Goss -- and many believe that CIA insiders who wanted to maintain the status quo leaked him out of town -- he took the position with the conviction that the CIA was a moribund bureaucracy that no longer fulfilled its mandate to provide accurate and needed foreign intelligence. If Hayden wishes to reverse the mission of Goss, his nomination will be a mistake.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Social Security for Illegals?
Hat Tip: PowerLine
Below the Belt Tactics
Back in his hey-day, Ronald Reagan had something to say about attacks on fellow Republicans -- he basically said don't do it. Present day Republican candidates would do themselves a favor in adhering to that advice while vigorously setting forth their own positions and pursuing the goal of preparing themselves to win a general election, should they manage to get there.
George Will Missing the Point on "Values Voters"
The term "values voters" refers to social conservatives who have for two decades emphasized what they have termed "family values." There have always been problems with that latter phrase, which ironically should have concerned the conservatives who were using it. First, the term "value," as Will indicates in his column, really doesn't speak of any particular set of values at all. It only speaks to whatever a particular group happens to value. Thus, if some voters value the concept of gay marriage, they may vote consistent with their own family value. The second point derives from the first and is more ironic. Though social conservatives stand very much against the notion of moral relativism and insist on a belief in universal morality applicable to all people at all times, they have adopted "values" language that is by definition relativistic. Instead of speaking of good and evil or right and wrong, these supposed articulators of moral truth have reduced themselves to advocating only competing sets of values. The term "Christian values" is almost an oxymoron, not because there are no Christian values, but because Christians believe that morality is based on the character and commands of the Lord of all. By the way, it should go without saying, but I'll anticipate the argument anyway, a belief that Christian morality applies to all does NOT mean that believers should try to enforce such morality on all people since, as Baptist Roger Williams famously pointed out three centuries ago, faith is a gift of God that cannot be coerced. Social conservatives have been negligent by not developing a philosophy as to what differentiates the morality to be civicly necessary from that which should be insisted upon for church members.
George Will, who himself takes positions congruent with those of social conservatives on many issues, including abortion, has decided that the overall prevalence of those conservatives in the Republican Party poses an electoral threat to it. He is mistaken in that regard. However, the movement does need leadership with the intellectual capacity for refining its positions if it is ever effectively to promote its agenda to the public at large.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
The Content of His Character
To read what Clegg would have said if he had been allowed, see here.
The Nature of the Betrayal
The Republican Party suffers from a comparable betrayal. Many people are pointing to the debate over immigration as the primary issue in the Republican Party's demise. Although that is the issue of the day, Republican discontent flows from more fundamental issues. The Republican Party has for more than two decades stood as the party of limited government. Whether speaking of the budget, the role of the judiciary, or the reach of federal regulators, Republicans have taken positions that that would keep the federal government within carefully defined roles -- at least more carefully defined than what would be favored by Democrats.
Now, a Republican Congress is riddled by charges of corruption -- some of it legal, some of it not -- and, yet, persists as though they can continue with business as usual. Today's exhibit, cited by National Review Online, is Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers, who as Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee has enriched his campaign war chest and his district at the expense of the safety of the country.
Only a couple of years ago, there was talk of a somewhat permanent Republican majority taking shape. That possibility has been thrown away by a Congress and a President who have been wrong -- not about the war, not about immigration -- about the size and reach of government. If government growth will not be controlled, their is frankly little reason to elect Republicans.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
The Right Remedy for the Right
Wrong on Rove Again
A few observations about this rumormongering:
- I said it about Patrick Kennedy, and I'll say it about Karl Rove: those who take pleasure in the weaknesses or downfall of an opponent are reprehensible human beings. Political battles should be hard fought and victories relished, but this type of joy is disgusting.
- At what point will those who traffic in false rumors be discredited and ignored?
- Anyone who hopes that the blogosphere -- or at least the political portion of it -- will evolve into a serious source of knowledge and ideas must hope that the reputations of the rumormongers will begin to discredit them. Otherwise, the blogging enterprise will continue to be discredited as superfluous.
