Thursday, November 29, 2007

Questions to Make the Candidates Squirm

From last night's debate (transcript via Amanda Carpenter):

  • In the event that abortion becomes illegal and a woman obtains an abortion anyway, what should she be charged with, and what should her punishment be? What about the doctor who performs the abortion?
  • All the talk about the war in Iraq centers around how quickly we can get out. I think that's the wrong question. We need to make a permanent or long-term military commitment to the region. By staying in Iraq, we provide long-term stability to the region, we provide support for our allies, and we act as a deterrent to the trouble-makers in the region. Which presidential candidate will make a permanent of long-term military commitment to the people of Iraq?
  • I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.
  • On a variety of specific issues—gay marriage, taxes, the death penalty, immigration, faith-based initiatives, school vouchers, school prayermany African Americans hold fairly conservative views. And yet, we overwhelmingly vote Democrat in most elections. So my question to any of the Republican candidates here is, why don't we vote for you?
  • Governor Huckabee, while governor of Arkansas, you gave a illegal aliens a discount for college in Arkansas by allow them to pay lower in-state tuition rates. However, we have thousands of military members currently serving our country in Iraq with children at home. If these children chose to move to Arkansas to attend college, they would have to pay three times the tuition rate that illegal aliens pay. Would you support a federal law which would require any state that gives these tuition rates to illegal aliens to give the same rates to the children of our military members?
  • This question is for Ron Paul. I've met a lot of your supporters online, but I've noticed that a good number of them seem to buy into this conspiracy theory regarding the Council of Foreign Relations, and some plan to make a North American union by merging the United States with Canada and Mexico. These supporters of yours seem to think that you also believe in this theory. So my question to you is: Do you really believe in all this, or are people just putting words in your mouth?

  • Any of you all want to tell us about your gun collection, roughly how many you own, what your favorite make, model and caliber is, if any of them require a tax stamp?

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Should We Question a Presidential Candidate's Religious Beliefs?

Those running for president are asking us them to trust them with the launch codes to the world’s most powerful and largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. Surely, then, it’s perfectly appropriate to question their judgment.

The most controversial of these judgments concerns—ironically—the candidates’ most cherished beliefs, which is to say their religious convictions.

Let’s get the caveats out of the way: The candidates are running to be our president, not our priest, so whether they say grace or how often they attend church is inconsequential.

Yet since each one has professed to be a person of deeply felt faith, they have all thereby invited us to probe what that means.

Not because, as Christopher Hitchens would have it, religion is evil—from far it—but because anything—be it religion, a book or even a wife—which a candidates claims significantly informs his thinking, warrants scrutiny.

Update (12/7/07): John Dickerson points out another paradox:

[Mitt Romney] claim[s] that for voters to ask questions about his faith runs afoul of the founders' prohibition against religious tests for office. But the legal prohibition refers to government barring people from becoming a candidate or holding office. It does not bar voters from considering religion as they make their choices.


Also, the WSJ observes that evangelical bigotry toward Mormons is grossly misplaced:

Mormons seem the very embodiment of "family values," and you couldn't invent a religious culture that lived more consistently with Biblical messages. Broadly speaking, most Mormons have, and come from, big families; they're regular churchgoers and give to charity; they don't drink, smoke, gamble or engage in premarital sex. On the scale of American problems, the Mormons don't even register.

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On the GOP YouTube Debate

1. Playing Devil's advocate for a minute, why is it such a big deal that a Hillary operative got to ask the Republican candidates a question without disclosing his affiliation? Why does this render his question worthless? Should we exclude anybody who's aligned with a campaign?

2. Some of the questions were silly—the introductory song, the Bible, the Confederate flag—but I actually thought many of them were excellent: Specific, pointed and interesting.

3. Anderson Cooper did a poor job moderating: He failed to stop Rudy and Romney from monopolizing the debate's first five minutes; he allowed McCain to attack Ron Paul on foreign policy during a question about the fair tax; and, by deciding which candidates got which questions, he turned potentially hard-hitting questions into softballs (Huckabee, the former minister, on the Bible; Duncan Hunter, whom the NRA rates an A+, on gun control; Thompson, a self-declared federalist, on banning abortion at the federal level).

