Wednesday, June 28, 2006

No Big Tent

Given the high level of indignity being directed toward Roger Abramson by Tennessee conservative bloggers (see here and here for a rundown and numerous links), one might think that he had endorsed Harold Ford, Jr. for the Senate.

As a conservative and a Christian who has never identified with the religious right, I have a certain amount of sympathy for Abramson's position, even though I don't agree with all of his arguments and criticisms. Twenty years ago, the late evangelical theologian Carl F.H. Henry stated that the religious right would have limited success due to its failure to develop a coherent philosophy of public policy, including an understanding of the role of the state and an appreciation for the potentialities and limitations of involvement in the public sphere. He has proven to be right. For all of their noise, the religious right has accomplished little of their actual agenda while doing a fair amount of harm by politicizing the church.

As far as Abramson's critics, there is something strikingly wrong with rejecting an ally because he disagrees with Roe v. Wade as a judicial matter rather than as a moral one. There is also something wrong with the notion that one cannot endorse Corker and be a conservative. By the way, I do not plan to vote for Corker -- I don't think he will hold the line on fiscal restraint or on the social issues that can be dealt with in ways consistent with a view of limited government. I also do not plan to vote for Hilleary -- I got beyond 5th grade. The Republicans need to hold the Senate if Bush's judicial nominees are to have any chance.

Republicans who have followed the lead of Ronald Reagan, who had a policy of not criticizing a fellow Republican, have been good at choosing to make allies on points of agreement. That some value full ideological purity to an extent that they would seem to want to go to war with a would be friend (on at least a majority of issues) over the extent of their conservatism is ultimately foolish.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hot Snow

For the text of a letter from Tony Snow to the unconscionable editor at the New York Times, see here.

Hat Tip: LGF

Human Rights Abuse in China

Rebiya Kadeer sent some newspaper clippings from her home in China to her husband in the United States. The Communist Chinese government accused her of "leaking state secrets" and jailed her for 6 years before exiling her to the United States.

This year, the story took another sad turn:

Recently I paid the price for speaking out when the Chinese government made good on its promise to retaliate against my family. A U.S. congressional delegation had requested to meet my family during their visit to Urumqi. On May 29, Chinese authorities responded by warning my three adult children living in the city to decline any such invitation.

Three days later, police took more drastic steps to prevent a meeting. The three children were driven out of the city, and the van stopped by the roadside, where two of my sons were badly beaten by police. In a further effort to intimidate me, one of the officers conducting the beatings handed my daughter Rushangul a cell phone, and told her to call me so that I could hear them screaming. One of my sons, Ablikim, was so badly beaten that he lost consciousness and had to be hospitalized before being taken to a detention center.

Both conservatives, who are unwilling to endanger Chinese business opportunities, and liberals, who are unwilling to criticize a government that is both Communist and not western, have largely ignored the human rights abuses of the Chinese government. They should not.

Physician Pay Lower as Health Care Costs Rise

The Tennessean reports this morning on a study showing that average physician incomes have dropped by 2% (for specialists) to 10% (for primary care doctors) over the last 10 years. Experts warn that the trend could impact the number of persons entering the medical profession in the coming years.

Health care consultant Joe Paduda adds that such information shows that physician incomes are not a cost driver in the rise of health care insurance premiums. He suggests that cost increases result largely from higher utilization (additional services, including expensive diagnostic tests), increased hospital and facility costs, and rising drug prices.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Why Use Facts When an Attack Works Just Fine?

Those who run the New York Times are continuing their seeming quest to turn the once distinguished newspaper into little more than a tabloid style rag. Columnist Susan Estrich, who is hardly an ally of conservatives, begins a column thusly:

"A Look at Republican Priorities" said the headline of Friday's New York Times.

And what are those priorities, according to America's paper of record?

"Comforting the Comfortable" and "Afflicting the Afflicted." Because they support eliminating the estate tax and oppose raising the minimum wage, the Republicans are said to be the Party that comforts the comfortable and afflicts the afflicted.

Regarding this substitution of name calling for real analysis and debate, Estrich writes:

But there are some people who disagree, and in my experience, they are not all mean-spirited ogres. Over the years, I have had this debate with any number of small businessmen and women, as well as economists and politicians, who have expressed the concern that increasing the minimum wage will depress hiring at the low end of the scale, or push more workers into the black market, cash economy where there are no benefits and no protections .

It is a legitimate argument.

It is not one that I happen to find persuasive, but it does not mean that those who put it forward are interested only in afflicting the afflicted.

Estrich's call for civility among partisans is well taken and should be heeded by both conservative and liberal print journalists, not to mention bloggers who wish to be taken seriously.

Along those same lines, an editorial in yesterday's Tennessean included this unsupported ad hominem attack:

That's what Americans get from this Congress, controlled by Republicans and beholden at every turn to the wishes of businesses and special interests.

At every turn? Really? The Tennessean cannot think of any area under current debate where the Republican controlled Congress snubs the "wishes of business?" Perhaps they should read this position statement, which concerns one of the "core issues" addressed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

In 2006, the Chamber will work to pass comprehensive, fair immigration reform that along with improved border security will:

  1. Provide an earned pathway to legalization for undocumented workers already contributing to our economy, provided that they are law-abiding and prepared to embrace the obligations and values of our society.
  2. Create a carefully monitored guest worker program to fill the growing gaps in America's workforce recognizing that, in some cases, permanent immigrants will be needed to fill these gaps.
  3. Refrain from unduly burdening employers with worker verification systems that are underfunded or unworkable.
  4. Ensure the continuity and expansion of H-1B and L-1 visas for professionals and highly valued workers.

One will note that this is a "core" interest of the largest pro-business lobbyist in Washington. It is a current major issue of debate in Washington. The "Republican controlled Congress" is less than "beholden."

But who needs facts or real debate when a mere attack will do.

The Ignored Legal Immigrant

Ricardo Lu has a poignant and important opinion piece in today's Tennessean regarding the inadequacies of current U.S. immigration law.