How Long Does It Take to Write an Editorial
This story was reported in the newspaper 8 days ago, and the editorial includes no information that was not known on the date that the story was published. I commented on the story the same day the story was published, arguing that there was nothing to be worried about. A.C. Kleinheider also opined on the story the same day, taking a view opposite of mine and closer to that of today's editorial.
The Tennessean's editorial page cannot be taken seriously if it takes 8 days to come up with opinion on the stories that appear in it.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Pragmatism and Immigration
My own views perfectly coincide with those expressed by Professor Bainbridge here.
Can Gore Derail Clinton?
Gore beating Clinton is possible, but I have my doubts. While Gore certainly has gained a fan base among the party's leftists, he also is a notoriously poor campaigner who has had more fanfare than influence over the last 5 years. Don't forget his endorsement of Howard Dean for President just before Dean went into free fall in late 2003, early 2004. In addition, while the far left has become quite critical of Clinton lately, it is hard to imagine that many left wingers won't return to the one who many on the left considered to be their dream candidate only a few years ago. This could mean that Clinton could hold the centrist portion of the party while siphoning off votes from the far left.
In fact, assuming that Gore falters in such a race, his candidacy may turn out to help Clinton by making her appear more moderate. After years of her being considered the true liberal in her marriage (as opposed to Bill Clinton's pragmatic streak), who would have thought 5 years ago that Hillary Clinton might have the opportunity to run as a moderate Democrat. It is hard to believe she could pull that off in a general election, but the primaries may provide her with momentum in that direction.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Same Instructions, Different Reasons
This provides a succinct picture of a basic difference between political liberals and conservatives. A liberal wants the legislature to leave town because they aren't doing anything. Conservatives want them to go home because we fear that they might.
Fathering Bad Government
High-stakes government that directly dispenses trillions of dollars and influences, with tax benefits and regulations, the flow of trillions more, elicits a high-stakes influence industry. Thoughtful people who recoil from many repugnant aspects of contemporary politics should squarely face the fact that big government begets bad politics.
Will states this while providing a review of Joe Klein's new book, "Politics Lost: How American Democracy Was Trivialized by People Who Think You're Stupid." Though the book has a promising title, Will describes the thesis and conclusions as flawed. Klein seems to think that our greatest need is to rediscover authentic politics unsullied by political consultants. In Will's view -- and mine -- authenticity can cut both ways. When Al Gore sighed and grimaced his way through a debate with George Bush, the American public saw an authentic Gore that repulsed them.
Political consultants, with their penchant for cynicism and disdain for the people that they appeal to, deserve to be thought of as trivializers and game players, but they are more symptom than root cause. If Americans want better government, they should remember that government that governs best governs least.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
An Editorial Decision
All of the "liar" name calling is reminiscent of children on a playground, and it is possible that such is the case because it is appropriate to the maturity level of the assailants. If an opponent believes that a politician was badly mistaken, sadly misinformed, or grotesquely wrong on an issue, let him or her say so. But the constant use of the l word has tired me out.
If anyone actually reads this, I am sure that I will get a response something along the lines of my not being willing to open my eyes and see the truth. As I wrote above, this is bi-partisan disgust on my part and simply represents my sense of decency and desire to focus on actual issues. If you wish to claim that calling someone a liar represents real political debate or accomplishes anything of value, I am quite certain of the fact that you won't lose sleep over my thinking that you are representing much of what is wrong and reprehensible -- on a bipartisan basis -- in contemporary politics.