4. On Fred: (1) Interesting video, but surely it speaks poorly of him that he used his time to attack others instead of even mentioning—let alone touting—himself. (2) ATR documents his hypocrisy in taking an anti-amnesty pledge—during the debate—but refusing to take a no-new-taxes pledge. (3) It's inexcusable that a self-proclaimed federalist couldn't name three government programs he'd remove or reduce.

5. Why can't CNN enlarge the videos on its big screen?

Update: Ed Morrisey fleshes out my first point:

Bad journalistic practices? Definitely yes. But does that negate the questions themselves? I don't think so. The CNN/YouTube format closely parallels that of the traditional town-hall forum. For the most part, attendees do not get vetted at these events either, nor should they. After all, while a primary usually involves voters of one party, the entire nation has a stake in the selection of the nominees. If Hillary Clinton held a town hall in my community, I should have an opportunity to question her about her positions on issues without pledging a loyalty oath to do so.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Good Old Ron Paul

From 1988, on the Morton Downey show, when Paul was running for president as a Libertarian:



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Best Positions in Bed

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The Daily Digest


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Your Dream Jobs on the Hill

Some of these have probably been filled, but the following Republican members of Congress are looking for press secretaries or communications directors (Ensign's looking for a deputy):

  • Congressman Brian Bilbray (CA-50)
  • Congressman David Davis (TN-1)
  • Congresswoman Thelma Drake (VA-2)
  • Congressman Michael Burgess (TX-26)
  • Senator John Ensign (NV)
  • Senator Orrin Hatch (UT)

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Why Blogging Has Been Light (Again)

In no particular order:

1. I've been slammed at work.

2. When I'm on vacation, I try to take a break from the computer.

3. I've been reading books instead of articles.

4. I'm adopting a new blogging philosophy (owing to a recent conversation with Patrick Ruffini): Don't blog unless I have something to say. Focus more on what I can bring to the blogosphere—my spin on something—rather than regurgitating the wisdom of others. This new attitude will result in fewer posts, but, I hope, more thoughtful and more interesting ones.

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The Flawed Logic of Roe v. Wade

It's not what you think, or at least what you've heard. As Sigrid Fry-Revere, of the Cato Institute, puts it (in a not-yet-online letter to the editor in the December issue of Reason),

To make the right of women to control their own bodies hinge on privacy instead of every individual's right not to be treated as a public resource indicates a fundamental misunderstanidng of what is at stake.

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George's Guardian Grandmother

From Robert Draper's new book, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush:

Harriet Miers, the staff secretary, understood her boss's penchant for exactitude and enforced it with relish. . . . While other senior staffers judged speeches for content or rhetorical effectiveness, Miers would fire back distinctly protective comments: Would the president feel comfortable going out on such a limb? Had he ever said anything quite like this before?. . . .

When the president expected something, it had to be there. Which meant late hours. Insane hours. Harriet Miers was always in by six in the morning. Always still there at eight in the evening. Usually much later. And weekends—those, too. She'd go to church on Sunday, then over to the White House. After all, she reasoned, things were happening in the world 24 hours a day. Always events that generated documents, which the president needed to see the following morning. When a nagging issue arose, she generally avoided calling staffers at home at night, interrupting their family lives. She would endeavor to do the research herself. This approach, she told herself, was the more efficient method.

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Playing Devil's Advocate: Does the Constitution Apply to Foreign Terrorists?

Patrick Ruffini has created a Facebook group called Libertarians for National Security. He describes the group as

for libertarians who believe that American ideals of freedom must be defended vigorously around the world... for small-l and large-L libertarians who understand that blaming America first has no place in our foreign policy... for libertarians who can agree to disagree about the war that deposed the totalitarian dictator Saddam Hussein... and those who understand that the Constitution does not apply to foreign terrorists who want to take our freedoms away. Our motto is simple: Freedom at home. Vigilance abroad... because eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.


I know my more hawkish friends will recoil from my hesitancy, but I'm unsure what Patrick means when he writes that "the Constitution does not apply to foreign terrorists who want to take our freedoms away." Human beings have rights by virtue of their being human, regardless of whether a written document protects those rights and regardless of whether those people live in America or Antarctica. You can assuredly forfeit your rights—as those who engage in terrorism do—but only after proven guilty, by way of habeas corpus and due process.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

The New New York Times Building



"Pride and Nostalgia Mix in the Times’s New Home" [NYT]

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fred Thompson: He's Real. And He's Spectacular

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Who's the Reaganiest?