If I had married a girl from back home the day after I got my green card, she would not even be allowed to visit me in the United States until what's called her "priority date" comes due — not because the bureaucracy is slow, but because Congress promises more than it delivers.

Yet if I had remained a "temporary" U.S. worker and married, I could have brought my wife here immediately. And if I had chosen to break the law, now Congress would be debating how best to give me what I had already taken without asking.

Lu's point that the current debate largely ignores the inadequacies of current U.S. law governing legal immigration is well taken. One might add that while Lu mostly blames the laws, not the bureaucracy, the INS is hardly an example of government efficiency. Anyone who has ever known a legal immigrant has heard stories about the red tape associated with that system.

One might also add that part, not all, of the present problem with illegal immigration arises from the inadequacies of U.S. immigration law. Those shortcomings are not addressed by either enforcement only approaches or by amnesty proposals. The United States needs both to carefully confront the problem of determining the numbers of immigrants that we want to enter the country and to improve the efficiency and reasonableness of the process for those who want to stay.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Tennessean: Protecting Yourself is Futile

It is said that Thomas Edison failed scores of times before finally inventing the light bulb. It is a good thing that he was not being advised by The Tennessean's editorial page writers. This morning's paper argues that the United States should cease efforts to create a defensive system that could shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile heading for the United States. The reason? The Defense Department has been working on it for a long time, and it still doesn't work.

Such a system, the development of which is called the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), is even more important today than it was when President Ronald Reagan proposed it. At that time, the major perceived threat came from the Soviet Union. War with the Soviets would have potentially involved the launching of hundreds of missiles, and critics of the idea of a missile defense pointed out that no system could successfully shoot down most, much less all of them. Today, when the major threat involves an unpredictable rogue government or terrorist launching an isolated missile, the use of such a defense could potentially be critical to protecting life and property.

In an argument so blatantly silly that I laughed out loud, the editorial concluded, "The last thing the United States should do is practically dare an enemy to see if our fancy defense system works. That's a needless invitation to very high-stakes conflict."

Yes, of course. Everyone who agrees with that line of thinking should get rid of your security systems and leave your doors unlocked when you are away from home. You are just daring criminals to prove that they can get in and steal all of your stuff.

True Now, True Later

In opposing the activity of state senator David Fowler, who is sending out questionnaires to Tennessee appellate court judges asking them to describe their views on abortion, same sex marriage, and other issues, The Tennessean argues, "The personal views of judges or judicial applicants aren't relevant to how those individuals would rule on cases."

That is right. Let's just hope that the paper files the statement for re-use when discussing the President's judicial nominees.

Update: Mark Rose took a look back and found that the Tennessean has been less than consistent. Actually, they have been thoroughly inconsistent.

Human Life as an Economic Calculation

The large headline atop the front page of this morning's Tennessean screams, "The Cost of Murder." The subheading, which in this instance accurately summarizes the substance of the story, tells us the cost is $110 million, most of which results from the expense of incarceration.

Pity all of us who thought that the cost of murder mostly should be measured in terms of the loss of human life, which has intrinsic and intangible value. The offensive premise of the article that the cost of murder should be calculated based on the costs to the system is reinforced by a quotation from Wharton School Professor Jean Lemaire, who suggests that understanding the costs is a key to the allocation of government resources:

Every dollar spent on a murder investigation or incarcerating a murderer is money that can't be used for other government services. This certainly makes addressing ways to lower the rate of homicides an important public policy issue.

Oh, yes. One can see all of those policy makers sitting around a table in a smoke filled room, saying, "Ya know, we gotta get this murder thing under control. It's costing us a fortune."

That is not terribly likely. Those who do not understand murder as an unacceptable moral travesty against life itself and against the liberty of the public at large are unlikely to develop sound policies for preventing it.

It is sometimes suggested that court settlements in civil litigation involve a determination of the value of a life, but that is not true. The actual purpose of valuations in those cases is only to arrive at an economic solution to the problem of determining proper damages to the survivors.

The article seemingly makes a vain effort to reinforce its theme by emphasizing the murders of the poverty stricken. That would seem to suggest again the offensive notion that the rest of us should care about those poor people getting killed because it is costing us taxpayers money. The reality is that if people don't value all human life, including the lives of the poorest of the poor, they are not likely to care about the economic fallout of one of "them" getting killed.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Pro Choice Democrats -- on Education

Clint Bolick writes that Democrats are increasingly supporting school choice measures. Both tactical and philosophical considerations have helped to move some Democrats in that direction:

Still, school choice has experienced unprecedented legislative success over the past two years for a few underlying reasons. First and foremost, the school choice movement is acting smarter. Instead of taking the unions and their massive resources head-on, advocates are adopting toe-hold strategies, pursuing small programs addressing specific problems that are difficult for politicians to oppose. The strategy makes sense from a moral perspective, for it focuses assistance on the neediest schoolchildren....

For Democrats who truly believe in social justice, that presents a terrible dilemma: Either forcing children to remain in schools where they have little prospect for a bright future, or enlisting private schools in a rescue mission. Democrats are increasingly unwilling to forsake the neediest children.

For more, see here.

Congressional Bloggers

Yesterday, The Hill started a blog for Congressmen and congressional staff. It will be interesting to see how it develops. You can see it here.

No to Soccer

With U.S. television viewership of the World Cup less than half that of the national spelling bee, Jonathan Last suggests that this will never be a country of soccer fans. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, he also says that the U.S. winning the event would be a bad thing:

The good news is that it will take a near miracle for the U.S. squad to advance to the next round. That's good because, truth be told, you and I don't care and the rest of the world cares very, very much. An American loss in the World Cup is basically a requirement for international stability. Look how upset everyone got when we toppled a murderous dictator in Iraq. What would happen if America--not just America, but George Bush's America!--won the World Cup? Panic? Riots? The upheaval of civilizations? It wouldn't surprise me if Bush's "pep talk" with Bruce Arena before the Czech game was really a veiled threat: "Hey, coach, good luck out there. If you win, the vice president wants to take you quail hunting."