The Do Something President in a Say Something World
It's not just about the president, though. There is a terrible toxicity to our political and social exchanges - there is little real thought and lots of shrieking going on, lots of noise, little real discourse and precious little honesty. There is no way to debate because - no matter which side tries to get serious - a well-thought-out discourse is immediately shot down by the other side with a one-line-sneer, usually a specious one, that distorts or misdirects and never allows a thought to go forward. The disrespect between "sides" is staggering, and completely unproductive. But non-productivity seems to be what people like. It's "safe." If you don't do anything, you can"t get blamed, right? More kicking things down the road. Let the guy who actually wants to take some action bear the brunt of your fear, your insecurity, your anger, your scorn, your impotencedoesn'the doesn"t do it all perfectly, he's a bum. Prof. Bainbridge and Ed Morrissey report that "conservatives are abandoning Bush."
While holes could be knocked in some of her arguments, sometimes the sum is greater than its parts, and her point that Bush has been willing to take on tough issues, and has received little cooperation or credit for doing so, is a valid one. Much of the problem lies in the fact that neither party's leaders seem to have much political courage, and political cowards find it easy to play on public fears and claim victory with compromises that offer no solution at all.
Conservatives are correct to criticize the President's failure to control government spending, but his willingness to expend his now diminished political capitol on real issues should not be forgotten.
Friday, May 12, 2006
We Have Nothing to Fear but ______
That question, as well as a thorough discussion of the subject, can be found here.
Conservative bloggers are also noting the Washington Post poll showing that 63% of Americans support the program, in spite of the overwhelmingly negative coverage it has received thus far. Not only does the poll show that Democrats will make a mistake if they decide to go after the President on this -- Americans already doubt that Democrats lack the ability to serve the nation on national security issues, and that is that party's primary impediment to returning to power -- but it also shows how out of touch the left side of the blogosphere is with the nation at large.
Most of that nation likely looks at the issue this way: in a perfect world, the federal government would not be gathering phone records related to suspicious situations. However, the world as it is constituted is less than perfect and, given the natures of that imperfection, we fear Middle Eastern terrorists more than we will fear the National Security Agency gathering information related to phone records.
Given the President's low approval ratings and the current state of congressional corruption, this should be a banner year for Democrats. However, it will not be such a year if Democrats do not find a way to respond to the concerns of people with that balance of fears.
They Had to Do a Study to Know This?
I could not find any information about the meeting online, so I have nothing to link to. I have a paper copy of the PowerPoint slides that were used.
Based on the surveys, the DWC reached the following startling conclusion: injured workers that had returned to work were in better health than those who had not been released to return to work.
You don't say.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Uncommon Wisdom in a Politician
Read about them here.
Both Sides on Med Mal Reform
Sensible people on both sides of this issue [medical malpractice tort reform] should consider that this study demonstrates that there are too many frivolous malpractice suits but that malpractice is more common than doctors might like to admit.
Rogers is right. Those of us in favor of medical malpractice reform that would include limits on noneconomic damage awards should also put the medical profession on notice that they need to do a better job of policing themselves or face the prospect of greater regulation from the state.
Separate Immigration Issues Should Not Be Mixed
While I don't disagree that it is wrong to intentionally hire illegal aliens, I want to focus on a different issue related to the article itself. The report intertwines the issue of employers that intentionally hire illegal immigrants with that of employers that hire any immigrants at all. Those are two entirely separate issues, and the mixing of them is both improper and disturbing. It is legal, ethical, and appropriate for employers to refuse to hire workers without proper documentation of their legal status. It is quite something else for employers to refuse to hire any of a group of people who are in the country legally.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Bryant Must Stay in Race
They are way ahead of themselves.
Given the statewide name recognition of Hilleary due to his losing gubernatorial run against Phil Bredeson, it seems plausible to think that 34% is the high mark of Hilleary's candidacy, and that he can only go down from there in a three horse race. Given Hilleary's penchant for less than articulate campaigning, the odds are strong that both the more credible Bryant and the better funded Corker will pass him by at midsummer.
At least, one can hope that will be the case. Nathan Moore contends that all three Republican candidates would beat Harold Ford in November. I am not so sure. Either Bryant or Corker will beat Ford. Hilleary will not.
