"Now, it's time for the happy recap." - Bob Murphy
Politics 2007 Archives
December 3, 2007
POLITICS: Quick Links 12/3/07
Arno Herwerth, a 21-year veteran of the New York Police Department, said he requested the "GETOSAMA" plates earlier this month to send a political message. He said he was surprised to hear, after receiving the plates, that the DMV wanted them back.
Oh, really - offensive to whom?
*Of all the planted-question issues with the debates (see here, here and here), this video of Obama unwittingly giving away that he knew a questioner is perhaps the funniest.
Clinton closed out her Sunday with an appeal to voters in Bettendorf to caucus for her, but earlier in Cedar Rapids, she took Obama to task over his health care plan and disputed his claim he doesn’t take lobbyist money.
For those of us old enough to remember the Clintons and their surrogates arguing incessantly that character is wholly irrelevant to the presidency and that campaigning on such issues is a sign of being defeated on the issues - heck, go back and watch "The American President," their propaganda movie devoted to this theme, albeit while re-casting the facts in the most favorable possible light - this is hilarious, as is this:
Clinton said she wanted to win the caucuses — and, next year, push the state into the Democratic column in the general election.
November 25, 2007
POLITICS: Billion-Dollar Marty
When I looked at the long list of tax hiking Democratic Governors back in the spring, I gave an incomplete grade to Maryland's new Democratic Governor, Martin O'Malley, not out of any illusions about whether he was anything but a standard-issue tax-and-spend liberal but simply because he hadn't done anything yet.
Well, no need to wait longer for the verdict. E.J. Dionne, predictably, hails O'Malley's billion-and-a-half dollar tax hike, passed earlier this week:
Facing a $1.7 billion budget deficit, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley -- who offered the above observations in an interview -- led the legislature this week to approve $1.4 billion in taxes and $550 million in spending cuts. It's been a long time since we've seen that kind of balance from the federal government.
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The fact that even Dionne recognizes that this is three dollars in tax hikes for every dollar in spending cuts, as well as the massive expansion of Medicaid to another 140,000 recipients, should tell you all you need to know about O'Malley's commitment to protecting the taxpayer. (Also, the $550 million is a apparently a cut in "State spending growth," not actual spending reductions). Indeed, Dionne hails the Maryland Governor as the man who can bring back the case for big government:
[T]he sound you are hearing not only in Maryland but in state capitals across the nation is the crashing and crumbling of ideology, specifically a right-wing ideology that demonizes taxes and government while preaching that the public interest depends upon solicitude toward the comfortable and the privileged.
Yup, a billion-dollar tax hike is exactly Mark Warner's formula for success; Virginia voters will soon enough be asked whether they want him to pressthat same philosophy nationally. And the fine print goes deeper than just a burden on Marylanders who work hard for their money:
Executives this week cast both brickbats and laurels at Maryland’s new package of business taxes and programs, with several singling out a new state sales tax on computer services for criticism.
Expanding the sales tax to computer businesses handicaps those companies when they compete against those in states that don’t have such a tax, Micheals said.
Fortunately for Maryland, it has a lot of company these days among states with tax-hiking Democratic governors.
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November 22, 2007
POP CULTURE: Hollywood's "Social Conscience" In A Nutshell
Julia Roberts designs Armani bracelet for World AIDS Day. Mother Theresa should have been so virtuous.
POLITICS: ...And A Tax Hike
As if he hasn't had enough stumbles, NY Governor Eliot Spitzer is now considering breaking outright his campaign promise not to raise taxes, which he previously bent rather severely with proposed business tax hikes and aggressive sales tax enforcement against Native Americans. He's apparently pondering an income tax hike:
Governor Spitzer is considering a proposal to raise income taxes on wealthier New Yorkers, according to a labor-backed political party that is pushing for the increase....
This is on top of Spitzer's new plan to tax Internet sales and new MTA fare hikes. Because really, the first thing people think of in New York is that taxes are so low and the business climate is so friendly...
November 16, 2007
POLITICS: If It's Possible, All Three of Them Will Lose
November 9, 2007
POLITICS: We Were Just Kidding About That Democracy Business
November 7, 2007
POLITICS: NJ Voters Reject Corzine's Half-Billion Dollar Stem Cell Boondoggle
Democrats nationwide have been operating on the assumption that taxpayer funding for stem cell research is endlessly popular with the voters (for all the talk of "banning" research on embryonic stem cells, remember that nobody has advanced a serious proposal to make such research illegal; the issue is whether to spend taxpayer money on it despite the substantial moral/ethical objections of a significant number of taxpayers).