More laugh-out-loud political satire from the Red State Update duo:

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Editorial Board Wish List

Why don't Reason, Townhall or Q and O have editorial boards, as do, to name just a few, Redstate, National Review, the Weekly Standard, Human Events and the New Republic?

Editorial boards aren't right for every publication—for instance, I don't think they would benefit the Politico, the American, Slate or the Huffington Post—but I'd be very interested to read official opinions from the aforementioned libertarians and conservatives.

Related: Should pundit Web sites engage in activism?

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Quote of the Day


"300 e-mails a day. I read ‘em all, respond to many. Wouldn’t have it any other way."

Dean Barnett.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

McCain on Medical Marijuana

Dialing in from Phoenix, where his wife Cindy is having an operation on her knee, John McCain held a conference call with bloggers this afternoon. Having learned the hard way that in order to ask a question, you need to press *1 as soon as possible, I was rewarded with the first question. With apologies to Radley Balko,

Should federal law supersede the will of the people in a given state when it comes to medical marijuana?


McCain's answer: "There is no convincing evidence" that medical marijuana relieves pain and suffering that cannot be relieved by prescriptions.

But what about referenda in California and New Mexico, I followed-up?

The will of the people can be wrong, McCain declared. Look at Iraq today. Look at North Korea 60 years ago. "I'll be glad to continue the discussion," he concluded, "but I'm not changing my opinion."

McCain's first answer is factually inaccurate, which I hope to elaborate on tonight. His second answer is more interesting, but suffice it to say that whenever you ignore the will of the people—which you sometimes need to do—you need a very compelling reason to do so.

Quote of the day: Bloggers who criticize John McCain but haven't come aboard his campaign bus, "remain[] attached to their couches and mattresses."

Update: Phil Klein notes that Rudy and Romney also oppose decriminalizing medical marijuana.

Update (2/23/08): Hendrik Hertzberg points out that

[u]nlike McCain, Obama and Clinton have at least promised to stop the feds from harassing medical marijuana patients and dispensaries in the dozen states whose laws permit marijuana to be used for medical purposes. But neither has given any indication of a willingness to rescue us from the larger disgrace of the drug war—the billions wasted, the millions harmed, the utter futility of it. On this point, hesitancy trumps hope, and expedience trumps experience.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Absinthe in America

The NYT reports:

[T]his year two brands of absinthe made according to traditional recipes have been legally imported to the United States.

Last spring a French brand, Lucid, made its debut here, using 19th-century distilling methods and replicating chemical analyses of pre-ban absinthe. A Swiss absinthe, K├╝bler, appeared on the American market a few weeks ago, using a 1863 family formula.

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Ad of the Day

An innovative combination use of new media:

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Should Blogs Be Independent of or Integrated in Their Host Organization's Web Site?

Congratulations to Citizens Against Government Waste, which recently launched a blog, Swineline. Unfortunately, Swineline suffers from the same irritant that afflicts the blogs of the Cato Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and the Project on Government Oversight: It resides on a domain independent of the host organization (e.g., www.swineline.org instead of www.cagw.org/blog).

To me, this is myopic and counterproductive. Why build and drive people to an entirely new site when, by integrating the blog into your already developed site, you can centralize your traffic?

With two sites comes twice the administrative burden, whereas with one site, readers are never far from the organization’s press releases, action alerts, e-newsletters, op-eds, white papers and the all-important donate button.

Who agrees? The Sunlight Foundation, the National Taxpayers Union, the Capital Research Center, FreedomWorks, Judicial Watch, and American Solutions. (The Club for Growth doesn't count, since its Web site is its blog, and while the Acton Institute's blog shares the same domain as its site, the blog doesn't maintain the same template, which cuts off easy access to the press releases, action alerts, etc.)

Related: When will AEI and IJ enter the blogosphere?

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Can We Please Stop Calling Rudy a Social Liberal?

Thank you David Greenberg (emphasis added):

What's left of the case for Rudy's liberalism relies on three prongs: Guns, gay rights and abortion. But even those positions, seen in context, don't render Giuliani a liberal or a moderate so much as an occasional and tepid dissenter from the GOP line. . . .

Take gun control first. Some people demand that their candidate endorse the right to plunk down a wad of cash anywhere, anytime, for a submachine gun. But for most conservative voters, what matters is a "tough on crime" stance, and if any issue has defined Giuliani's career—from his years as a prosecutor frog-marching corrupt bankers down Wall Street to his staunch support as mayor for trigger-happy cops—it's his conservative posture on criminal justice. . . .