That’s right, boys and girls, the world can be a dangerous place. So, it is better to shield kids from any possible danger to themselves. So, at recess, do the kids just stand around? I fear for the future. I fear we’re raising a nation of pansies.
See the ways that he illustrates his point here.
It is interesting to note the ways that children are both being shielded and being exposed to dangers in the present culture. At the same time that kids are considered by the educational elite to be unprepared for past forms of healthy competition and playground games, they are expected by the same to be able to process adult concepts regarding sexuality, violence, and other cultural issues.
Anyone interested in this subject should also read the opening chapters of this book.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
To the Left of Sanity
In the process, Cohen experienced a sad sense of deja vu. The left wing blogosphere is driving the Democratic Party with a sense of anger not experienced since the Vietnam War, when leftist irrationality helped push the rest of the country into Nixon's camp. Cohen writes:
The hatred is back. I know it's only words now appearing on my computer screen, but the words are so angry, so roiled with rage, that they are the functional equivalent of rocks once so furiously hurled during antiwar demonstrations. I can appreciate some of it. Institution after institution failed America -- the presidency, Congress and the press. They all endorsed a war to rid Iraq of what it did not have. Now, though, that gullibility is being matched by war critics who are so hyped on their own sanctimony that they will obliterate distinctions, punishing their friends for apostasy and, by so doing, aiding their enemies. If that's going to be the case, then Iraq is a war its critics will lose twice -- once because they couldn't stop it and once more at the polls.
The Post includes links to the blogs linking to Cohen's article, and scrolling through the links only serves to confirm his thesis.
California Insurance Commissioner Gone Mad
Today, Garamendi followed that press release with another urging a federal and state investigation of his blackmail allegations. All of this gives Garamendi the appearance of desperation, in spite of the fact that polls show him leading the race for the nomination. My sources in Sacramento could offer no explanation as to why Garamendi was pushing this in such an over the top fashion, other than to say that it is California and stuff happens that can't be understood anywhere else.
Kleinheider Wrong in Quoting McGovern
Kleinheider's defends of his use of the source as follows:
- His questioning of Rumsfield was "factual and on point."
- The fact that he is critical of U.S. foreign policy regarding Israel does not make him anti-Semitic. Kleinheider says that he is tired of the "political antisemitic thing." He then oddly says that no one knows if he is an anti-Semite and adds, "Nothing in his public statements would indicate anything that would have been called antisemitism until relatively recently." His colleague at WKRN, Brittney Gilbert, commented additionally that anyone criticizing Israel is accused of anti-semitism.
Until relatively recently? I suggest Kleinheider read more history.
I will make three points in response.
- I don't find McGovern's questioning to be nearly as enlightening as Kleinheider seems to think it is. His attack was more belligerent than "factual and on point." I particularly thought that after viewing the video of the entire exchange, which was more favorable toward Rumsfield than the snippet Kleinheider quoted in his earlier post.
- In arguing that McGovern's credibility was irrelevant, Kleinheider ignores the fact that the story would have not seen the light of day if not for the supposed credibility of the questioner. Every single blogger and news report I've seen that uses the story for the purpose of attacking Rumsfield begins by pointing out that it was a "27 year CIA veteran" that did so. Every one. It is not news that someone accused the administration of lying about WMD. It was supposedly news that a CIA veteran did -- except the CIA veteran turned out to be a nut.
- I don't accuse anyone who attacks Israel or American foreign policy regarding the same as being anti-Semitic. However, I do accuse those who claim Jews are guilty of wild conspiracies by which they control the world and use the leaders of nations as puppets of being anti-Semitic. I can only assume that Kleinheider did not follow my links discussing McGovern's wild theories. No less than Howard Dean distanced himself from McGovern for reasons of the latter's anti-semitism. If Dean and I agree on anything, it almost has to be right.
- If one wants to criticize Rumsfield, there are plenty of credible sources without having to resort to using an anti-Semite. David Duke may have at some point said something truthful about liberals, but no responsible commentator is going to use him as a source. One's choice of sources -- and I don't mean this about Kleinheider in this instance, as he says he was unaware of McGovern's record -- may say more about the quoter than it does about the subject addressed.
