Saturday, July 29, 2006


Nathan Moore in the past has been a voice of reason on the issue of immigration. Thus, it is disappointing to see Moore chide opponents of one of his favored candidates for failing to appear at one of radio talker Phil Valentine's exercises in jingoism.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Trouble with Ann Coulter

Via Florence King:

At her best, Coulter writes well, but the chief source of her success is that she is a perfect match for the American ideal: smart as a whip but dumb as a post, educated but not learned, sexy but not sensuous, all at the same time. She would not hesitate to choose a sledgehammer over a stiletto because her instincts would pull her back from what the 18th century called “demolishing your enemies without raising your voice.” She would know that if a writer uses a stiletto, a lot of people might not get the point, but they would definitely get the loftiness that accompanies irony and understatement. And so, knowing that being called an elitist spells ruin, she opted for a sledgehammer and raised the roof instead.

King's essay is well worth the read, as it is an excellent example of how one can be bruisingly critical, not barbarically crass, and sarcastic, not strident.

Refund Their Money and Fire Them

Last year, following a Tennessean investigation that revealed a pattern of promotions in the Tennessee State Highway Patrol being tied to contributions to Governor Phil Bredeson's campaign, Larry Rucker and Charles Laxton, among others, were demoted. Now, the Tennessean reports that they are demanding that their donations to the Bredeson campaign be returned.

Rucker explains, "I worked my butt off. I put up signs. I raised a lot of money besides what I gave. I've been with the governor a few times and things of that nature. I felt like I was done dirty."

Unfortunately, his feelings of dirtiness sound like a direct admission of quid pro quo. He gave with the expectation of a benefit in return. I think his own words would be enough to convict him; they should be enough to fire him.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Sad Continuing Saga of Ex Heavyweight Champ

Former world heavyweight champion Oliver McCall was in Nashville yesterday for a meeting in federal bankruptcy court. According to a source, McCall was in high form, making his meeting of the creditors into an entertaining diversion for the other unfortunate attendees awaiting their turn.

McCall's story is unfortunately not atypical in the boxing world. A whole string of famous fighters, including Mike Tyson, have earned millions of dollars only to end up bankrupt. McCall has had stints in drug rehabilitation and numerous scrapes with law enforcement through the years.

These stories are signs of the corruption that is the sport of boxing. Some athletes in all sports have made millions of dollars only to end their careers broke, having significant personal problems, and without marketable skills, but the problem is far more prevalent in boxing than in any other. Much of the problem lies with boxing promoters -- supposedly representing these young men -- who enrich themselves while providing their clients with no resources for preparing for a future outside the ring.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Tennessean Columnist and Orgies

The Tennessean's resident expert on state politics begins today's column by suggesting that the contest between Ed Bryant, Bill Corker, and Van Hilleary should be renamed "a political orgy of name-calling and deception."

Orgy of name-calling? Are we straining to work in a titillating word here? While the word "orgy" is used in non-sexual contexts, the term denotes not merely a lot of something, but a lot of something driven by a craving for it. Is Daughtrey saying that the candidates crave deception? If so, he is engaging in nothing more than name-calling and character assassination.

Did a Gannett consultant tell Daughtrey that he needed to spice up his columns in order to gain readership, or has Daughtrey let something slip about his own fantasies?

Or, is Daughtrey a writer who doesn't concern himself with the meanings of the words he writes? That would be the most palatable and likely solution, though not necessarily a flattering one for Daughtrey.

The headline includes the words "rompin'" and "stompin'." As those words are not from Daughtrey's diatribe, one fears that they reflect the headline writer's own prurient thinking?

Regardless, the remainder of the column is standard Daughtrey fare: virtually no analysis, and a lot of ranting and name calling. Daughtrey accuses conservatives of being a "fringe obsessed with," among other things, punishing immigrants, beating drums, and hating Bill Clinton, a set of characteristics he claims is "an old formula" that "works in some times and in some places."

Nonetheless, while Daughtrey fills his column with name-calling, we will not call it an orgy. Daughtrey and orgy conjure up pictures that no one should be forced to visualize.

Update. It occurred to me that Daughtrey may just be frustrated that he has not been permitted to get in on any of The Tennessean's extended coverage of Pamela Rogers.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Morrissey on Dershowitz; Other Strange Allies

For excerpts and a discussion of an opinion piece by Alan Dershowitz suggesting that the term "civilians" is not sufficient to describe the people affected by Middle Eastern warfare, see Ed Morrissey here.

It has been an interesting week for unexpected allies. Morrissey has praised Dershowitz; Bill Maher praised President Bush; and Cal Thomas praised Oliver Stone.

Orwellian Language

Ann Althouse discusses a splendid old essay by George Orwell entitled "Politics and the English Language." Althouse points out that some academics now dismiss the essay's worth, but I agree with her that it is well worth the read. Orwell was mortified at the decline in the quality of written English in his day. One can only imagine his response to what passes for political commentary now.

Althouse also provides Orwell's list, found near the end of the essay, of key rules for writing well:

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

These rules are similar to those emphasized in Strunk and White's Elements of Style, a small book (part grammar book; part writing guide) that taught me more about writing than every other class and learning tool combined. That is not to say that I would claim to have mastered their instruction. Nevertheless, for years I have encouraged any recent graduate who wished to improve his or her writing to work through that little book.

Do Spinners Convince Themselves Their Stories Are True?

The length to which bloggers posting at pro-candidate blogs seem to feel compelled to go to in order to "spin" a story is distasteful. The bloggers at all of the blogs unofficially supporting candidates, both Democrat and Republican, running for Tennessee's open U.S. Senate seat do this. I will support candidates I agree with, but could never become a shill for anyone.

As my present example, the blogger at Conservatives for Corker is not content merely to announce his good news that the Memphis Commercial Appeal has endorsed its candidate. The post has to go on to claim that the endorsement proves that Corkers' "Conservative Principles with Positive Results" sloganeering is working. The blogger goes on to say that the Corker endorsement comes from "Ed Bryant's backyard."

Surely, Conservatives for Corker realizes that the Commercial Appeal endorses Corker for reasons of ideology, not geography, and the ideological motivation in question is not necessarily one that the Corker campaign would wish to trumpet. If the Commercial Appeal borders on Bryant's backyard, it would be the unfriendly neighbor that fails to take care of the weeds in his own yard. The newspaper's endorsement has nothing to do with Corker's conservative principles or results, positive or otherwise. The Commercial Appeal simply believes that Corker is the most liberal of the three Republican candidates and is, thus, endorsing the candidate that least offends it. The Memphis paper will endorse Harold Ford in November.

Of course, Corker's supporters should be happy to gain the endorsement. However, happiness should maintain its honesty.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Sadly True

From World Magazine:

"Nothing about having a 176 IQ means you have good judgment."

Defense attorney Barry Tarlow on his client, famous geneticist William French Anderson, who was convicted of child molestation charges last week and once reportedly considered suicide over the charges.