His stands on gay rights also don't quite merit the liberal label. Pundits often note that he lived with a gay couple after splitting with his second wife. But policy stands, not private behavior, define a politician's ideology. (Just ask Sen. Larry Craig.) Yes, Giuliani supports more gay rights than do other Republicans, but he still opposes same-sex marriage and has even denounced New Hampshire's law blessing civil unions.

On abortion, Giuliani, while technically pro-choice, is far from liberal: He favors outlawing what opponents call "partial birth" abortion, backs parental-notification laws and supports the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for most abortions under Medicaid.


Update (12/1/07): Michael Medved, who calls himself "unhesitatingly pro-life," contrasts Rudy's position on abortion with those of the leading Democratic candidates:

Giuliani has committed to preserve the Hyde Amendment, banning taxpayer money for abortions; the top Democrats urge repeal and favor federal funding. Giuliani applauded the recent Supreme Court decision upholding a ban on partial-birth abortion; all leading Democrats condemned it in harsh terms. The former mayor supports tougher rules requiring parental notification (with a judicial bypass) for underage girls who seek abortions; Clinton and Barack Obama oppose such legislation. Most significant of all, Giuliani has specifically cited strict-constructionists Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and John Roberts as his models for future justices of the Supreme Court — and all three of those jurists have signaled their support for allowing states more leeway in limiting abortions. The top Democrats regularly express contempt for the conservative jurists whom Giuliani admires, and worked against the Alito and Roberts nominations.

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When Does Google Change Its Home Page?

They changed it today, for Veterans Day:


But as the LA Times reported last month, they didn't do so last year:

The company defended its decision to let Veterans Day and Memorial Day pass without a special logo, saying it was trying to be respectful.

"Google's special logos tend to be lighthearted and often scientific in nature," spokeswoman Sunny Gettinger said in an e-mailed statement. "We do not believe we can convey the appropriate somber tone through this medium to mark holidays like Memorial Day."

Google has altered its logo more than 140 times since 1999, according to a gallery on the company's Web site.

The choices sometimes reflect Google's corporate fascinations. For example, the company is so enthralled with space exploration that it recently agreed to sponsor a $30-million contest to land unmanned rovers on the moon.

That passion has been reflected in logos that commemorate some of America's crowning achievements in space exploration, including lunar landings and Mars missions, and the birthday of noted American astronomer Percival Lowell.

Still, outrage increases in some corners of the Web for each year Google fails to honor Memorial Day.

In May, the Web site www.zombietime.com started a Memorial Day logo contest to "show Google that it's not so hard" to make respectful ones. It has received about 250 entries, including ones that replace the second "o" with a Purple Heart medal and the "l" with the flagpole in the Iwo Jima flag-raising.

"I have no problem with Google commemorating obscure holidays or some of the trivial anniversaries that they note," the site's owner, who declined to give his name, said via e-mail, "just so long as they also make special logos for the more significant holidays."


Addendum (3/25/08): James Joyner reports, pace Kathryn Jean Lopez, that Google changed its logo for Easter.

Addendum (3/28/08): Michael Arrington reports on Google's change today in support of Earth Hour.

Addendum (9/22/08): KLO continues her diatribe.

Addendum (4/28/09): Looks like Google keeps an archive of its holiday logos.


Enjoy this post? Then why not stay abreast of new ones via e-mail or RSS?

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Why Do I Live in the Northeast?

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Ron Paul vs. Redstate

Three weeks after Redstate banned Ron Paul supporters, traffic to Paul's Web site continues to rise rapidly—attracting 350,000 page views a month, according to Compete.com—while Redstate's remains stuck below 100,000:

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"I Just Saved a Bunch of Money by Switching to Ron Paul"



Update (3/25/08): Like what you read? Read more by subscribing to No Straw Men via RSS or e-mail.

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Friday, November 9, 2007

"Edwards's Agenda: You Name It, He'll Fund It"

From today's Union-Leader:

Senator Edwards seems to have a fix for every conceivable problem, even problems a President has no business fixing. No concern is unworthy of addressing at the presidential level, and no challenge is insurmountable.

Edwards says he will, among other things, end poverty, provide big-city-quality health care nationwide and American-quality health care worldwide, spend a gazillion dollars on new federal programs while raising taxes only on the rich—and simultaneously stimulating the economy—and rid the world of nuclear weapons.