I guess this means I stand by my earlier criticism.
Monday, May 08, 2006
Blogging Gets Attention of NCSL
Lobbyist Influence a Good Thing
MCO has a press release: this is not news.
People who pretend that all that lobbyists do is buy politicians' votes will be troubled by this. However, legitimate lobbyists provide valuable civic functions, including representing the real political interests of real American citizens before government. They also provide information and expertise to legislators. Anyone who has attended legislative hearings on complicated issues has seen legislators with deer in the headlight looks as they listen to detailed testimony. Neither legislators nor their staffs can be experts on all of the variety of issues that they deal with. Lobbyists on multiple sides of a given issue under consideration help such legislators with information that fills in their knowledge gaps.
As everyone knows, before Frist entered politics he was a physician. As a physician, Frist understood and believed that one of the barriers to access to adequate health care in modern America is the plethora of lawsuits filed by money grubbing, ambulance chasing, class action plaintiff's lawyers. Such lawsuits, which turn the inevitable one in 10 million adverse reactions to vaccinations into causes of action, threaten the existence of the vaccination industry in the United States. The lobbyist did not "influence" Frist; the lobbyist merely helped Frist craft language that would accomplish what he truly believes is necessary.
Those who want vaccinations to be readily available in the United States should be glad he did.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Disagreeing on Politics; Wishing for the Personal Best
He is absolutely right.
Sultan of Swat not on Steroids
Conservatives without a Home
Much of this represents disappointment with the Bush administration, which has jettisoned the notion that conservatism means limiting the size and role of government and replaced it with the idea that it means expanding the reach of government to support conservative ends and Republican hegemony. In addition, Republican legislative leaders like Tom Delay and Trent Lott ultimately decided that attaining the majority in Congress provided the opportunity to reapportion pork, not reduce the size of government.
While the current pessimism may be overly short-sighted, it is also ironic. When Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992, many pundits were declaring the end of conservatism, in spite of the fact that the first Bush was more representative of the moderate wing of the party. Only two years later, when Republicans gained a majority in both houses of Congress, Clinton was left lamenting the end of "the era of big government" and pathetically arguing his own relevancy ("the Constitution says so"). What Clinton could not do, Republicans have managed quite well. Since 2001, when Republicans gained control of both the White House and both houses of Congress, the federal budget has grown astronomically.
At some point in the 1990's, Republican conservatives forgot some things about both the Republican Party and conservatism. First, while many advocates of small government have historically found their home in the Republican Party, they are not the only group to be found in the GOP, and for much of that party's history they have not been the dominant group. Thus, when Reagan came within an eyelash of beating Gerald Ford for the nomination for President in 1976, he ran in opposition to the party establishment, and many Republican leaders believed that a Reagan victory would ruin the party. Indeed, when Reagan won the nomination in 1980, a fair number of Republicans fled the party and voted for John Anderson, an independent candidate who had lost in the Republican primary.
In fact, it can be argued that conservatism will always be an insurgency movement that must regroup and find new intellectual leadership every couple of decades. Those who lead any entity, including government, will usually come to justify the expansion of their power base. Conservatives, and those who align themselves with conservatives, are not immune to that tug of power. That is one reason that Republicans made a mistake in turning away from their call for federal term limits at the very time when they may have gained the ability to enact them. Republicans seemed to decide that term limits were unnecessary now that it would be their terms being limited. However, when conservatives become leaders of the political class, their new allegiances often become more powerful than their previously held principles. The primary opposition to term limits comes from a political class reminding us, unconvincingly, of their own indispensability.
Most politicians run for office promising a variety of goodies that they intend to dispense. To run for office promising smaller government -- and the increased opportunities and lower taxes that can come with it -- is a more difficult argument not easily made in soundbites. It can be argued that no serious candidate for President has tried to make it since Reagan. Conservatives may be exxagerating their death within the Republican Party, but it is clear that a new Reagan -- one who is capable of engaging that argument for a popular audience -- is needed.