The Truth about the Lincoln Davis Speech

Congressman Lincoln Davis (D-TN) is being widely pilloried for his speech before the House suggesting that the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage doesn't go far enough. Davis said he wanted to ban divorce, adultery, and domestic abuse, as well.

Defending their boss, Davis' staffers are explaining that he was using sarcasm and that the controversy has only come about because some pundits didn't get the joke. They are partly right. Davis' comments were intended to be sarcastic, but the reason that he wasn't understood that way was that his sarcasm ran counter to his cynicism.

Thus, one critic of Davis, Judd Legum of the Center for American Progress, is reported in The Tennessean as asking, "If he felt this (the marriage amendment) was exploitative, then why did he vote for it? I think the reason why they are coming out and pushing back (is because if Davis were serious) it would put him on the fringes."

Here is what pundits such as Legum, who works in Washington and should understand these things, didn't get:

Davis wanted to have it both ways: he wanted to make sure that his fellow sophisticates in Washington understood that he was above this silly gay marriage thing, but he also did not want to go on record voting against marriage as a union between a man and a woman -- a vote that would not have gone over well in his largely rural Tennessee district. As a result, he ridiculed the amendment before he voted for it.

For that bit of cynicism, Davis deserves to be pilloried. That the mockery of him partly misses the point is merely collateral damage. Besides, given the name "Lincoln Davis," a desire to get on both sides of an issue may qualify as a genetic defect.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Embryo Factories?

The blogger at Shots Across the Bow poignantly points out that embryonic stem cell research, if it ever actually results in cures for common and serious illnesses, would only be the first step in the process. In order to make available those cures, it would be necessary to manufacture literally millions of embryos in order to create a supply stream for providing the treatment. Will people really accept the idea that millions of tiny human lives will be created for the sole purpose of stripping them down for their parts?

It will be a cold world, indeed.

Former President Clinton Campaigning for Lieberman

Former President Bill Clinton will be campaigning for Senator Joe Lieberman in his tough primary battle for re-election, according to a campaign spokesman. Clinton has known Lieberman since they met while Clinton was a student at Yale. In addition to a longstanding friendship, Clinton, who knows self-preservation like few others, undoubtedly realizes that those opposing Lieberman, if successful, will run the Democratic Party over a cliff.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

U.N. Scandal's First Conviction

Had you heard that a jury in New York last week found a man guilty of money laundering and operating as an unregistered agent for Saddam Hussein in connection with the "oil for food" scandal at the United Nations? I hadn't, until today. The Wall Street Journal has the story.

Upcoming Katrina Coverage

With the first anniversary of Katrina approaching, Marvin Olasky prepares us by predicting some of the "propoganda" that will be paraded in the upcoming coverage. He discusses three myths that will be repeated:
  1. The disaster was unprecedented;
  2. The media response was unprecedented; and
  3. The federal government should protect us against disaster.

In the course of the discussion, Olasky provides illuminating information about the dramatic increase in declarations of federal disaster areas in the last two decades. Read it here.

Undeserved Pats on Backs

Robert Samuelson offers this criticism of Republicans taking credit for a lower than expected 2006 federal budget deficit:

The tendency for politicians to claim credit for favorable news is as natural as flatulence in cows. Still, the Republicans' orgy of self-approval amounts to a campaign of public disinformation.

Read more here.

No Cause for Cynicism

There is enough cynicism in politics that it should not be necessary to artificially manufacture more, but that doesn't stop pundits and observers from doing so. Thus, an AP story in this morning's Tennessean runs under the headline: "Bush gambles that veto will excite conservatives." According to the story, "Personal conviction is part of it, but nothing comes out of the White House without political calculation."

Since the beginning of the Bush presidency, opposition to embryonic stem cell research on the basis that it is morally repugnant to reduce human life to a raw material has been described as a sure political loser because most Americans currently wish to so devalue humanity. In spite of that, the President has consistently stood by his opposition to it. In fact, this has been one of the few issues that the President has managed to be articulate on. One may happily agree or violently disagree with the President's position, but there is no reason to accuse him of making a "political calculation" on this issue.

Besides, if the President really wanted to make a political calculation to excite hard core conservatives, he would have caved into pressure and supported enforcement only immigration reform or vetoed a few spending bills, neither of which (for better and worse, respectively) he has done.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tennessee Regulator Shows Contempt for Constituents

The Nashville Chapter of the Midsouth Workers' Compensation Association invited two state regulators to their monthly meeting today to discuss the ongoing work of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. If attendees were expecting a calm discussion of workers' compensation issues, they left disappointed.

According to a trusted source who was present, the state's medical director, Robert Kirkpatrick, launched into a vitriolic rant against physical therapists who work with doctors treating workers' compensation patients. Kirkpatrick said that a hearing requested by the Tennessee Medical Association regarding new rules would be a "rat killing." Those who asked questions about those rules were repeatedly told to attend the "rat killing," by which he meant a hearing that is supposed to be part of the rulemaking process.

And, it turns out, a lawsuit has been filed against the department by a medical provider group claiming that the department has failed to abide by state laws regarding the development of regulations.

Kirkpatrick may or may not be right about his accusations of impropriety, but his contempt for the rulemaking process and for those who disagree with him is not worthy of his office.

Smelling Coffee

The Republican primary defeat of Ralph Reed to a lightly regarded opponent should serve as a warning to any Republicans imagining that voters will forget about reports of Washington corruption at election time. Reed has been tarnished by reports of work that he had performed for corrupt Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"Walmart Bill" Struck Down

A U.S. District Court today struck down Maryland's "Fair Share" Act, which has also been nicknamed the "Walmart Bill." The law would have required private employers with over 10,000 workers in the state to spend at least 8% of their payroll on health care costs or be subject to having to pay an amount equal to the deficit to a state fund. The legislation, which was scheduled to become effective on January 1, 2007, would have theoretically affected only 4 employers in the state, but Walmart was openly declared by both legislators and supporters of the bill to be its target.

The court ruling essentially rested on two grounds. The new law runs afoul of pre-emptive federal ERISA requirements that govern health benefit plans. The judge also ruled that the Maryland law violated equal protection laws under the U.S. Constitution.

Labor unions last year engaged in a national effort to pass similar bills in over 30 states, but they only succeeded in duping the Maryland legislature into actually adopting it, ultimately by overriding the Governor's veto. Because of this court decision, hopefully these attempts will be put to rest.

Serious Concern with Health Savings Accounts

Many people are hoping that health care reforms, such as health savings accounts (HSA's), that encourage consumers to pay more attention to their medical costs will help to slow the rate of medical inflation. Health benefit plans featuring HSA's combine a high deductible health insurance benefit with a pre-tax savings mechanism that permits unused savings to be carried over into future years. This differs from flexible spending accounts, which must be used by year's end.

Those who are hopeful about such options should be concerned by information passed along by health care consultant Joe Paduda, who has researched and found that many of the current HSA programs being offered to employers do not allow the patient to make use of PPO or other managed care negotiated rates for care that is paid for using the HSA, with the result that the patient is responsible for paying billed charges until they reach the health insurance deductible. Explaining why that should cause consumers to be concerned, Paduda writes:

...[T]he contracted rates are likely less than half the "retail" rate.