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hilleary Unqualified for Senate

Nathan Moore had questions regarding Van Hilleary's disposition during this morning's Tennessee Republican Senatorial candidate debate, and Roger Abramson explains the reasons for Hilleary's performance:

1. He does not have the intellectual capacity to discuss anything beyond one or two "issues" at a time. Sorry, Van fans, but that's just a fact.
2. He's going to lose. And he knows it.

The first of these is unquestionably correct, and the latter is almost certainly so. Anyone who saw Hilleary run against Bredeson in 2004 knows that he is not up to the task of being a United States Senator.

A City School Year

Kat Coble argues that our decidedly non-agrarian society no longer needs school calendars dictated by the concerns of the farm. Her call for a year round school calendar is exactly right.

In addition to the arguments she makes, I would add that under the current system children spend the first 1/4 of the school year reviewing what they learned the year before and forgot over a summer filled all too often with television and video games. One of Coble's commenters argued that some children need the extended summer to catch up with their classmates, but by and large that argument fails to coalesce with reality. Few children spend much time during the summer reviewing their math and science lessons.

Another of her commenters seems to feel that the school year should function as a jobs program for tourist businesses. Leaving aside the fact that the number of school days will remain the same and will only be spaced differently, this misses the point that the school year should serve the needs of school children, not those of Walt Disney.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Humble Challenge for Improvement

I am going to write a post critical of A.C. Kleinheider at Volunteer Voters. Please be aware, though, that my intent is not to express dislike for Kleinheider. It is only frustration, and I would like to see him do better. Kleinheider is a potentially talented writer with a sharp mind and a ready wit. He can manage to be biting, yet likeable. But he also with way too much frequency writes stuff like this:

Today, conservatism is about power. The conservative movement has essentially made its peace with the status quo. It has made it's peace with not just big government but centralized government. Sure, they will rail against the Left and use the power of the fedgov to do so, but is that really conservatism?

Please be aware that my frustration with Kleinheider has nothing to do with the fact that he criticizes conservatism. I would be just as aggravated if he wrote like this about liberals.

Sure, other people write like this, too; but when it is done by mundane writers of limited ability, I just ignore it and stop reading them after I realize that it is all they have. These words provide no analysis and say nothing of value. The vain resort to generalization and demonized motives requires no thought. It is intellectually lazy.

"Conservatism is about power?" "The conservative movement has essentially made its peace with the status quo?" The term "conservatism" takes in varied groups -- both geographically and ideologically diverse -- with sometimes differing views. Are those for whom "conservatism is about power" social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, libertarian conservatives, neo-conservatives, classical liberals, crunchy conservatives, paleoconservatives, or some other sort of group to whom the noun conservative may apply with an appropriate adjective? Are these conservatives in Washington only, or do those in state capitols count, or is an ideological conservative in Bucksnort also about power? And, when a conservative (perhaps even one in Washington or at FOX News) rails against a conservative Congress because he thinks that they are unprincipled on spending or some other issue, does that make the critical conservative to be not about power, or is he only seeking to gain power from a conservative who already has it?

Generalizations and claims to know motives ("conservatism is about power." Really? You mean no conservatives really are "about" issues they rightly or wrongly believe in?) are unimaginative and clumsy mimics of real political commentary. Kleinheider is capable of better. One hopes that he will learn to provide it consistently.

Iraq War Justified

For an able refutation of the bromides that opponents of the Iraq War repeat again and again, see John Fund here.

Lotts of Pork

Unrepentant porkbarrell advocate Trent Lott has a name for his colleagues who favor limited government: "troublemakers."

From The Hill:

“Writing the language [for a spending reform bill] in such a way that gets done what we want to accomplish has been very difficult,” Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), chairman of the Rules Committee, said yesterday. “You don’t want to make it possible for troublemakers to tie up conference reports at the end of a session indefinitely with points of order.”

Whatever one thinks of Lott on other issues, he is no friend of anyone who believes in limited government.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

If They Can't Stand the Heat, They'll Adjourn

Professor proposes a means for conserving energy, reducing carbon emissions, and reducing the size of big government: ban air conditioning in Washington.

Read the rest here.

Turow's Favorites

Scott Turow, who has written a few pretty good legal thrillers himself (my favorite is Presumed Innocent), lists his five favorite modern novels set in the legal world here.

Of the five, I have only read To Kill a Mockingbird. I will have to include some of the others in my next book order.

Congressional Privilege

A grand jury has declined to indict Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) for hitting a capitol hill police officer in March.

The chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Fraternal Order of Police said that the organization was "extremely disappointed," and added, "We feel this sends the wrong message out across America that it is ok to hit a police officer, when in fact it is not."

It is not unless you are a Congressman.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Former Bredeson and Gore Aide Kopp Takes Disgust to New Level

Democratic consultant, and former aide to Al Gore and Phil Bredeson, Mike Kopp seems to find a way periodically to raise his head into the Nashville blogosphere seemingly for the sole purpose of proving that there is nothing that is beneath him. Nathan Moore and Bob Krumm state thoughts that any humane person would agree with.

Note also at Krumm's site the comment by "Sharon" noting the pathetic irony of liberals using alleged lesbianism (at least John Edwards knew Dick Cheney's daughter was a lesbian; as A.C. Kleinheider points out, we have no idea of the context of the photo of Corker's daughter) for the sole purpose of inciting what they would regard as bigotry. If only Nixon could go to China, I suppose that only despicable, lowlife rattlesnakes such as Kopp can stoop to these levels. But, perhaps Kopp did it because he looked into the eyes of all of the little lesbian girls in his neighborhood and felt he needed to say something (sorry to those folks who haven't followed Kopp's previous controversies -- that one refers to one of Kopp's less than sincere moments in a previous one.)

I apologize to rattlesnakes everywhere.