A Must See
Going to see "United 93" is a civic duty because Samuel Johnson was right: People more often need to be reminded than informed. After an astonishing 56 months without a second terrorist attack, this nation perhaps has become dangerously immune to astonishment. The movie may quicken our appreciation of the measures and successes -- many of which must remain secret -- that have kept would-be killers at bay.
This is part of an excellent review that can be found here.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Libertarians and State Sponsored Gambling
Sometimes people ask me how I can oppose gambling and call myself a libertarian. The answer is, I don't oppose gambling. I oppose a state run lottery. There is a big difference. The lottery is a tax, and not only that, it is a tax on the poor.
This is an excellent point too infrequently made. The lottery has typically been opposed by social conservatives, while fiscal and small government conservatives have often sat on the sidelines or even supported state run lotteries. In doing so, they ignore the fact that the lottery represents a radical expansion of a state government that is being given the right to compete with private entertainment venues for the discretionary spending dollars of consumers. Further, given the mathematics involved, advertising of the lottery amounts to a direct effort by government to encourage people to act foolishly.
Meanwhile, although some on the left have recognized that using lottery revenues as a mechanism for paying for scholarships represents a perverse redistribution of wealth from the poor to the middle class, the number of those who have spoken out against this is far too few.
Iran's Tempting Target
Last week Bernard Lewis, America's dean of Islamic studies, who just turned 90 and remembers the 20th century well, confessed that for the first time he feels it is 1938 again. He did not need to add that in 1938, in the face of the gathering storm -- a fanatical, aggressive, openly declared enemy of the West, and most determinedly of the Jews -- the world did nothing.
When Iran's mullahs acquire their coveted nukes in the next few years, the number of Jews in Israel will just be reaching 6 million. Never again?
Read the entire column here.
Protect the Right to Steal
No, he isn't concerned about the chilling effects on free speech of Nashville Scene articles. He wants to protect the right to steal the intellectual property of artists.
Friday, May 05, 2006
No Mere CIA Agent
Unfortunately, McGovern's more recent career prominently features overt anti-semitism ("“Israel is not allowed to be brought up in polite conversation.”) and a penchant for conspiracy theories (see here and here for a summary and numerous links).
Bush hatred makes for strange bedfellows -- or in some instances, perhaps not so strange. There are currently disconcertingly strong strains of anti-semitism on the hard left in both the United States and Europe. They are joined by some on the far right.
The Kennedy Incident
- Kennedy was clearly given special treatment, and the supervising officer responsible for it should be disciplined. It is because of that person that we may never know the truth about what happened.
- While it remains unknown whether Kennedy's alibi is true, it is at least believable. Kennedy says that he was not intoxicated, but was disoriented after having taken a sleep medication called Ambien. A member of my family also takes that medication, and that person has told me stories of getting up at night and eating meals and then having no recollection of it in the morning (the confusion comes when they don't know why dishes are out). That person has also expressed a fear that they might get up and drive in the night.
- Lou Cannon of the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police finds Kennedy's story to be less than believable because it took him 19 hours to tell it, but it is not unreasonable to suppose that a public figure (or even a private citizen) would hope not to have to give out personal information about medications he is taking. Also, the officer at the scene says that Kennedy mentioned needing to get to a vote, a statement that would seem to corroborate part of his story.
- While discussion of the repercussions of a public figure behaving inappropriately are in order, partisan joy over the failure of an opponent is most unseemly. Both gooses and ganders should learn to lament, not enjoy, such falls.
Update: Well, it appears that Kennedy's story, though believable to me, turns out to have been -- as I suggested was possible -- untrue.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Facts Real and Imagined
President Bush has said all along that he doesn't know Jack Abramoff. Too bad for the President there is a thing called facts.
He then excerpts at length a USA Today story that he imagines establishes those things called facts.