As to why a health plan would do this; not require their providers to accept contracted rates, that's a mystery to me. As a couple of commenters have noted, if the insureds pay the higher rate, they are going to pierce their deductible layer much faster, thereby incurring claims expense and costing the health plan money. To say nothing of the consumer backlash when people find out their coverage through a national plan does not give them better rates.

I will note that Paduda is a frequent critic of the value of these programs, as he believes that they are a waste of time and that universal health care is inevitably the only solution to the nation's health care coverage problems. Regardless of whether one agrees with that, those on all sides of the debate over health care reform should agree that the failure to allow HSA users to receive negotiated rates seriously undermines the program.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Senate Hearing on Porkbuster Bill

For a summary of today's Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Senator Tom Coburn's legislation that would require the creation of a data base to show how contractors are using federal money, see here.

A News Man Worthy of Respect

This post by Nashville news anchor Neil Orne should be read in broadcasting classes everywhere. Here's a snippet:

More often it seems that instead of actually being an informed observers we (the news people) are placing ourselves ahead of the news we cover....It just seems to have gotten to the point where the news presenters are more important the news being presented. Granted not many news events come with a supplied audio feed of what’s happening, but when they come along I just wish someone would recognize how much we would appreciate not hearing the anchors for once.

Exactly. Now, if we could just get Orne to stop that reporter with a microphone hollering at the guy on the perp walk....

Hat Tip: NIT

Abolishing Man

During debate over the use of human embryos for scientific research, Arlen Specter argued that there should be no debate. One hundred years from now, Specter declared, the world will look in "wonderment" that this was remotely controversial.

Perhaps. In our present world where bio-ethics has become the study of how to rationalize whatever scientists wish to do, it is understandable that many would dismiss the notion that was nearly universally held in the civilized world following World War II that eugenics and the destruction of human life for purposes of research should be off limits. The brave new world of a century from now may be a colder and darker place. Eager to please, lawmakers are rushing in where Aldous feared we'd tread.

Down to Size

The New York Times has announced that it will trim its size as a means of eliminating liberal bias from its pages. Here's a template used to show the new size.

Wilsonianism by Another Name?

George Will today defines "neoconservatism" as "a spectacularly misnamed radicalism."

Even if one contends, and I would, that Will's portrayal of the status of the Iraq War is overly pessimistic, it is difficult to see Bill Kristol's call to to to war now with Iran as anything other than reckless.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Picking a Winner?

John Hinderaker points to one important reason why conservatives may bite the bullet and cast a vote for McCain in 2008:

But there's no denying that one reason lots of conservatives--like me--wouldn't mind seeing McCain as the Republican nominee in '08 is that no Democrat currently on the scene has the chance of a snowball in a warm place of beating him. Evidence: Rasmussen Reports currently shows McCain leading Hillary Clinton 44% to 43% in Massachusetts.

The Giant Clicking Off Sound

Katie Couric told USA Today that people find the news too depressing. Her solution: news broadcasts should be more "solution-oriented."

Regarding that remark, a blogger at KnoxViews writes:

"Is that what the evening news needs? Does this country, or any country for that matter, need talking heads on television providing "solutions"? Isn't what is really needed is for television news anchors and newspaper reporters to just report the news?"

That is absolutely right, and the failure of news organizations to see it is one of the reasons that people who really are interested in the news ignore them.

Update: The Anchoress has more here.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Justification of Israel's Position

Nathan Moore's remarks on the justice of Israel's position in the present conflict are succinctly stated and exactly right.

The situation on the ground has never been morally clearer. Israel has done all that has been asked of it over the last five years, meeting the demands of the Palestinians as never before, and yet the results are the same. And Iran doesn't care, nor does Syria. The Palestinian question has always been a red herring for a broader policy of Israeli destruction. That truth has finally become starkly apparent.

Many Americans forget that at its narrowest point, Israel is only about 10 miles wide. In middle Tennessee, if you drive from Nashville to Franklin, you have traversed a distance equal to the breadth of Israel. That government has shown remarkable restraint in the face of attacks by those who's stated mission is to push Israel into the Mediterranean Sea.

When to Say When?

In reports on the suspension of the drivers' license of beer magnate Peter Coors, who was found by a hearing officer to be guilty of DUI, it is noted that in Colorado a blood alcohol count above .05 is sufficient to determine that a driver was intoxicated.

As a non-drinker who has zero tolerance for drinking and driving, The Oracle nevertheless asks, is .05 too low of a standard? Until a few years ago, most states had a threshold of .10, but in recent years many states, including Tennessee, have lowered the limit to .08.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

To Find Numerous Informative War Links....

For an excellent roundup of links regarding the Israel/Hezbollah conflict, see Nathan Moore here.

Moore has been producing a number of insightful posts, so it is worth the time to scroll through his main page for other recent entries.

Deal on Gulf Coast Drilling Reached

U.S. Senate leaders have reached an agreement on the broad contours of a plan that will expand U.S. oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, The Hill reports. The deal, which has not been written into actual legislation yet, offers more protections and revenue to gulf coast states than does a bill that passed in the House earlier this year. The House plan was opposed by lawmakers from those states and was pronounced dead on arrival in the Senate.

While late is better than never, the United States is on the verge of reaching a point at which we will deeply regret waiting so long to do anything to expand domestic oil production.

Understanding Israel and Lebanon

Although it may cause my fellow conservatives to raise an eyebrow, for years I have recommended that anyone wanting to get an on the ground understanding of relationships between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East should read Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem.

Please don't misunderstand: I think Friedman's proposed solutions were completely wrong. However, his descriptions of events and relationships are informative and compelling. Even though the book is now well into its second decade, it remains relevant.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Sustaining Conservatism

Yesterday, in a post opposing calls by some conservatives for what I called a "my way or the highway" approach to party politics, I made the following statement:

Ultimately, persuasive arguments, not strategies of dividing and conquering, will be needed to keep conservatism alive, both within and outside the Republican Party.

A.C. Kleinheider quoted the above statement for the purpose of questioning it. He wrote in response:

If you really think about it in terms of true conservatism, in terms of an actual, limited government, repeal the New Deal-type conservatism, I think it would take some divide and conquering....Think about how many people work for the federal government, how many receive some sort of subsidy from the government. Student loans, government contracts, Medicare, Social Security, etc. Truly streamlining the state would by definition require many, many people to vote against their self interest in fundamental ways. People will not do that.

In response to Kleinheider's remarks, I would make two points:

1. Kleinheider defines "true conservatism" as a "repeal the New Deal-type conservatism." I disagree. Conservatism is not merely an ideology of what should be. One of the strengths of what I would call "true conservatism," which in a different age was frequently called classical liberalism, is its insistence on using the real world as its starting point. Utopian ideological visions for creating heaven on earth are the playgrounds of the left. Conservatives keep their feet planted firmly on the ground.