Update: See also John Hutcheson here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Light Blogging Here; Filling in Elsewhere

In all likelihood, posting here will be light the next several days. Mark Rose has graciously asked me to be one of two guest bloggers at Right Minded while he goes to take in some Phillies games. Will it constitute abuse of my privilege if I post a bunch of Cincinnati Reds commentary?

Don't worry, Mark, I won't. At this point, it would just be too depressing.

"How Clumsy of Me. I Meant to Accuse You."

The indomitable A.C. Kleinheider catches the blogger at Forward with Ford not managing to understand the context of a statement by John Kasich. The former Congressman from Ohio said this:

No Democrat running in a close race in America--no Democrat running in a close race is going to advocate higher taxes. That's just a fact. You look at Harold Ford's behavior in Tennessee, and that's a road map as to how to be a successful Democrat and give yourself a chance to win.

As Kleinheider pointed out, the statement praises Ford more for cleverness than principle. However, Forward with Ford failed to note the subtle swipe. The Ford blogger took umbrage in commenting on Kleinheider's post. He is evidently upset that Kleinheider previously called him out over a rather silly statement claiming small town bona fides due to his having grown up in Brentwood.

The Ford blogger complains that "the website of a major media outlet" is "nitpicking" him. But Kleinheider's job is to be a political blogger with an emphasis on the local, and Forward with Ford is a local blog for a U.S. Senate candidate. Rather than criticizing Kleinheider, the Ford blogger should work on improving the quality of his thought.

Liberals for Lock Step Conformity

If the following paragraph (found here) describes the mindset of a sizable minority of Democrats, the party's chances are doomed in 2008:

Before the sun had even come up, AlterNet transmitted its daily electronic update to liberal shock troops prominently featuring an article by Norman Solomon declaring himself “befuddled” at Clinton’s invitation to the conference, insisting that those who actually believe she is a “progressive” could “mostly be divided into two categories — those who are Fox-News-attuned enough to believe any non-Republican is a far leftist, and those who are left-leaning but don’t realize how viciously opportunistic Sen. Clinton has been.” Further, Solomon added, striking fear into the hearts of all who believe Clinton is plenty progressive enough, “In the interests of truth-in-labeling, shouldn’t Hillary Clinton be described as anti-progressive?”

Democrats on the far left hold Mrs. Clinton in the same regard that Republicans think of David Brock, a betrayer thought of in terms normally associated with Benedict Arnold and Alger Hiss. The difference is that Brock moved from hard core conservative to liberal bombthrower in the span of a single book. Clinton has merely moved from hard core liberal to.... To what? Wanting to appear moderate?

Fortunately for Democrats, though some may not think it fortunate, both the boos for Clinton and the cheers for John Kerry have been widely over-reported. For more context, see here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Don't Know Nothing 'bout History

Chester E. Finn, Jr. links to and discusses the recently published Fordham Institute study on the "State of State World History Standards." The report finds the standards in most of the states to be lacking. Only 8 states received A's; 33 received D's and F's. Finn points out that such poor standards are unacceptable in a world where American children need to know about Mexico, Iran, and China, to give a few examples, in order to understand the world in which they live.

As Finn notes, poorly written state standards for world history hinder the development of appropriate curricula and the execution of good teaching. Of course, this makes a bad beginning on a problem that only gets worse. If the level of instruction -- this includes curriculum and other issues besides the ability of the teacher -- in the average public school classroom is poor, then the teaching of history generally, and world history particularly, is abysmal. Many public schools have rightly figured out that they need to hire highly qualified, appropriately educated professionals to teach math and science courses, but for high school history, any semi-literate football coach will do. Students who take history with a teacher who last opened a book in the middle of third grade are not likely to get excited about the people and ideas that made the world what it is in our day.

Of course, many people consider subjects such as history to be marginally relevant. That is true for one going through life as someone who never bothers to think beyond his narrow corner of a neighborhood. For those who would think more broadly, history is an enormously important part of the educational experience.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Congressional Privileges Act

The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal predicts that a bi-partisan majority in Congress will overwhelmingly approve an extension of the Voting Rights Act. However, they will not do so because they believe that all of its provisions remain necessary; they will do so because some of those provisions serve as powerful tools for protecting incumbents from challenges.

Read it here.

Will Familiarity Breed Contempt?

The recently concluded Yearly Kos convention brought the DailyKos to the notice of much of the non-blogging public for the first time. The number of Democratic politicians paying attention to the Kos phenomenon guarantees an increase in mainstream media attention in the near future. Byron York suggests that as the general public begins to get to know about the DailyKos, and in particular about some of the more controversial statements of its founder, they will not like what they see.

Race Should Not Count

Today's Tennessean editorial unfortunately reveals the continuing attachment of some on the left in advocating racial discrimination. The editorial goes claims that schools "need" a way "to see that schools reflect the diversity in the city, not just in the immediate neighborhood."

Need? Of all of the needs of city school systems, that would not be at the top of my list. And, why stop at the city level? Perhaps we should make sure that every school reflects the diversity of the country? Or, if diversity is the ultimate academic goal, why stop at the nation's borders? We could be sure to fly in a few students from Mongolia to make sure that we get the requisite number to reflect the world population.

The beginning point of the editorial is that a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court case involving the University of Michigan law school proved that "race matters." Yes, and that opinion, written by Justice O'Connor, looks no better today than it did three years ago. In fact, for both constitutional and social reasons, race should matter less. The Tennessean would have us believe that applicants to attend a school should put their race on an application so that the school can get the requisite number of each. In fact, applications should not include race at all. If those making choices don't know the race of the students, one won't know until they show up what number of them are of what ethnicity. It should not matter.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Right Minded blogger Mark Rose commends Salem's Lots as a left of center blog worth reading.

He is right. Both in terms of quality as a blogger and quality as a human being, the blogger there is a class act.

Gore to Run?

George Will says that Al Gore's interview on "This Week" last Sunday clearly signaled that Gore intends to run for President "if Gore means what he is saying, and he seems painfully sincere."

Will's recounting of some of Gore's statements reveals why he should not and will not be President, regardless of his Captain Ahab-like sincerity on global warming.