Yesterday in New Jersey, that theory was put to the test, and appears to have gone down in defeat before what is usually accounted as a liberal Northeastern electorate:
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New Jersey voters on Tuesday rejected borrowing $450 million to pay for stem cell research grants in the state for 10 years.
Presumably, supporters of federal stem cell research believe that the federal government's fiscal house is already in enviable condition. But voters, if asked to put their money where their priorities are, might say otherwise.
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November 2, 2007
POLITICS: Edwards on Hillary
Devastating anti-Hillary ad put out by John Edwards:
Via Stop Her Now.
November 1, 2007
POLITICS: Stone Cold Politics
Matt Labash's Weekly Standard profile of GOP political operative Roger Stone is one of the funniest, most fascinating things you are likely to read about a practitioner of politics at its most bare-knuckeled (the man has a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back). I'd be here all day if I started to excerpt it, so I'll just say: read the whole thing.
POLITICS: Quick Links
*As the comments to this post noted, the Bush Administration is obviously producing good economic news to distract the media from the progress being made in Iraq.
*I'm no Obama fan but this T-Shirt sold to benefit his campaign is pretty clever.
October 31, 2007
WAR/POLITICS: Rue-less Joe
The ant-war wackos who tried, and failed, to throw Joe Lieberman out of the Senate now have to live with the fact that Lieberman is free to say what he thinks - and whatever his sorrow-not-anger shtick, I suspect he is relishing being a thorn in the side of his former party's presidential contenders.
Lieberman is dead right about the irresponsibility of Senators who voted to deny the role of Iranian units in arming terrorists:
"I thought it was so direct, factual, based on evidence the U.S. military has given us of the involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in training and equipping Iraqi extremists who… have been responsible for the killing of hundreds of American soldiers."
October 30, 2007
POLITICS: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Michael Gerson
Remember the scene in Wedding Crashers where Owen Wilson tells a woman he's trying to seduce, "You know how they say we only use 10 percent of our brains? I think we only use 10 percent of our hearts"?
Read everything Michael Gerson says to yourself in Wilson's voice and imagine he's saying it to get a girl in bed. It makes so much more sense that way.
October 28, 2007
POLITICS: The Joys of Democratic Governance
Congressional Democrats have been discovering, after 12 years out of power, that actually governing is a lot harder and less fun than griping from the cheap seats; but as long as George W. Bush is in the White House, they retain a convenient scapegoat for the gap between their rhetoric and reality.
Democratic governors, the numbers of which have proliferated in recent years, have no such luxury; having sold the pie in the sky, they actually have to bake it. I've been warning of this since the spring in regard to tax hikes, and Eliot Spitzer's disastrous illegal-immigrant-driver's license plan is only one of many other examples of Democratic governors reminding people why there were so many Republican incumbents in the first place.
Add now the Chicago Tribune to the list of the disenchanted, to the point of arguing that the Rod Blagojevich era demonstrates why Illinois needs a mechanism to recall a governor:
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The bill of particulars against Rod Blagojevich is numbingly familiar. His is a legacy of federal and state investigations of alleged cronyism and corruption in the steering of pension fund investments to political donors, in the subversion of state hiring laws, in the awarding of state contracts, in matters as personal as that mysterious $1,500 check made out to the governor's then-7-year-old daughter by a friend whose wife had been awarded a state job.
Read the whole thing, and ask yourself: shouldn't the GOP be doing more to capitalize on the incompetence and corruption of its adversaries?
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October 26, 2007
POLITICS: Out Foer Himself
If there is one thing we have definitvely learned from the whole Scott Beauchamp episode, it's that Franklin Foer is a cretin.
Relatedly, we have also been reminded of one of the central lessons of the Plame affair: nepotism and secret-keeping don't mix.
October 25, 2007
POLITICS: Will Hillary Abandon Spitzer Over Illegal Immigrant Driver's Licenses?
I've written previously here and here about NY Governor Eliot Spitzer's foolhardy and politically disastrous plan to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens, and NY Senator Hillary Clinton's evasive response to questions about the plan that "I know exactly what Governor Spitzer's trying to do and it makes a lot of sense, because he's trying to get people out of the shadows" and "it's unfortunate that too many people are using this to demagogue the issue," wink, wink, while, as Jim Geraghty notes, sending her chief strategist out to argue that the families of illegal immigrants "may be the most powerful political force in the country," nudge, nudge.