Had I lived in 1933, I would have opposed Roosevelt's program. But, in 2006, the New Deal is not going away any time soon. A true conservative is not one who calls for its demolition by the middle of next year. Not only would that be a political loser, but it would create chaos if it occurred. While the long term goal might involve rolling back of much of the New Deal, there is much else to work on in the short term. While we may not like the starting point all that much, conservatives must make the case for individual freedom and limited government in the real world in which we live.

2. Getting more to the point of Kleinheider's argument, I believe that his own explanation shows why my approach of sustaining conservatism by persuasive argument is the only means that will work. Kleinheider's case only stands if one accepts his narrow definition of self-interest, which strictly involves choosing the candidate or position that offers the most goodies. But one should not narrow "self-interest" to mean nothing more than a reflexive, short-term, purely economic form of self-interest. To the extent that conservatives have been successful, they have done so by making the case to the American people for liberty, opportunity, and freedom as greater goods.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Fond Remembrance; a Needed Forgetfulness

George Will writes of his recently deceased mother, who passed away at age 98. In remembering her, he writes:

Families seared by a loved one's dementia face the challenge of forgetting. They must choose to achieve what dementia inflicts on its victims -- short-term memory loss. They must restore to the foreground of remembrance the older memories of vivacity and wit.

"All that we can know about those we have loved and lost," Thornton Wilder wrote, "is that they would wish us to remember them with a more intensified realization of their reality. What is essential does not die but clarifies. The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude." Louise, released from the toils of old age and modern medicine, is restored to clarity.

Read the rest here.

The Tennessean's Sex Addiction

I long ago lost track of the number of times The Tennessean has put articles and pictures on its front page, not to mention its website, about a small town school teacher who molested a student. However, as she is back, my previous call for an intervention to address the paper's unhealthy obsession with Pamela Rogers obviously didn't work.

What can be done to address the obsessive voyeurism of the newspaper? They are clearly out of control over there.

Huddleston to Republicans: Vote for Ford

At least that can be one way of interpreting his my-way-or-the-highway argument. The normally sensible blogger at Voluntarily Conservative, opposing Ronald Reagan's famous "11th commandment," offers the following bit of myopia:

So, my fellow conservatives, continue to drive the viral elements out of your party, or be prepared to move out of the party vessel if the infestation is too malignant.

Reagan's "commandment" was delivered in the midst of a 20+ year battle for the soul of the Republican Party. He understood that the purpose of political debate is to win the argument, then invite those who lost the debate to get on board.

A generation of Republicans that doesn't remember Reagan has learned from political consultants only to use wedge issues to cobble majorities, but that is only a short term strategy. Ultimately, persuasive arguments, not strategies of dividing and conquering, will be needed to keep conservatism alive, both within and outside the Republican Party. That need, unfortunately, is not being addressed by any of the three Republican candidates for Bill Frist's seat. Neither the candidates nor their supporters have taken the time to set forth a positive agenda, with the result that the only topics for discussion have been Corker's claims of competence versus Bryant and Hilleary's attacks on the genuineness of Corker's conservatism.

All of which doesn't make for a terribly inspiring primary. The added myopia of those focused on driving out "viral elements" only furthers the discouragement of those concerned about the future of conservatism in Tennessee.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Congressional Pork Advocates Press On

A bipartisan coalition of Congressmen committed to no principle other than their retention of power has larded over 1,700 earmarks into the Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Bill currently awaiting consideration in the House. Principled legislators, including Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake and Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, are seeking to extract the earmarks, but Republican and Democratic leaders who would gladly sacrifice constitutional principles of federalism and any regard for limited government in exchange for a few more votes are pledging to bludgeon those who would get in their way.

Get the details in The Hill, which, by the way, provides information while avoiding my indignant language.

Who Called in This Favor?

Under the guise of covering a state senate race, The Tennessean today runs a puff piece on the incumbent in District 21.

If Tennessean reporter Michael Cass is not on the senator's payroll, he should be.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

How to Blog

In the future, if a newby asks about starting to blog, I will point them here.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

More Proof of the Irrelevance of Union Leaders

In an opinion piece in today's The Tennessean, Tennessee AFL-CIO president Jerry Lee and national AFL-CIO president John Sweeney complain that America's workers are under assault from the Bush administration's National Labor Relations Board. Lee and Sweeney should be more concerned about their growing irrelevance. Unions once existed to provide recourse to employees who were forced to work interminable hours for virtually no pay in extremely unhealthy conditions. Their leaders are now reduced to claiming to be under attack because those who "direct ... less experienced aides" are being called "supervisors."

The growing irrelevance, as well as the increasing hysteria, of labor leaders can be seen in the ongoing declines in membership in their organizations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2005 unions represented only 12.5% of all wage and salary workers. That number is down from over 20% in 1983 and is inflated by the large number of government employees represented by unions. Only 7.8% of private sector workers are members of unions.

With those numbers in mind, it is interesting to read Lee and Sweeney's account of why they feel assaulted by recent decisions of the NLRB. They complain that in 2004 the Board ruled that graduate assistants are students more than they are employees, a position that would hardly seem to be controversial to most people. They also don't like a decision that disabled employees are not statutory employees for purposes of collective bargaining, but, as the dissenters in that case admitted, that ruling merely reaffirmed "longstanding precedent." Lee and Sweeney also complain that the Board ruled that employees working through a temp agency are not part of the same bargaining unit as an employer's own employees, but that complaint also seems spurious given the fact that the employer is, in fact, different for the temps.

In the current matter of concern, Lee and Sweeney are asking workers to march because of what the Board might do regarding the "Kentucky River" cases, but the NLRB's course has already been largely shaped by the U.S. Supreme Court decision to which they are responding. In 2001, the Supreme Court rendered a decision in the case of NLRB v. Kentucky River Community Care. Under the Taft-Hartley Act passed in 1947, supervisors do not have access to the protections afforded by collective bargaining. That act includes in its definition of supervisor those who have authority "responsibly to direct" employees using "independent" judgment that is not merely of a routine or clerical nature. The NLRB had somehow created a contorted view that judgment was not "independent" if it was professional or technical judgment. Thus, according to the NLRB, a head nurse "directing" other nurses was not a supervisor because that nurse was utilizing professional judgment, not independent judgment. The court ruled that this distinction did not make sense in the context of the statute. The NLRB is now evidently getting around to revisiting its position in light of that court ruling.

Thus, Lee and Sweeney are feeling assaulted by those who imagine that a head nurse who directs less experienced nurses and aides could be a supervisor and are calling for a march in protest. That is not the stuff of sweat shops. Perhaps their sense of a "harsh" economy has something to do with the growing irrelevance of their positions.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Federal Judge Repudiates Hastertian Hubris

Congress has a long history of exempting itself from the laws that it passes, but a federal judge today told William Jefferson, Dennis Hastert, and other congressional leaders drunk on the arrogance of power, that they are not exempt from law enforcement. Hastert and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who rarely agree on anything, suddenly found common cause in the notion that congressmen are not subject to the same law enforcement mechanisms as everyone else in the United States. However, Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, interrupting their passionate rendition of Kumbaya, told them that election to Congress does not convey the right to turn the nation's capitol into "a taxpayer-subsidized sanctuary for crime."