Kos Goes to War

This Washington Post report from the Yearly Kos convention includes a couple of quotes that are too good to pass up.

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga says about his movement, "I think Democratic politicians -- I don't know whether slowly or quickly -- are realizing that we aren't these far-leftist, naïve and young political extremists...." If so, those politicians are right. Many of them are not young.

Meanwhile, Tom Mattzie of, speaking of the "net-roots activist community," declares, "They want Democrats to stand up and fight. They don't want Neville Chamberlain Democrats; they want Muhammad Ali Democrats."

Actually, these Democrats are much like Neville Chamberlain's party. Chamberlain only wanted to avoid fighting the external enemy -- Hitler. He was more than willing to take on and dismiss Churchill as an intemperate imperialist hawk.

But no one can say that these Democrats won't fight. Unfortunately, they will only fight other Americans.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Five Favorite Bios

Rudolph Guiliani lists his five favorite biographies here. Is it overly cynical to accuse Giuliani of pandering by listing books by JFK and about Reagan among his favorites?

Here are my top five:

The Last Lion Alone (Churchill), Manchester
Alexander Hamilton, Chernow
Jonathan Edwards, Marsden
John Adams, McCollough
Lincoln, David Donald

They Are Crazy, Aren't They?

Perhaps with this article on the Yearly Kos convention the New York Times believed it was making fun of bloggers, but it seems to me that they are just making fun of liberal Democrats.

The NYT minimizing Kos would be a little bit like the Village Voice ripping hippies in the 1960's.

Hat Tip: Althouse

Condoleeza Rice at SBC?

Condoleeza Rice, who reportedly is not interested in running for President and who is said to favor abortion rights, has been invited to speak at the Southern Baptist Convention.

That creates all sorts of questions.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Dems Warning Dems

Some fairly clear-sighted Democrats are trying to warn the party that they are on the wrong track:

Thomas Friedman (by way of Ann Althouse):

What the polls show is largely the result of President Bush's incompetent performance in Iraq, rather than the emergence of a convincing Democratic national security message or group of candidates respected on defense....What Zarqawi and the recently arrested group of terrorists in Canada remind us of is that, whatever you think about the Iraq war, open societies today are threatened by these utterly ruthless jihadists. Many Americans feel that. If Democrats want to really seize control of the national security issue, they must persuade the country — in its gut — that they have a convincing post-Iraq strategy to rally the world against these Islamo-totalitarians.

James Carville and Stan Greenberg (HT: Real Clear Politics):

If the Democrats and challengers fail to show voters something more, this disillusionment could show itself in fragmentation to smaller parties and more likely, a stay-at-home protest. The current measures of potential Democratic turnout and enthusiasm are not impressive. And while it is likely that a low turnout election will hurt Republicans more than Democrats, a stay-away protest vote could also cut into the margin Democrats might have achieved.

All of this is good advice that I am guessing the dominant party activists will ignore.

The "Paris Hilton of Conservatism"

The Evangelical Outpost has this take on "the couthless Coulter:"

Judging from book sales, LaShawn [Barber] isn’t the only one who appreciates “Coulter-Shtick.” But what I wonder is what will her admirers think when she taps out the conservative market and pulls a David Brock-style conversion to liberalism in order to sell even more books. Make no mistake: Coulter is playing you all for patsies.

I don't know that Coulter will ever convert to liberalism, but when you draw a crowd by being shocking, you can only maintain the crowd by increasing the shock. Eventually, the act wears thin. In Coulter's case, it won't be soon enough.

Succeeding Annan at the UN

Roger Simon has a "modest proposal" as to who should be the next leader of the United Nations. Given its level of integrity and transparency, Simon suggests Jack Abramoff.

That's not a bad idea. While leading the organization, he could comment on the American treatment of prisoners based on direct experience.

I Only Ask These Questions When Exhausted

Powerline passes along a story that an organization descriptively named The World Naked Bike Ride will be protesting in 25 cities world wide against international oil consumption.

There are many reasons that none of those cities will be in Saudi Arabia.

Why is it that the number of virgins that a community of men commonly believes they may have upon death is inversely proportional to the amount of clothing they believe women must wear in public during this life?

No Credit Even When Due

Conservative satirist Scrappleface "reports" today that Democrats "are still optimistic" in spite of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Scrappleface writes satire well, meaning that he manages to write with a kind of humor that has a bit of reality and is biting, yet not quite cruel. This little piece captures a thought that I have had at various points in the war and that is manifest in this incident.

Why can't opponents of the administration admit that something good has happened every once in a while? After all, even a clock that doesn't run is right twice a day. Why is there a need to hunt for negativity, even when the news is good?

This is actually one of the reasons the Democrats lost in 2004. They made the strategic mistake of only opposing Bush, with no coherent alternative strategy. In doing so, they positioned themselves so that any good news on the war effort was bad news for the Democrats. One may oppose Bush and agree that such a course was strategically stupid.

Don't get me wrong: I don't expect those opposed to the war to suddenly declare that they have seen the light. However, one indication of maturity is the ability to see that even those with whom we differ are sometimes good, and partisanship has bred much childishness. Why can't opponents of the war say something like this:

"I think the war was misguided and wrong. I think that the conduct of the war has been mismanaged. I think American soldiers have died needlessly. I think Rumsfield, Bush, and all the rest are incompetent. I would put Mickey Mouse in charge of foreign policy and the military before I trust these guys. But the U.S. military successfully nailed a terrorist and mass murderer, and that is a good thing."

I'm sure that some have managed that, but not most. Many on the left feel compelled to spin away, saying that, sure they got a target, but it doesn't make any difference and who cares.

That is just knee-jerk anti-Bush think -- reflexive, but not reflective.


If one wanted to be snide, he might suggest that this poster reveals that if a Democrat looks around for a usable picture of an American flag, the only place he can find one to copy is on a Republican campaign poster. If the same Democrat is sloppy, he might forget to remove certain distinguishing logos.

But since the Oracle is not snide, I won't suggest it.