But just because a Clinton takes a non-position doesn't mean it can't change, and the NY Post's veteran Albany correspondent, Frederic Dicker, reports that a panicked NY Democratic Party is planning to throw Spitzer under the, er, steamroller - and some believe that Sen. Clinton may end up getting on board with that effort:
Top Democrats fear that Gov. Spitzer's controversial plan to grant driver's licenses to illegal aliens has endangered their party's candidates across the state -- and even threatens the presidential prospects of Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Post has learned.
Another senior Democrat predicted that Sen. Clinton, who has repeatedly refused to say whether she backs Spitzer's plan, would soon be forced to reject it.
H/T Geraghty. Stay tuned.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:21 AM | Politics 2007 | Politics 2008 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
October 19, 2007
POLITICS: That Ol' Clinton Straddle
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to document the undocumented by giving drivers licenses to illegal aliens has been yet another fiasco for the Empire State's unpopular new governor, bleeding his support even among Democrats who are in the country legally and leading other Democratic officials to keep their distance. But what does New York's junior senator, running now for President, think of the state's unilateral effort to hijack federal immigration policy? Up to now, Hillary Clinton has been quiet on the subject, but in an interview she finally had to answer the question:
I think it's important to bring everybody out of the shadows. To do the background checks. To deport those who have outstanding warrants or have committed crimes in the United States, and then to say to those who wish to stay here, you have to pay back taxes, you have to pay a fine, you have to learn English, and you have to wait in line. And I hate to see any state being pushed to try to take this into their own hands, because the federal government has failed. So I know exactly what Governor Spitzer's trying to do and it makes a lot of sense, because he's trying to get people out of the shadows. He's trying to say, "O.K., come forward and we will give you this license."
Spitzer's camp immediately rushed to claim this as support:
"We are gratified that many state leaders understand the security value of bringing people out of the shadows and into the system," said spokeswoman Christine Anderson.
The NY Times and NY Daily News, however, recognized this for what it is: a typically Clintonian effort to have it both ways without answering the question and taking some responsibility for the answer. What else is new?
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Seventy-two percent of New York voters who have read or heard about the Governor's proposal to allow undocumented aliens to obtain New York driver's licenses oppose the Governor's plan, while only 22 percent support it, according to a new Siena (College) Research Institute poll of registered voters released Monday.
After Spitzer threatened to retaliate against GOP critics of the plan by slashing funding for parks and schools in their districts, the NY Post ran a blistering piece subtitled "'HE CARES MORE FOR ILLEGALS THAN KIDS'". While the NY GOP has been conducting a petition against the plan, Democrats have been coming out against it as well. Former NY Mayor Ed Koch, an independent-minded Democrat who has endorsed some Republicans over the years, has blasted the plan. Freshman Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand was compelled to distance herself from the Spitzer plan after a torrent of criticism from her potential Republican opponents.
Hillary obviously doesn't want any part of the heat for an idea that is repellent even to voters in her own party in her own liberal state - yet she remains desperately in thrall, like so many in her party, to a faction of people who - lacking (at least until this plan passes) proper identification as citizens - are not even entitled to vote. And thus, the straddle continues. But at this late date, does anyone believe anything she says?
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:44 AM | Politics 2007 | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
October 18, 2007
POLITICS: Breaking New Ground
Whenever you think unhinged political rhetoric has reached its lowest possible point in this country, Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-CA, of course) manages to burrow to a new low, this time in debating the SCHIP bill:
October 17, 2007
POLITICS: Lake Woebegon Arithmetic
SCHIP is described as serving "poor children" or children of "the working poor." Everyone agrees that it is for "low-income" people. Under the bill that Democrats hope to pass over the president's veto tomorrow, states could extend eligibility to households earning $61,950. But America's median household income is $48,201. How can people above the median income be eligible for a program serving lower-income people?
Incidentally, though there are some very significant differences, Will also notes that Hillary Clinton's 401(k) proposal does contain some crucial concessions to the Right's longstanding arguments for Social Security reform:
Clinton's idea for helping Americans save for retirement is this: Any family that earns less than $60,000 and puts $1,000 into a new 401(k)-type plan would receive a matching $1,000 tax cut. For those earning between $60,000 and $100,000 the government would match half of the first $1,000. She proposes to pay for this by taxing people who will be stoical about this -- dead people -- by freezing the estate tax exemption at its 2009 level.
Of course, Clinton - as usual - is proposing this in addition to Social Security (while she has been suggesting that Social Security taxes be raised, as well as estate taxes and all the various other things she proposes to pay for with new taxes), and like many Clinton plans it involves careful slicing and dicing of the economy via "targeted" tax cuts. Still, the movement is in the right direction.