Hat Tip: Instapundit

Getting a Metaphorical Grip

John Hutchenson sensibly calls for a bipartisan moratorium on the use of the name "Hitler" to describe political opponents who have done something less than kill 6 million people while attempting genocide. Hutchenson specifies that changing one's mind on an issue would not create an exemption.

Hutchenson is right. Using Hitler or the Holocaust as metaphors for anything currently happening in the United States diminishes the horror of the 20th century's ultimate inhumanity. That is a horror that, as we say, should not be forgotten -- or diminished.

The Importance of Ending Gerrymandering

Normally, Mark Rose and I are on the same side of things, or we at least only have differing ideas on how to get to the same desired result; however, I strongly disagree with him on this:

Gerrymandering is simply one of those obstacles the majority party erects to help maintain power. Politics is politics. Deal with it.

This is the conclusion of a post in which Rose criticizes The Tennessean over its new found concern with gerrymandering now that it threatens to favor Republicans. While Rose is rightly minded to point out the newspaper's hypocrisy, he describes gerrymandering as a way of life that must be accepted. The view, commonly held by southern Republicans, is that Democrats enjoyed its benefits for much of the past century, and now it is our turn.

In fact, the problem of gerrymandering is the number one most important need for political reform today: not campaign finance, not lobbyists taking legislators to lunch, not former legislators going to work on K Street. Legislators with carefully tailored safe districts don't have to fear voters, as they will rarely have serious opposition in either primaries or general elections. All of the ethics reform that has been discussed both in Tennessee and nationally neglects the most important government reform measure of all.

If bi-partisan reform could rewrite the laws for redrawing districts, the nation would be the better for it.

Effective Immigration Reform Must Be Comprehensive

An impressive group of 33 conservatives signed an open letter arguing that the United States needs to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill:

Conservatives have always prided themselves on acknowledging, in the words of John Adams, that "Facts are stubborn things." Well, immigration--both the robust annual flow required to keep our economy growing and the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country--is a fact of life in the U.S. today. And the only practical way to deal with these stubborn realities is with a comprehensive solution, one that includes border security, interior enforcement, a guest worker program and status for the illegal immigrants already here.

See the entire letter and the names of the signatories here.

Didn't Get the Memo

Last month when Democrats launched their "New Directions for America" policy agenda, they described it as a "watershed moment." According to The Hill, some Democrats failed to notice.

Thus, Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper: “I haven’t even looked at it. I’m not very good at talking points.”

He was not alone. Read more here.

Abuse of Power and Excluded Evidence

In the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hudson v. Michigan, the court decided that evidence could be used as evidence, even though the police who entered a building did not provide adequate time for the inhabitants to come and open the door before the police forced their way in. This narrowing of the "exclusionary rule," which prevents unlawfully obtained evidence from being used in a criminal prosecution, has been widely criticized by proponents of civil liberties.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confers this right:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Much 20th century jurisprudence notwithstanding, it is notable that the Constitution protects the rights of citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures, but it does not provide that the remedy for a violation of this right should be the exclusion of any evidence obtained. Indeed, whether evidence was obtained legitimately or not does not alter the nature of the evidence itself. Excluding such evidence often has the net effect of punishing those who were victimized by crimes which can not be prosecuted successfully without the ill gotten proof. Why is it that the remedy is to exclude convincing evidence? Is it not instead more just to look at the different option of holding liable those who were guilty of abusing power and violating constitutional rights?

For an interesting discussion of the background of the case law that created the exclusionary rule and made it applicable to the states, see Matthew Scully here.

Teachers and Turf Protectors

The Tennessean reports that an educational PAC formed by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce is supporting five challengers, and no incumbents, in this year's metro Nashville school board race. According to the report, one of the incumbents, Kathleen Harkey, was angered by suggestions that she is overly attached to the local teachers' union, the Metropolitan Nashville Educational Association. In response to the criticism, she said, "I have a good relationship with a lot of teachers. To me, the teachers are MNEA."

While I don't know anything about Harkey's contributions to the board, that statement alone is reason enough to oppose her re-election. Enough teachers have left the union in recent years to put its certification at risk not long ago, and the MNEA has consistently opposed changes that would establish clear standards and accountability for Nashville schools. While schools director Pedro Garcia is reputedly, and at times self-admittedly, difficult to work with, at least some, if not most, of his public squabbles with the union and the board have resulted from his insistence that failure is not an option and that excuses for substandard performance are not acceptable. That the union worries more about the allegedly authoritarian leadership style of Garcia than over the long-term failures of the system, particularly with regard to Nashville's neediest students, is reason to give thanks that teachers are NOT the MNEA.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Rewards from Heaven and Voting Booths

Glen Dean returns to blogging today and notes that a Bob Corker for Senate campaign commercial has only solidified his determination to vote for Ed Bryant. Dean takes umbrage that Corker seeks to woo voters by talking about a past volunteer effort as a builder on an oversees church mission team.

While I don't disagree with Dean's point (also made by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount) that Christians should seek their rewards in heaven, I would only note that if we refused to vote for all politicians who made sure that their churchly efforts were duly reported by their publicists, we would be left with a slim choice. The Oracle is more concerned that nowadays churches themselves seem intent upon issuing press releases and producing slick videos to make sure that everyone knows what a fine job they are doing. As Jesus said, they have their reward.

Give Me a (Sales Tax) Break

The Tennessean has an article today about the claim of critics that "sales tax holidays" provide no benefit to either businesses or consumers. That claim is not surprising. The sort of people who don't think that raising taxes has any adverse effect on the economy are also unlikely to imagine that reducing a tax -- even for one day -- will have a positive impact.

Proving that the famous axiom "those who can, do; those who can't, teach," is sometimes true, Georgetown University professor David Brunori explained the lack of benefit this way:

The consumer gets a wash, but they think they're getting a great deal. The politicians can walk around kissing babies and say they're bringing a tax break to the state of Tennessee.

One can only hope that Professor Brunori manages more coherence in the classroom. That the state of Tennessee is getting a tax break (for one day) is beyond dispute. If Brunori is making some sort allegation related to kissing babies, perhaps he should file charges.

Critics of the sales tax holiday also claim, without any evidence other than "anectdotal," that consumers don't reap any benefit because retailers don't discount prices, since they know that customers will come out for the event regardless. Oh, yes. Everyone knows that there are no discounts at times when customers are rushing out to the stores. Take Christmas, for example....

This sort of critic, in addition to not understanding the effects of taxes on the economy, also does not understand the concept of competition in the marketplace.

This is not to say that "sales tax holdidays" are a great idea. They are not, and broad based tax relief would make for better public policy. However, those who doubt the efficacy of a tax break for just one day likely won't believe that it will make any difference for the whole year, either.


For a blog written by foster parents recounting some of their experiences, see here. Scroll through the posts and you will see the stories of heroic foster parents fighting some battles they should not have to fight.