Hat Tip: Kleinheider

How Do You Get Hooligans to Peacefully Disperse?

Sydney, Australia has a plan: play loud Barry Manilow music, and the thugs go away.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

Repeal the Death Tax

The Tennessean editorializes against the repeal of the estate tax, and in doing so it presents two contradictory arguments. On the one hand, the editorial declares that it affects so many people that it has minimal impact and that it is not necessary to repeal it. On the other, it claims that the tax brings in so much money that the government cannot do without it.

The most fundamental argument against the death tax is that it is blatantly unfair to punish people for dying. The government taxes people when they make money, when they use that money to buy something, and when they make money by saving it. That the government feels the need to take more for dying is the ultimate indignity. In addition, as I pointed out a couple of days ago, the death tax has little impact on the super rich; it primarily impacts the newly and moderately wealthy.

In fact, one example of the super wealthy, Warren Buffett, who is often cited as unselfish because of his support for the continuation of the estate tax, actually profits from it. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, has made much of its money by buying family businesses which were forced to be sold quickly at below market value so that heirs of an estate could pay the death taxes. In addition, Berkshire Hathaway is the majority owner of a life insurance company that makes much money by selling insurance to wealthy individuals concerned to leave enough cash to their heirs to pay the estate taxes.

What about The Tennessean's argument that the government cannot afford to lose death tax revenue? The editorial argues that the repeal will cost the government $1 trillion over 10 years. That's a lot of money, but it is only around 3% of the federal budget over that period of time. In addition, the real problem with the federal budget at this time is the failure of Congress and the Bush administration to control spending. President Clinton's final proposed budget, for budget year 2001, was nearly $1.84 trillion. President Bush's proposed budget for budget year 2007 is $2.77 trillion. That is an astounding 51% increase. Much of this increase is not accountable to the Iraq War. Indeed, the reality of the war should have, but did not, created a motivation for controlling non-defense spending. Non-defense spending has grown at about the same rate as the total budget.

That the Bush administration and the Republican controlled Congress have so expanded the size of government is scandalous to conservatives who hold to principles of limited government. That many Democrats accuse the President of spending too little boggles the mind.

The growth in government spending, not the existence of the death tax, points to the fact that the real need for the future is governmental restraint, not continued, unfair taxes.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Vulgar Punditry Exposed

Ed Morrissey on Ann Coulter's interview with Matt Lauer:

However, if one ever needed proof that the political spectrum resembles a circle where the extremes meet, this should provide it. In fact, it reminded me of another pundit whom the Left lionizes and the Right reviles: Ted Rall. Why Rall? Three years ago, Rall made essentially the same point in one of his crude cartoons and got rightly panned for it. It became one of the reasons that the Washington Post ended its association with Rall in 2004.

Whether Rall or Coulter says it, impugning the grief felt by 9/11 widows regardless of their politics is nothing short of despicable. It denies them their humanity and disregards the very public and horrific nature of their spouses' deaths. The attacks motivated a lot of us to become more active in politics in order to make sure our voices contribute to the debate, and it is impossible to argue that the 9/11 widows (and widowers, and children, and parents) have less standing to opine on foreign policy than Ann Coulter or Ted Rall.

In spite of her fan base, Coulter and other acerbic right wing pundits like her do not help the conservative movement. They reinforce the caricature that conservatives are mean spirited. The other unfortunate fact about Coulter is that she is a bright woman capable of better, but she seems to have chosen to rise to prominence by means of shock commentary. In that sense, she could be compared to a talented comedian that relies on the cheap shock value of vulgarity instead of the more intelligent and subtle use of his comedic gifts.

Washington Lobbyists Hoping for Return to Business as Usual

An interesting report in The Hill suggests that defense lobbyists have concerns that negative publicity regarding earmarks will adversely impact their clients in this election year, and that any earmark reform might negatively affect them in the years to come. Anyone who understands the process will hope that it is so.

As the report points out, legislators looking to add earmarks into defense appropriations bills are not considering the needs of the Pentagon -- the Pentagon did not request these projects. Rather, they are considering the needs of firms in their respective districts. I am reminded of one of my first experiences watching C-Span back in the 1980's. Senator Phil Gramm spoke at length in opposition to an amendment that would require the Pentagon to purchase coal to be sent to installations in Europe. Gramm pointed out that not only did the Pentagon not request the coal, they were not even allowed to use it in Europe under the laws in the countries to which it would be sent. Gramm said that coal purchased and delivered in previous years was piled along the railroad tracks in the military installations.

The amendment was sponsored by Robert Byrd, whose state provided the coal and who was at the time the Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee -- to which the other Senators looked for money for their own districts' goodies. Gramm's points were not refuted during the debate, but the amendment passed overwhelmingly.

According to the article, defense lobbyists "hope that when the November election is over they can get back more or less to business as usual." That is a reminder of the new for porkbusting vigilance.

Nashville Newspaper Opposes Free Speech

An editorial in today's Tennessean criticizes the Federal Election Commission. That agency, by a vote of 4-2 (with three Democrats comprising most of the majority), declined to revise its rules governing the "527 groups" that became prominent following the passage of the McCain Feingold Act.

The Tennessean complains that 527s should be more regulated, because "527s have become the stomping ground for wealthy individuals with specific political agendas." The editorial goes on to complain about the impact of "fat cats."

It is interesting that the newspaper doesn't even bother to claim that contributions to 527s are driven by greedy self-interest. Rather, it acknowledges that they are made to further "specific political agendas." The paper also admits that those agendas are not monolithic: significantly more money was contributed in support of liberal causes, but large sums went to conservative groups, as well. I am not sure at what point The Tennessean believes that wealthy individuals give up their First Amendment right to engage in political speech, but they clearly would deprive them of that right.

One might also point out that The Tennessean is owned by Gannett, which many of those in the masses would consider to be a "fat cat" -- some might even say obese. Perhaps tomorrow the newspaper will editorialize in favor of regulations restricting the role of newspaper conglomerates in political campaigns. Those restrictions should not cover content, but they should cover the amount of money that can be spent in covering those campaigns.