The problem is that none of those alleged facts appear in the article in question.
The article establishes that Abramoff's team had significant contact with administration officials in the early years of the Bush presidency. In no instance does it discuss meetings taking place between the President and Abramoff.
The article does demonstrate an uncomfortably cozy relationship between Republican leaders and the corrupt lobbyist, but that fact hardly establishes new ground. Whatever Bush's faults, he has not been shown to have misled regarding his relationship with Abramoff.
Just the facts.
Positives in Some Negative Campaigning
One additional caveat might be that all negative advertising is not created equal. This is an important flaw in much of the discussion of negative advertising. Campaign ads that point out the views or votes of an opponent and contrast them with those of the challenger, though negative, can be informative in terms of showing voters the differences between the candidates. Such a strategy is less legitimate if the advertising misconstrues or misleads about the actual views of the opponent.
Ads discussing the opponents character are a much dicier proposition. A candidate who has recently shown a lack of judgment with regard to personal conduct may have done something that demonstrates a serious flaw that precludes them from being trusted as a public servant; however, much campaigning on supposed character issues has represented nothing more than cynical attempts to put the opponent on the defensive. It would be nice if it were possible to establish some kind of moratorium declaring that anything that someone did over 20 years ago is off limits. However, no one expects politicians from either party to start playing nice on these types of questions.
Is negative campaigning a bad thing? It depends.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Statement of Online Principles Endorsed
The Goods on Spitzer
Spitzer is the most recent of those demagogues who have thought they could ride a wave of cynical demagoguery to higher office. For that cynicism -- and not for the corporate enemies he has made -- he needs to be exposed and defeated.
Hat Tip: Professor Bainbridge
Why Is Gas So High?
Many are criticizing Republicans for their pandering offer of $100 per taxpayer to make up for the growth in gas prices, and they deserve that criticism. What many of those critics are failing to see is that there are no short term solutions at this point. High prices will eventually suppress demand and, thus, stabilize the price, but most people would not consider that to be an acceptable solution. Increased domestic oil drilling and alternative energy research are good ideas, but they would provide no relief in the short term.
The good news, as Samuelson points out, is that higher fuel prices have not depressed the American economy -- at least so far.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Unconsionable Sums of Money
[Congressman Allan] Mollohan’s potential legal difficulties stem from allegations of greed. But if he had just stuck to wasting unconscionable sums of taxpayer money to stay in office, like many of his colleagues, he would have been okay—a hero, in fact. That’s the real scandal here.
The background of Mollohan's "scandal" can be found here.
Hat tip: World Magazine Blog
That's all they've got, these vapid and emotionally stunted people with computers and free time, on both sides of the political spectrum. They can't win with argument, so they use invective and silly schoolyard taunts instead. They fill their posts with obscenities and dance around with delight every time they come up with another taunt. It's the perfect example of why we formed the 101st Fighting Keyboardists and adopted the chicken hawk as our mascot. It reveals the intellectual bankruptcy of these very bloggers ... and provokes them into revealing it themselves.
Indeed. His entire post merits reading by anyone sharing concerns that the growth of the legitimacy of the blogosphere may be stunted by the inanities of its practitioners.
Monday, May 01, 2006
Just a Thought on Immigration
By that standard, shouldn't we deport about half of our high school graduates?
Just a thought.
While disclosure is a step in the right direction, and these congressmen should be commended for at least that, their lists of projects, which they evidently consider to be appropriate, point to the reality of the problem. While many, perhaps most, of these requests are for projects that would be helpful to this or that group of citizens, virtually none of them have a legitimate federal purpose, and they all represent requests for funding outside of the budgetary requests of the federal agencies and departments to which they would attach additional funds and responsibilities.
John Tanner defends the practice: "People elect Congress to make spending decisions, and individual members know better than bureaucrats how money should be spent at home." However, Mr. Tanner considers his ilk to be more indispensable and more responsible than many of us would give them credit for.