Hat Tip: Anchoress

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Norquist v. McCain

The truth about a situation cannot always be found by splitting the difference between the competing claims of opponents, but sometimes it can be. Regarding Grover Norquist's current complaints that John McCain is acting vengefully due to their differences during the 2000 presidential primary, that is likely the case.

Norquist, who has been a friend of corrupt Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff since their days together as leaders of the College Republicans, says that McCain misleadingly included mention of Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform in the Senate Indian Affairs Committee report on the Abramoff scandal solely for the purpose of getting even with him for his opposition to McCain in 2000. A McCain spokesman, protesting a bit too much, responds, "McCain does what he thinks is right. He's not going to shift his position for Grover or anyone else."

Norquist's difficulty is that his tax reform goals are not consistent with his alleged, and well documented, relationship with Abramoff. While it is likely an exaggeration to claim that McCain included mention of Norquist with revenge in mind, it is not hard to believe that he at least enjoyed the opportunity to do so. The notion that McCain would never "shift his position" out of personal animus is silly to anyone who knows the Senator or his reputation.

Which is not to say that Norquist doesn't have a reason himself for protesting too much.

New Arrivals at the Mountaintop

The Music City Oracle will soon become a group blog. Three new colleagues will be announced shortly. These three will bring varied, though broadly conservative, viewpoints and strong writing and analytical skills to the blog. I am excited about this new expansion.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Time for Silence

An axiom of civility tells us not to speak evil of the dead. Thus, on the subject of the sudden death of former Enron executive Kenneth Lay, I have said nothing. However, I will note that I completely agree with Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz, who recounts some of the things that are being said and asks, "Am I the only one who finds this kind of tasteless?"

No, there are others of us.

One of Harold Ford's Biggest Enemies

While I would not want to write anything to diminish the name or the significance of Bill Hobbs as the most prominent blogger in middle Tennessee, am I the only one who thinks that if Harold Ford, Jr. is describing Hobbs as "one of my biggest opponents," that the Ford campaign must be in serious trouble?

For his part, Hobbs says that he is "flattered."

The Tennessean's Attack on Property Rights

The Tennessean, who's editorial page has lately shown an affinity for attacks on individual rights (see here for a rundown), today seeks to undermine both property rights and federalism.

In criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Rapanos v. U.S. (The Oracle wishes that The Tennessean would name the case it is criticizing. Since the opinion was issued almost three weeks ago, it took a bit of time to locate the right case.), the editorial calls upon Congress to "revisit the Clean Water Act and specify that the law protects wetlands." What they don't really tell the reader is what the Court decision says is outside the current version of the Act. The term "wetlands" is vague enough to be misleading, and many people likely have visions of vast swampland or flowing creeks. In fact, a "wetland," as frequently interpreted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, may be a dry riverbed or piece of land that occasionally has standing water after a period of heavy rain. As the plurality opinion by Justice Scalia states, the Corps has even argued that an area that would have standing water after a "100 year flood" would be classified as a wetland. Under that standard, most people's front yards would fall under federal regulation.

In the Rapanos case, the nearest navigable body of water was at least 11 miles away from the property in question, from which there was no continuous flow of water to the navigable body (navigable water is defined broadly under federal law, and includes any "relatively permanent standing or continuously flowing body of water." In short, it is navigable if a child's rubber ducky could float in it for much of a year. The land that Rapanos sought to develop occasionally flooded after a hard rain, with the surplus water flowing into a man made drainage ditch.

But The Tennessean considers the federal government's reach to be so broad that it should regulate such property. It should be noted that the ruling does not inhibit the right of a state to place land use restrictions on property. The Tennessean finds individual rights measured by state regulation to be insufficient. It is up to the federal government to move in and make sure that occasional standing water in someone's front yard isn't filled in so as to endanger the environment.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Eddie Murphy Says Billy Graham Curses Too Much

So, Michelle Malkin, rather than merely disagreeing with the commentary of William F. Buckley, somehow managed to accuse him of "idiocy."

To put it kindly, Malkin calling Buckley an idiot would be a bit like Pee Wee Hermann accusing the Incredible Hulk of being a shrimp. Or, to change the metaphor, Malkin calling Buckley an idiot would be a little like Hugh Hefner calling Jesus of Nazareth a sinner. Or, it would be like Tony Soprano complaining that the Quakers are so violent. Or, Van Hilleary saying that Albert Einstein was stupid.

Then, she dismisses Buckley as an "east coast elite" who should "shut up."

How classy.

The difference between Buckley and Malkin is this: Buckley, at great personal cost, provided intellectual, national, popular, and organizational heft to conservatism during years when it was widely regarded as dead. Malkin writes a nice blog -- sometimes.

Hat Tip: Abramson

In the Language of Its Age?

No one expects the editorial page of The Tennessean to read like that of the Wall Street Journal, but did they turn the sheet over to a 14 year old today to write the opinion piece on North Korea? In addition to the childish naivete (the world uniting against "carelessness;" North Korea's interest in emerging "as a player on the world stage worthy of anyone's respect;" and my favorite: "The government in Pyongyang can't possibly believe that provoking military conflict truly holds promise for its people. Further, North Korea should consider what sort of reaction it could provoke."), the language of the editorial is odd, as shown by its referring to:

The Bush administration not "getting worked up."
The North Korean government's "rotten judgment."
North Korea being urged to "cool it."
North Korea "has some missiles" that "tend to fizzle."
The United States should "cool its own rhetoric."
North Korea should not take "U.S. barking" as a "dare."

Someone call Walter Lippmann.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Anonymous Responsibility

As an anonymous blogger, I feel a personal responsibility to make a good faith effort to write for public consumption in an ethical manner, which means not writing in a way that would secretly further personal economic interests or pursue personal vendettas. The things I write about have to do with political and social interests and have virtually no relationship to my means of making a living. In fact, one of my reasons for doing this is to have an opportunity to write about things other than what I deal with at work.

As Gene Patterson, a blogger at WATE television, shows, there can be a thin line between an anonymous critic and a cheap shot artist. Those who cross the line egregiously deserve to be called on it.

Hat Tip: Knox Views

Global Grandstanding

Many pundits have criticized recent Congressional debates on flag burning and same-sex marriage as nothing more than moral grandstanding. Robert Samuelson argues that the same is true regarding the public debate on global warming. Samuelson harkens back to a column he wrote nearly a decade ago in which he said this:

Global warming may or may not be the great environmental crisis of the next century, but -- regardless of whether it is or isn't -- we won't do much about it. We will (I am sure) argue ferociously over it and may even, as a nation, make some fairly solemn-sounding commitments to avoid it. But the more dramatic and meaningful these commitments seem, the less likely they are to be observed. Little will be done. . . . Global warming promises to become a gushing source of national hypocrisy.

Nothing that has happened since that time has caused Samuelson to change his mind. In fact, he now concludes:

Ambitious U.S. politicians also practice this self-serving hypocrisy. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a global warming program. Gore counts 221 cities that have "ratified" Kyoto. Some pledge to curb their greenhouse emissions. None of these programs will reduce global warming. They're public relations exercises and -- if they impose costs -- are undesirable....The practical conclusion is that if global warming is a potential calamity, the only salvation is new technology....