I didn't think so. The only First Amendment rights that seemingly don't count are those of the other guy.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Who Helps; Who Hurts

Ann Althouse has a poignant post on the different approaches and effects of the right and left wing blogospheres. I think she is exactly right in her conclusions on all counts.

Read it here.

Scientific and Moral Change

For an interesting discussion of evolving attitudes toward abortion in the United States and Europe, see John O'Sullivan here.

25 Years of AIDS

George Will has a column today marking the 25th anniversary of the first Centers for Disease Control announcement that a new, mysterious, and fatal disease -- HIV -- had entered the United States. Will points out that politicizing illness resulted in increasing the number of deaths:

The U.S. epidemic, which through 2004 had killed 530,000, could have been greatly contained by intense campaigns to modify sexual and drug-use behavior in 25 to 30 neighborhoods from New York and Miami to San Francisco. But early in the American epidemic, political values impeded public health requirements. Unhelpful messages were sent by slogans designed to democratize the disease -- "AIDS does not discriminate" and "AIDS is an equal opportunity disease."

By 1987, when President Ronald Reagan gave his first speech on the subject, 20,798 Americans had died, and his speech, not surprisingly, did not mention any connection to the gay community. No president considers it part of his job description to tell the country that the human rectum, with its delicate and absorptive lining, makes anal-receptive sexual intercourse dangerous when HIV is prevalent.

It is sadly ironic that concerns that the association of HIV with homosexuals would lead to violations of their civil rights resulted in policies and rhetoric that escalated the loss of the most basic human right -- that of life.

Will also points out that while the vast majority of victims of HIV in the United States have been homosexuals, in Africa it is mostly a heterosexual disease. While the loss of life remains too high everywhere, its fatality rate is decreasing -- partly due to medical advances, partly due to social changes. However, those improved outcomes raise the possibility that at risk populations could become more careless.

I would add that the failure of private groups in the west to care about the enormous loss of life in Africa (up to 1/4 of the population is infected) should embarrass us. The Irish rocker Bono has been one of the few public figures trying to drive interest in alleviating the calamity there.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Tax on the Moderately Rich

Professor Bainbridge points out that the federal estate tax, whatever its intentions, has little impact on the super-rich, but punishes small business owners and others who have done well and saved, but who never thought of themselves as risk.

I once sat in front of a man who nearly broke down in tears, as he described his father's land being sold to pay capitol gains and estate taxes upon his death. It was not the money that his family regretted losing; it was the property that had memories for them. The deceased could have used the various accounting gimmicks available to prevent the loss, but he had no idea that he needed to.

Unsolicited Advice on Migration/Immigration

Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan uses the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal in an attempt to interfere with U.S. domestic policy. The effort will not be appreciated.

Dumb Criminals?

In this instance, it is actually a dumb political spy. Robert Kahne, who is evidently a vice president of the College Democrats at the University of Kentucky and a volunteer for Democratic candidate for Congress John Yarmuth, used a fake name in an attempt to infiltrate the campaign of Yarmuth's opponent, incumbent Republican Anne Northrup. Kahne was discovered when someone recognized his face from an internet photo. Another clue was Kahne's use of his real e-mail address, which includes his real first initial and last name, on his application.

Yarmuth's campaign denies having any knowledge of the stunt.

Send Some Ointment to Daughtrey

Roger Abramson successfully blisters Larry Daughtrey for his "phoned in political column" in yesterday's Tennessean. While Daughtrey occasionally writes a column that includes interesting information and analysis, most of the time he only seems to confuse generalized rants with political commentary.

Some local pundits rave about the long-time Tennessee political columnist's insider contacts at Legislative Plaza. That may be, but has there ever been a time when Daughtrey consistently wrote well. He hasn't in the few years the Music City Oracle has paid attention to the local scene.

Nattering Nabobs of Negativity

The Music City Oracle has previously opined that negative campaigning can be a valid means for a candidate to differentiate himself from a political opponent; however, some negative campaigning is clearly below the belt. Thus, Blogging for Bryant, relying on an article that appeared in The Chattanooga Times Free Press, claims that Bob Corker nearly 20 years ago "used illegal aliens while building his personal financial fortune." While that sounds like a serious matter for Corker, the truth turns out to be rather innocuous. Based on the article, there is no allegation that Corker or the company he owned used any illegal workers. Rather, the report asserts that the company partly owned by Corker hired a subcontractor as part of a major construction project who turned out to have been using illegal workers. There is no indication that either Corker or his company knowingly did anything wrong.

The Music City Oracle at this time plans to vote for Bryant, so there is no ax to grind here in favor of Corker. However, I note that Bryant and Hilleary supporters, in particular, seem to be resorting to these tactics. Whether effective or ineffective in discrediting Corker, the tactics, not some irrelevant illegal workers from a generation ago, are demeaning to those who employ them.

The Paper of Irrelevance

Yesterday, I chided The Tennessean for editorializing on an issue that had last been in the news more than a week before. Today, the paper of record in Nashville manages to go back slightly further into the history books to find fodder for its opinion making. The editorial concerns the state senate's rejection of a raise in the minimum wage. The General Assembly adjourned more than a week ago.

The Tennessean's editorial page is frequently criticized among conservatives for being biased. I have never shared in that criticism, because that page is the one place in the paper where bias is clearly appropriate. However, the editorial page of The Tennessean, by virtue of its inability to offer opinion on current issues addressed articulately and quickly by numerous bloggers before the newspaper manages to get to it, doesn't manage even to be relevant.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

When This Late, Might as Well Be Never

The Tennessean has an editorial this morning criticizing the state General Assembly for sneaking through a last minute amendment increasing their own pensions. The editorial runs more than a week after the event occurred.

Nearly every political blogger opined on this issue a week ago -- I started to go look for all of the links, but, frankly, they are now buried deep in bloggers' archives, and it would probably take me 8 days to find and link to them all. I hate to keep criticizing the local paper of record on this issue (no, really, I do), but frankly there is no point in having an editorial page that addresses issues a week after every writer in the region has already written on it.