At a stop in Bedford on Wednesday, Edwards said private nonprofits do charity work much better than the government does. Asked what he would do to help nonprofits, he said he'd get the government involved! More federal money for nonprofits, he said, because they need government help.

In his speeches he talks a lot about leadership. But one test of a leader is his willingness to say no. Edwards says yes to everyone. That's not leading; that's pandering.

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How to Read Your Voice Mail

Use SimulScribe or SpinVox.

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Questions You've Wanted to Ask

But haven't yet.

1. Del.icio.us does not offer a widget that displays articles with certain tags rather than from certain sers. As Ben from customer support wrote via e-mail (11/4/07), "[T]he feature that you are describing is currently not available at this time."

2. Twitter does not release its number of users. As co-founder Biz Stone wrote via e-mail (11/1/07), "Twitter doesn't share the number of people who use the service."

3. ShareThis does not work with Blogger. As ShareThis software engineer Jeremy Bock wrote via e-mail (11/6/07), "[W]e are working to fix Blogger soon to make it very easy to place ShareThis button on all posts."

Update (11/11/07): According to Peter Kim of Forrester, "6% of U.S. online adults use Twitter regularly.” Robert Scobleizer's response: "[B]ullshit."

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Club for Growth Assesses Ron Paul

Highlights:

In defense of his support for earmarks, Rep. Paul took the if you can't beat 'em, join 'em position, arguing that "I don't think they should take our money in the first place. But if they take it, I think we should ask for it back."[32] This is a contradiction of Paul's self-proclaimed "opposition to appropriations not authorized within the enumerated powers of the Constitution"[33]. . . .

When it comes to spending, he stands neither with the Republicans or the Democrats, but the taxpayers, often lambasting his own party for straying from the principles of small government. . . .

Unlike protectionists who deny the economic benefits of free-trade policies, Ron Paul embraces the importance of free trade, but lives in a dream world if he thinks free trade will be realized absent agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA. Paul himself argues that "tariffs are simply taxes on consumers,"[47] but by opposing these trade agreements, he is actively opposing a decrease in those taxes. While Paul's rhetoric is soundly pro-free trade, his voting record mirrors those of Congress's worst protectionists. . . .

[O]ften, Ron Paul opposes progress because, in his mind, the progress is not perfect. In these cases, although for very different reasons, Ron Paul . . . often . . . vot[es] against important, albeit imperfect, pro-growth legislation.

Ron Paul is, undoubtedly, ideologically committed to pro-growth limited government policies. But his insistence on opposing all but the perfect means that under a Ron Paul presidency we might never get a chance to pursue the good too.

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Why Can't Ron Paul Come Up With Something This Good?

David All alerts us to another anonymous, online political ad. Following the example set by Patrick Ruffini, since the ad wasn't on YouTube, I uploaded it there:



The ad's argument: As many others have pointed out, electing Hillary Clinton president would be strikingly similar to giving George W. Bush a third term. Ergo, vote for a real change candidate: Mike Bloomberg.

Headline explanation here.

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How Members of Congress Rationalize Their Pork

Andy Roth explodes the most popular myths (some of which, alas, Ron Paul stubbornly clings to). Here are a few:

1. Myth: “I know my district better than some unelected bureaucrat!”

Reality: Why should the Woodstock Museum be funded by the federal government, when it is clearly a parochial project? Instead, politics should be taken out of the spending process. Congress should set the overall budget allocations, while the agencies should be in charge of the day-to-day spending priorities. When politics interfere with that process, money gets misallocated, abuse is rife, and tax dollars get wasted.

2. Myth: Earmarks don’t increase spending because they are contained within the budget cap. It is true that after the budget resolution is accepted, there is a self-imposed budget cap on overall spending. Earmarks are simply carved out of that total. So if earmarks are removed from the budget, technically speaking, no money is saved. The money would just be re-appropriated.

Reality: But this is a very narrow interpretation. A broader explanation would suggest that if there weren’t any earmarks, the budget cap could initially be reduced.

3. Myth: “I’m fighting to get our fair share!”

Reality: A member will . . . support[] pork projects because he believes he has a responsibility to his constituents to claim their “fair share.” After all, the thinking goes, if Kansas taxpayers don’t receive pork, then they will just be paying for the pork in other states while getting nothing in return. . . . At what point in the future can we expect members of Congress to base their behavior on principle rather than on childish excuses? Being in Congress isn’t about being a porker on behalf of your state or district; it’s about defending and upholding the Constitution.