The trouble with the global warming debate is that it has become a moral crusade when it's really an engineering problem. The inconvenient truth is that if we don't solve the engineering problem, we're helpless.

Samuelson's conclusions result from a consideration of data that he discusses here. It is well worth the read.

Quote of the Day

"Moreover, he had perfected a self-infatuated pomposity that made voting against him a carnal pleasure."

William F. Buckley, Jr., on former Republican U.S. Senator from Connecticut Lowell Weicker. Opposition to Weicker from conservative Republicans contributed to Weicker's loss to Joseph Lieberman in 1988.

Read more here.

The Tennessean Again Assaults Individual Rights

Yesterday, Bill Hobbs, writing about a Tennessean editorial advocating the banning of all state specialty license plates, noted that it is "odd" for a newspaper to advocate restrictions on free speech. In fact, that editorial continued an assault by the Tennessean on the individual rights, including speech rights, of people who the newspaper does not find agreeable.

Today, in discussing the recent Supreme Court case that struck down a Vermont law that placed severe limits on campaign spending, the newspaper made several arguments against individual rights, reaching its nadir with this distinction between campaign spending by a politician (which cannot be restricted given present case law) and contributions by a donor (which can be restricted) :

And even on constitutional grounds, an individual espousing her own beliefs in an attempt to win an elective office deserves more consideration than a donor who could be giving to a dozen candidates.

Exactly what constitutional grounds exist for saying that a politician running for office has first amendment rights to free speech that are not held by an ordinary citizen? The very notion is putrid.

The Tennessean has made other arguments in opposition to individual rights in recent weeks:
  1. In advocating a ban on smoking in all public buildings, the newspaper opined that legislators should "look beyond ... arguments about individual rights." I don't disagree with the concept of banning smoking in public buildings, but I found the paper's acknowledgement of a willingness to forego the rights of others to be shocking. Instead of arguing for the rights of non-smokers, they went straight to the jugular and told legislators to forget about the rights of others.
  2. On June 27, the newspaper advocated restricting the rights of 527 groups, claiming that the lack of restrictions allowed "fat cats" to pursue "specific political agendas." This language constitutes a blatant attack on the free speech rights of individuals. There was no argument that the "fat cats" were corrupt. The argument was that the "fat cats" should not be allowed to advocate a "political agenda." Of course, the newspaper did not advocate spending limits on fat cat media conglomerates such as Gannett.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Must Read

Roger Abramson posts the text of the Declaration of Independence, as does John Norris Brown.

Democrats over a Cliff

Glenn Reynolds accurately draws a connection between "net-roots" activists and the McGovernites who ran the Democratic Party into the ground and unwittingly helped re-elect Richard Nixon in 1972.

It is being argued in the blogosphere that the announcement by Joe Lieberman that he will pursue a write in candidacy if he loses the Democratic primary is evidence that he no longer fits into the fabric of the Democratic Party. That is not accurate. Lieberman's announcement is an acknowledgement that the Party is being hijacked by radical activists not only outside the mainstream of the country, but also well to the left of the mainstream of the Democratic Party. As the primaries are dominated by small numbers of activist voters, they may result in the selection of candidates that will not garner support among the larger pool of voters, including traditionally Democratic voters, in November.

This should be a year of opportunity for the Democrats, and Republican bungling may yet make it so, but the chances for significant gains may be lost as the party lurches farther and farther to the left.

A Forgotten Founder

For a brief recounting of the life and thought of one of the "forgotten" founding fathers, John Witherspoon, see Roger Kimball here.

While providing a great deal of interesting historical information about Witherspoon, Kimball also relates one fact of which I was not aware. One of Witherspoon's direct descendents is among the most beautiful women to pass through the Music City, Reese Witherspoon.

Nice genes.

Amber Waves of Straw Men

I have frequently heard liberals complain that conservatives question their patriotism when there are disagreements over national policy, but I have never heard any nationally serious conservative actually question anyone's patriotism over public policy. To say that my political ideas are better for the country than yours is not to question your patriotism -- you may love the country more than I do -- it is only to question what is the best route to take to better the nation.

Nevertheless, those who have taken nowadays to calling themselves progressives seem defensive about this matter of patriotism, which perhaps explains E.J. Dionne's valiant effort at differentiating himself from straw men in today's Washington Post.

Dionne writes:

But the progressive and the reformer have a problem with what passes for unadulterated patriotism. By nature, the reformer is bound to insist that the country, however glorious, is not a perfect place, that it is capable of doing wrong as well as right.

Note to Dionne: Whatever the definition of "unadulterated patriotism" might be, no one believes your dismissed alternative, that the United States is a perfect place incapable of doing wrong.

Most reformers guard their patriotic credentials by moving quickly to the next logical step: that the true genius of America has always been its capacity for self-correction. I'd assert that this is a better argument for patriotism than any effort to pretend that the Almighty has marked us as the world's first flawless nation.

Note to Dionne: No one believes that the Almighty has marked the United States as flawless. Perhaps tomorrow he will criticize the religious right for saying that the Almighty has marked us out for judgment.

The Fourth is transformed from an affirmation of continuity into a celebration of change. The republic's founders are praised not because they inaugurated a system designed to stand forever, unaltered, but because they blazed a path toward what Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has called "active liberty."

Note to Dionne: No one praises the founders for inaugurating an eternally unalterable republic. However, I will admit that many of us would prefer alteration by legislation and constitutional amendment than by court edict.

Especially in the last two statements quoted above, Dionne errs by insisting on a choice between two concepts that in fact must remain joined. The American capacity for what Dionne calls "self-correction" largely rests upon the notions of self-government that were written into our founding documents. The desire for correction is in itself of limited value without the existence of foundational principles of liberty and freedom, as well as the reach and limitations of government. Further, those expressing patriotic sentiments are not forced to choose between "an affirmation of continuity" and an "unaltered" system. Both fixed principles and ongoing adaptation and change are hallmarks of the American experiment.

None of this is intended to deny Dionne's love of country, of which I have no doubt. However, expressions of love don't have to rest on straw men and a fallacy of an excluded middle.

Monday, July 03, 2006

"Choose Life" License Plates Acceptable

The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to review a lower court decision and thereby to allow Tennessee "Choose Life" specialty license plates to become a reality has been widely criticized by those on the "pro-choice" side of the abortion debate. Such criticisms, both of the original legislation creating the program and the decision of the court, have emphasized two basic arguments: 1) the offering uses state issued license plates to promote a political viewpoint and doesn't provide an equal opportunity for the other side; and 2) the funds are in part provided to a pro-life organization. Neither of those arguments is persuasive.