The great strategic error that Bush made in 2005 on the Social Security battle was in many ways a reprise of the WMD fiasco in the run-up to the Iraq War: he banked on the wrong arguments and gave short shrift to the better ones. Bush tried to argue that personal, semi-private* accounts were necessary to fix Social Security's projected shortfalls. The problem is, we are already in a hole on Social Security benefits that are owed without the ability to pay for them under current tax/benefit policies, and the personal-accounts system would do nothing to make the hole smaller; all it would do is stop digging new holes for the future. That's a great virtue of the proposal - it would make the system perpetually self-financing, rather than financed on a Ponzi scheme footing of using current receipts to pay current benefits without any necessary connection between the two - but Bush oversold the extent to which it could pay for the massive unfunded debts we already have.
*Semi-private in that the accounts are subject to private control and ultimate ownership; they would still be part of a mandatory government program.
POLITICS: Megan McArdle vs. Bad Pro-Abortion Statisics
POLITICS: I Love Political Correctness
Sometimes it's just so cute. Apparently, according to Lynne Cheney, Dick Cheney and Barack Obama are eighth cousins. "The common ancestor was Mareen Devall, who the Chicago Sun-Times said was a 17th century immigrant from France." (Noted in the Diaries here).
The wire story by Reuters explains why this is surprising:
The two men could hardly be more different. Cheney is an advocate for pursuing the war in Iraq to try to stabilize the country, while Obama wants to get U.S. troops out of Iraq.
Yeah, that's the first thing I would notice to look at them ...
October 15, 2007
POLITICS: Best Maureen Dowd Column Ever
Granted, it's a low hurdle, but Dowd hands over most of her column to Stephen Colbert, with hilarious results:
Dick Cheney's fondest pipe dream is driving a bulldozer into The New York Times while drinking crude oil out of Keith Olbermann's skull...
Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn't have to think about. It's all George Bush's fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay.
Read the whole thing. What makes Colbert so funny when he's on is the two-sided nature of the satire (of the type Jon Stewart himself used to do): the ability to satirize right-wing blowhards of the Bill O'Reilly variety while using that persona to throw legitimately funny barbs at the left. It's harder than it looks.
October 7, 2007
POLITICS: From The Department of Badly Timed Awards
POLITICS: Al Franken Spending Money But Not Getting More Well-Liked
The graphic comes from this Brian Maloney story, which goes through how Franken has outraised Norm Coleman in the race for Coleman's Senate seat but has been burning through cash (in part because Franken still has a serious primary opponent, wealthy trial lawyer Mike Ciresi) to the point where Coleman has twice as much cash on hand, $5 million to $2.45 million.
Republicans gloated that while Franken burned more than $1 million in the second quarter, a recent Minnesota Poll gave him only a 27 percent favorable rating, compared with 52 percent for Coleman, who faces his first reelection test next year.
H/T HotAir. Coleman's is one of the Senate seats we need to hold in 2008; hopefully, he will get some help from this sort of bumbling by one of his potential opponents.
October 2, 2007
POLITICS: Spitzer Loses Interest In Law Enforcement
NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer has kicked up yet another firestorm with his latest genius idea, to issue drivers' licenses to illegal aliens:
All New Yorkers are now entitled to earn a driver's license, regardless of immigration status, under an administrative policy change Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced Friday.
New anti-fraud measures will be implemented to increase the security of licensing, officials said. The DMV will use new document verification technology, photo-comparison tools, and staff specially trained in foreign-source identifications. People need to prove New York residency to obtain a license.
The Social Security number requirement was implemented in 1995 as part of an effort to punish parents for not paying child support. In 2002, the state began allowing people ineligible for Social Security numbers to apply for licenses. A subsequent administrative policy change required proof of ineligibility from the Social Security Administration, a document only available to legal immigrants, thus making it impossible for illegal immigrants to get licenses.
Unsurprisingly, this issue has unified New York's Republicans and Conservatives, ranging from Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani to State Senate President Joe Bruno to erstwhile Republican Mayor Mike Bloomberg to the state's bumptious Conservative Party:
"Today's directive to the Department of Motor Vehicles to no longer require provide Social Security numbers, or proof that they are eligible for Social Security cards, will certainly make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain valid identification to blend into society," said Michael Long, state chairman of the Conservative Party.