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Senator James Inhofe: I'm a Fiscal Conservative, Except When I'm Not

2005: "I am going to remind you that I am the No. 1 ranked conservative in the U.S. Senate. And yet I’m a big spender in two areas: national defense and infrastructure."

2007: “I am a staunch fiscal conservative, but I am not apologetic about increased spending on our nation’s defense and infrastructure needs.”

What Inhofe willfully ignores is that national defense and fiscal discipline have always been at war with one another. By all means, we should protect the country vigorously and unapologetically, but we must remember that war, simply put, dramatically expands government, whether by curtailing civil liberties, increasing spending or stationing troops around the globe indefinitely.

Equally important, no taxpayer dollar should be exempt from "staunch fiscal conservativ[ism]." The principle of pecuniary prudence, if we take it seriously, is comprehensive and nonnegotiable.

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Why I Regret Not Having Studied Abroad

The NYT pieces together some recognizable vignettes:

The degree of rigor varies a lot. Some students bring back a semester of easy A’s. Others, especially those enrolled in foreign universities, work like dogs and still get C’s. In a Spanish university (not to be confused with a classroom of Americans in Spain), professors commonly fail half the class, Mr. Good says. “Students are often dismayed getting a B or C or D when they expected an A”. . . .

Alexandria Hollett's total immersion at the University of Bologna sounds more like “Survivor” than study abroad. Students stay in a pensione for orientation before the first challenge: Find a place to live. “Basically, what we had to do is walk up and down the streets of Bologna and rip flyers off the wall of Italian students advertising for roommates,” she says. “It was a really stressful experience.”

At registration, classes she had planned on weren’t offered, so she had to find other courses to count toward her triple major in English, Italian and Spanish (in Europe especially, professors switch what they’re teaching at the last minute). Lectures lasted an hour and a half (the American standard: 50 minutes). Professors talked at students (no raising hands) and answered cellphones in class. One talked to a caller for 20 minutes, she says.

The oral exam at semester’s end was “intense.” “The teacher would say, ‘Tell me something profound that is worth my time,’” Ms. Hollett recalls. . . .

Being in a place a dozen time zones away, where Internet service and cellphones are unreliable, provides one of the first chances for true and prolonged independence.

Zena Bibler calls her semester in Buenos Aires “equal parts terrible and awesome”. . . .

She got around on buses that were routinely rerouted by political demonstrations (or a driver’s whim).

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How Big Government Breeds Lobbyists

Dave Weigel shares a classic, underappreciated libertarian insight:

Chopping the air with his hand, bobbing his head like a racehorse, the former senator from North Carolina challenged Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to turn down donations from lobbyists.

“No more, from this day forward, not a dime from a Washington lobbyist,” Edwards roared. “We do not want their money! Their money is no good to us!”. . . .

But try to imagine a government the size Edward envisions—socialized health care, subsidized college tuition—without lobbyists. New government programs breed lobbyists, and for good reasons. People who might be affected by the new programs want to get into the rooms where those programs are devised. And if money is being doled out, they want a place at the front of the line.

In 1998 the health care industry spent $204 million (in current dollars) on lobbying.

The next year, as both houses of Congress debated a “patient’s bill of rights” for health care, the spending rose to $230 million. In 2003, the year of the vast Medicare Part D expansion, the sum reached $304 million. That surge in spending was meant to ensure that various companies got friendly treatment, or at least benign neglect, under the final bill. But it was also the only way members of a multibillion-dollar industry could influence legislation that would affect them for decades.

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Odds and Ends

1. Join Google's media list.

2. Pictures of mostly hotel pools, by Esther Dyson.

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Sunday, November 4, 2007

When Did Oversight Become Micromanaging?

In May, I asked,

If the legislative branch disapproves of an action taken by the executive, what should it do? To wit, what should Congress do with respect to war, so as not to "micromanage"? Is oversight limited to such things as a (toothless) Sense of the Congress resolution? Or, since Congress has the power of the purse, should it defund the war by withholding money or tying money to certain conditions (say, that Iraqi oil pay for 25% percent of our expenses)?