Yes, the editorial page is just getting to an issue that is already buried deep in the archives of the area's most articulate opinion writers.

For my new readers (one can dream, no?), I previously pointed out the same problem with the paper.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

According to Who?

Nathan Moore notes that A.C. Kleinheider at WKRN's Volunteer Voters has in recent days linked to and excerpted from two anarchists, including one who argued that every U.S. soldier who died for his country in the history of the country represented a "colossal waste." Moore is right in stating that the lack of further comment on these excerpts implies tacit approval.

This continues a disturbing trend by Kleinheider of making use of sources from the lunatic fringe, either without comment or with favorable comment. In addition to anarchists, Kleinheider has made use of anti-Semites and Nazi war criminals.

The charitable view is that Kleinheider's pathological hatred of all things Bush impairs his judgment in choosing allies. The less charitable view is somewhat darker. Because he appears to be a reasonably nice guy, we will choose to take the charitable view unless further evidence requires otherwise. Nonetheless, it can be wished that he would be more careful.

Strategy for Schools for the Needy

The Music City Oracle has not viewed favorably previous Southern Baptist Convention resolutions, never adopted, that would encourage parents to remove their children from public schools. However, a resolution for the denomination's agencies to have "an exit strategy from the public schools that would give particular attention to the needs of orphans, single parents, and the disadvantaged," is more intriguing. Churches have been much too prone to leave the inner cities and relocate themselves in comfortable suburbs. If churches would make efforts to re-engage their cities and address children deprived of opportunity by the inadequacies of inner city public education, they would provide a valuable ministry.

Marvin Olasky discusses the resolution and his own involvement with such a school here.

Pro Pork Congressman Zach Wamp

In a report on Republican infighting in Washington, The Hill reports that Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp has openly criticized other Republicans for attempting on the floor of the House to remove pork spending from a military spending bill two weeks ago. Wamp and his colleague, John Carter of Texas, told other Republicans, presumably with a straight face, that they should work through conservatives on the Appropriations Committee. Of course, members of that committee are known for greasing the wheels of the pork barrel, not putting up obstacles.
Carter also added that he didn't think a military spending bill "was a good place to pick a fight." Evidently, he doesn't see that it is not a good place to sneak in unnecessary and unrelated spending.

Friday, June 02, 2006

New York's Legislative "Cesspool"

If misery loves company, those of us in Tennessee feeling blue over the shenanigans of our legislators may find comfort in the misdeeds of those in other states. John Milgrim, who writes for the Ottaway News Service, is in the midst of a series of columns on the prevalence of the "seven deadly sins" in the New York State Assembly. Today's subject, lust, has no shortage of material to work with. According to Milgrim, in 2004, following the alleged rape of a 19 year old intern by an Assemblyman, "Albany's former district attorney warned parents their daughters weren't safe when the legislature was in town." The DA went on to say, "Any father who would let his daughter be an intern in the State Legislature should have his head examined. I'm not going to call the place a cesspool, but I can say there is a group of legislators who, quite honestly, are here to get paid $80,000 a year and party three nights a week and who don't contribute anything to the process."

By the way, the assemblyman claimed that both the alleged rape of the intern and another one alleged by a 38 year old woman were consensual. After the charges were dropped, he was re-elected.

There's much more here. One suspects that this sort of activity, and the good old boy system that protects it, goes on in more state legislatures than we would care to admit.

Moving On

Jonah Goldberg opines on the horribly hamhanded Hastert response to the FBI raid on Rep. William Jefferson's office:

The House GOP is under a cloud of corruption thanks to the Jack Abramoff and Randy “Duke” Cunningham cases. This cloud could cost them their majority come November. But when a high-ranking Democrat is caught stashing $90K next to his Mrs. Paul’s frozen fish sticks, the Republicans could have changed the subject from GOP corruption to Democratic corruption; instead, they opted to go with curtain No. 2 and change the subject to GOP arrogance and stupidity.

Indeed, this act may be the last straw that causes the Republican to lose the House. In the 1990's, they lost the White House to the charismatic William Jefferson Clinton. In this decade, they may lose the House by their response to the corrupt William Jefferson.

Krumm Calls for Transparency

State senate candidate Bob Krumm has an outstanding and enormously important post today regarding the need for transparency in government. Krumm writes:

We also both recognize that under the current legislative leadership, we don’t get that open, fair debate that all should expect under our form of government. We get wedge issues instead of discussion, rhetoric instead of compromise, and confusion instead of clarity. No one is served well by such a system. No one, except for those who run the system. They apparently are serving themselves quite well.

For anyone who cares more for public policy than political gamesmanship (that is to say, for almost all ordinary citizens who pay attention), Krumm is absolutely and indisputably correct. Legislators and political consultants who talk about wedge issues or who feel the need to sneak backdoor deals into law not only talk and behave unethically, but they show disdain for voters who truly care about this or that issue. Serious policy issues in any area are not wedges, they are causes for which people care. That politicians in Washington are now discussing the possibility of making ethics a wedge issue in the fall elections sickens the soul of anyone who cares about ethics.

Elections involving people such as Bob Krumm will test whether enough people are paying attention to choose transparency over cynical manipulation.

Even if Krumm were on the opposite side of the fence, I would make an argument that we need people like him in government.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bombshell or Expected?

The report in The Tennessean on the opening day of the trial of former state legislator Roscoe Dixon begins thusly: "Even before Operation Tennessee Waltz, state legislators were trading their influence for cash, prosecutors say."

"Even before?" Really? Wow, you don't say.

The headline even calls this "a bombshell," but I can't imagine why. The testimony may have been dramatic, but no one should have imagined that the subjects of this sting had never involved themselves in this type of activity before. Did anyone really think that the FBI launched a bribery sting geared toward legislators who had never been suspected of taking bribes?

Evidently a reporter at The Tennessean thought so.

That's the sort of writing that gives currency to this.