Except for those who look for political messages before anything else, the message on the plate is a social, not a political, one. In fact, the phrase on the plate could be described as pro-choice -- as indicated by the first word. Given the word "choose," it stretches credulity to call the plate "anti-choice." The plate only encourages those who have a decision to decide in a certain direction. Normally, the opposite of choosing life would be choosing death, but those who call themselves pro-choice can not really regard the plate as making that claim as a political statement. It is undebatable that the result of a successful pregnancy is a living baby. However, hardly anyone in the pro-choice camp regards the result of an abortion to be death. They regard the end of an abortion to be the excision of an inconvenient mass of tissue. As a result, the suggestion by the plate is really a social one without political implications for the abortion debate, unless pro-choice groups want to deny core principles and admit what some pro-lifers have claimed -- that pro-choice groups don't really favor choice; they favor abortion.

As for the claim that there should be a pro-choice tag, it can be noted that offering "Choose Choice" plates would not be an equal alternative, as the term "pro-choice" is a political term, not a social one. The phrasing "choose choice" is awkward, at best, but what is the alternative? Clearly, "Choose Death" is not a choice that would be favored by the pro-choice crowd. Anything that conveys "rights language" makes an overtly political statement. It may not seem fair, but given that pro-choice groups are essentially making a political argument about the relative rights of women and what they regard as women's property, it is not easy to conceive of any message that they could deliver as a social and not a political one.

As to the funds, they are not, as some have claimed, going toward the delivery of an anti-abortion political message. Rather, they are going to organizations that provide adoption and other services designed to assist pregnant women -- a cause, ironically, that pro-choice groups claim is ignored by those who would limit choice (thus, the funds go toward remedying a problem about which pro-choice advocates claim to have a concern). Criticisms have also claimed that one of the primary beneficiaries of the program, New Life Resources, is affiliated with Tennessee Right to Life. Even if that is true, it is being made clear that New Life Resources only provides services to pregnant women and does not involve itself in political debate. Once again, pro-choice groups cannot oppose this without creating problems for themselves. For years, Planned Parenthood, which frequently recommends that its clients choose to have an abortion, has managed to overcome critics and retain access to funding from government and from large private community funding resources, United Way in particular, by emphasizing to legislators and to donors that none of the funds received through those avenues are used to provide abortion counseling or services or to fund political activity. Those arguments, in order to be honest, require a careful segregation of the way that funds are used. There is no reason to think that funds received from the "choose life" program cannot be similarly earmarked specifically for the permissible services. Goodness knows that there is sufficient need.

An argument can be made that the entire specialty plate program, which benefits multiple causes, including higher education, is illegitimate. However, as long as Tennessee offers such programs, there is no reason why a specialty plate with funds earmarked for helping women who choose to allow their babies to be born should be opposed.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A Bridge To No Where

I have sat in on legislative committee meetings in which members attempted to sound coherent on issues they obviously knew nothing about, but I don't think any of them descended to the level of U.S. Senator Ted Stephens' attempt to explain the internet, as transcribed here.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Resorts to Authority in an Age of Information

In a post that begins with a discussion of the difficulty of making "recourse to authority" style arguments in the internet age, Shrinkwrapped has a lengthy and helpful critique of the Associated Press' claim that Al Gore's questionable truth is universally accepted science. The post and links will take a while to get through, but it is well worth the effort.

By the way, the introduction to the AP article itself shows that the seeming claim of indisputable accuracy is overstated. Of the "more than 100 top climate researchers" contacted by AP, the story says that only 19 had seen the movie or read the book. It is those 19 who provided the input for the story.

But doesn't the relatively small number of scientists bothering to see the movie or read the book suggest a level of dismissiveness by a large majority of climate scientists -- even if one recognizes that some of them may have had various reasons for not doing so? And would not the ones most likely to see it be those who already accept its premise? In fact, reading between the lines, it would appear that at least some of the scientists quoted saw it at screenings to which they were invited. One is hardly stepping out on a limb in suggesting that Gore invited those to his screenings who were already in agreement with what he had to say.

Conservative Reasonableness on Immigration

Michael Barone writes that the primary victory of Republican Representative Chris Cannon in a conservative district in Utah suggests that the assumption that Republicans will turn out for candidates favoring a harsh, enforcement only approach to immigration may be wrong:

With all precincts reporting, Cannon leads challenger John Jacob by a 56-to-44 percent margin. Ordinarily, this would be considered a narrow margin for an incumbent in a primary. But the self-financing Jacob spent heavily on a campaign based on the immigration issue. Cannon has backed a guest-worker program as part of a larger immigration package, and he has supported in-state tuition at state colleges and universities for children of illegal immigrants. Jacob opposed the former as "amnesty" and the latter as an outrage. It is conventional wisdom in many quarters that Republican voters overwhelmingly favor a border-security-only approach to immigration. Cannon's victory casts some doubt on that.

After pointing out that this district favored Bush over Kerry in 2004 by 77% to 20%, Barone adds:

Still, Cannon's victory stands for the proposition that support for a comprehensive immigration bill is not political death in a Republican primary, even in a very conservative district that has been affected by immigration (in 2000, 10 percent of its residents were Hispanic; presumably the percentage of Hispanics voting in the Republican primary this year was much smaller).

All of this suggests that Republican voters are more reasonable about current realities regarding the need for comprehensive immigration reform -- including enforcement, improvements in legal immigration policy, and a reasonable approach to the problem of large numbers of illegals currently in the country-- than Republican politicians give them credit for.

Will Republicans Put Pro-Pork Senator in Leadership?

For a discussion of Trent Lott's drive to regain a leadership position in the Senate following Bill Frist's departure as Majority Leader, see here.

Lott's elevation to a leadership post would be a clear defeat for Porkbusters and others in Washington interested in limited government and in reigning in earmark spending. Lott has called those interested in restoring restraint in government spending "troublemakers." That is no doubt one of the reasons that numerous lobbyists, including former Lott staffers now on K Street, are openly praising the possibility of Lott's return to leadership.

“I get a lot of comments from people around the town, from staffers, senators and lobbyists, who are watching what Lott’s doing behind the scenes,” said Jack Howard, the senator’s former deputy chief of staff, “People are thinking more seriously that Lott should be back in the leadership in some capacity.”

Howard is president of Wexler & Walker, a government-relations firm.

If Republicans elevate Lott, that will be a clear indication that they have no interest in a return to Republican principles of fiscal restraint. While it is unlikely that they will risk a clear answer, it would be worth asking each of Tennessee's three Republican candidates for the Senate if they would vote for Lott versus a less openly pro-pork Senator.

CJ Roberts' First Year

For an interesting analysis of the Supreme Court at the end of Chief Justice John Roberts' first term, see Tony Mauro here.

Hat Tip: Ann Althouse

The Decency of Discretion

One should not be so naive as to imagine that political calculations will not enter into policy considerations, but elected officials should at least have the decency to be discreet about it. Open conversation by political consultants and Congressmen about how the Supreme Court decision on Guantanamo detainees can be "used" for political advantage is disgusting to a general public that would prefer to believe that at least occasionally considerations of what would be the best policy prevail. The noxious Machiavellian fumes should remain enclosed in the smoke filled rooms of Washington.