In his column today, George Will provides the answer:

American history is replete with examples of Congress restraining executive warmaking. (See Congress at War, a book by Charles A. Stevenson.) Congress has forbidden:

Sending draftees outside this hemisphere (1940-41); introduction of combat troops into Laos or Thailand (1969); reintroduction of troops into Cambodia (1970); combat operations in Southeast Asia (1973); military operations in Angola (1976); use of force in Lebanon other than for self-defense (1983); military activities in Nicaragua (1980s). In 1993 and 1994, Congress mandated the withdrawal of troops from Somalia, and forbade military actions in Rwanda.

When Congress authorized the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force" against those complicit in 9/11, Congress refused to adopt administration language authorizing force "to deter and pre-empt any future" terrorism or aggression.

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The Daily Digest

Ice Hotel in Sweden

How would you feel if your advocacy of the Iraq war directly inspired someone to enlist—who shortly thereafter perished from an IED? Christopher Hitchens measures his words against a family's grief and a young man's sacrifice.

Josh Levin laments what Sports Illustrated has become: "Sports Illustrated is allowing market research to masquerade as editorial judgment. Perhaps it's effective from a business standpoint—the mag has maintained its huge circulation lead over ESPN the Magazine, and a recent industry survey showed an increase of 14 percent in readers between ages 18 and 24 the last two years—but it's making the magazine an inferior product. . . . The old SI used sports as a window onto life and culture beyond the playing field or, failing that, as a vehicle for great writing. The new SI uses sports as a window onto itself or, failing that, as a vehicle for cringe-inducing anecdotes."

Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld tells the NYT how she met her husband.

What does it mean to be an American? Surely one of our defining characteristics is productivity, such that multimillionaire 30-somethings, instead of basking in their earned retirement, continue to work 15-hour days, in search of the next big thing.

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How Big-Government Republicans Approach Environmental Problems

William Saletan summarizes the Green Gingrich so you don't you have to read Newt's new book:

Nor is he averse to government spending and intervention in markets. He just wants the spending and intervention to take the form of incentives. Instead of giving $1 billion to a federal agency to deal with a problem, he'd offer the money as a prize to the first company that solves it. As the conversation proceeds, Gingrich throws money at one challenge after another. Hydrogen fuel? Dangle a 10-figure prize. Nuclear waste? A 10 percent tax break to any state that accepts it. Endangered species? Annual bonuses to countries that keep them alive. Math and science education? Pay poor kids for taking the classes and earning a B average. Even FDR's colossal outlays fit Gingrich's philosophy. "The entire New Deal was based on incentives," he says.

How does Gingrich square all this spending with limited government? To begin with, he reasons, it isn't much money. Second, the government doesn't administer solutions; it dangles the money and lets industry find the best way. Third, it doesn't count as spending if it comes off the revenue side of the ledger. We're not paying you to take nuclear waste; we're just cutting your taxes. Gingrich swears industry will be more inspired to solve the hydrogen problem by if we offer $1 billion tax-free than if we offer $1.8 billion subject to taxes. Why? People hate taxes, he says. Getting money tax-free just "feels better."

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Ron Paul's Lousy Ads

So this is where that war chest is going? What a waste.



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Ayn Rand Groupies

1. Congressman John Campbell (R-CA-48), as quoted in the current issue of Reason (not yet online):

"Atlas Shrugged is the book I give to our interns after they spend a summer here, working for free. I consider it to be the authoritative work on the power of the individual."

2. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, as quoted by Jeffrey Toobin in The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (via ABC News, via Hit and Run):

"Thomas has such a libertarian view of the original intent of the framers of the Constitution that he prepares his new clerks by requiring them to watch the 1949 movie version of Ayn Rand's classic homage to individualism, The Fountainhead."

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How Politicians Avoid Raising Taxes

I'm several months late in covering Virginia's massive, outrageous hike in reckless driving fees, but I'd at least like to post an explanatory image, courtesy of the NYT:

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Your Dream Job

Writer for the American Family Business Institute. "Washington advocacy group needs skilled writer who can work with people to tell their own story about the death tax, in less than 10 pages. The group wishes to assist its members in writing their personal stories about how the death tax has affected or will affect their families, their family businesses or farms and the people and communities that depend on those enterprises. These statements may then be submitted as part of the official record of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee hearings record on Federal Estate and Gift Tax Reform, and will be posted on the group’s Web site. Most communications will be via phone, and the writer will have to work with principals to get the needed facts, comments and statements. This short-term project may be expanded." E-mail Howard Segermark.

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