The State Senate isn't just talking, either, and it looks as if it may have the votes to force a showdown with the ham-handed Spitzer:
In an effort to stop what they deem an ill-advised order from Governor Spitzer that could jeopardize the safety and security of New Yorkers, the New York State Senate will act on legislation next month to prohibit the state from issuing drivers licenses to illegal aliens. The legislation would require a social security number or proof of authorized presence in the United States to obtain a New York State drivers license.
The legislation the Senate will take up next month is similar to bills proposed by Senator Frank Padavan (Queens) that would require applicants for a drivers license or non-driver identification card, to submit satisfactory proof to the Department of Motor Vehicles that the applicant’s presence in the United States is authorized under federal law (S.74); and legislation (S.6250), passed by the Senate in June, sponsored by Senator John Flanagan (R-C, East Northport), that would require the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to obtain proof from any applicant for a drivers license or nondriver identification card who cannot provide a social security number, that they are ineligible for a social security number. The Assembly did not act on this bill.
"I've been with the DMV 20 years, I've seen a lot of crazy things. This is the worst," Merola said of the governor's plan. "My stomach is in knots. I just don't understand how I can issue a driver's license to a person who can't prove they're here legally. If they want to put 'undocumented' across the top of it, that would be just fine, but they went just the opposite.
Giuliani, who has been under fire from Mitt Romney for policies tolerant of illegal aliens while Mayor but who has been running on a platform of requiring better identification of those who enter the country legally, ripped the plan:
"I think it would just create an even further level of fraud and confusion in what is already a very confusing picture," said Mr. Giuliani . . .
Like Mayor Giuliani, I'm sympathetic to the problem of how you deal with a large illegal alien population without exacerbating the problem by having - in this case - scores of uninsured drivers on the roads. But so long as the drivers' license is used as a proxy identification card for broader purposes (which it will be in practice for some time despite federal efforts to improve on the situation), licenses that do not in any way reflect on their face that they were issued without proof of legal residency will only make the situation worse. Spitzer seems to have forgotten yet again that New York is particularly vulnerable to terrorism:
Certain facts about terrorist operations are beyond dispute, and as the 9/11 Commission noted, one is that terrorists cannot function without I.D. The sixty-three authentic U.S. driver's licenses the 9/11 terrorists held (from Virginia, Florida, Maryland and other states) permitted them to blend in as ordinary U.S. citizens; permitted them to rent cars, open bank accounts, rent hotel rooms, obtain credit cards, etc. They used them when purchasing flying lessons. And on the morning of 9/11, their U.S. licenses were the "valid ID" that got them on board the planes they used as missiles.
Naturally, Spitzer's allies on the Left are lining up behind him - the AFL-CIO, the NY Civil Liberties Union, and of course, the NY Times. These are, of course, the same folks who invariably line up to protest requirements that even the most basic forms of identification - such as, yes, the drivers' license - be presented before you can vote (an issue now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court). All of which suggests the real priority here, which is to find new and different ways to enlarge the Left's political base outside of the pool of U.S. citizens.
September 26, 2007
POLITICS: Hey, Big Spender
When you adjust for inflation and remove defense spending and entitlements, which recent presidential terms had the highest and lowest rates of discretionary government spending growth?
Neil Stevens has the full story. Remember to consider changes in control of Congress during terms, notably Reagan's second (the Senate went Democrat) and Clinton's first (the 1994 elections); it takes three parties (the White House, the House and the Senate) to spend, and credit and blame alike need to be shared.
September 24, 2007
WAR/POLITICS: Fraud By The Left To Smear The War Effort
A Washington man, whose claims to have slaughtered civilians as a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq were seen by millions on YouTube, admitted in federal court in Seattle today that he was a fake and a liar.
His interview was translated into Arabic and distributed in the Middle East, said the U.S. attorney.
That's the end result of lies like those of Jesse MacBeth or Scott Thomas Beauchamp: they assist the enemy, who of course depends on winning in the propaganda war battles that can not be won against American soldiers in the field.
September 21, 2007
POLITICS: Paul Krugman's Dream World
Paul Krugman apparently has a blog at the NY Times site (now that they are giving it away for more than it is worth), and Tom Maguire actually read an entire post there, on how Krugman's utopia - reduced income inequality - requires a revival of the FDR years. Maguire:
Of course, as a policy prescription, urging Dems to inflict a depression and world war on the rest of us in order to achieve Krugman's vision of greater income [equality] may seem a bit harsh, so I can see why he shies away from that.
Krugman wants to return us to a happy place we reached by way of war and depression, a place where minorities and women could not work, and where illegal immigrants toiled in the fields but nowhere else. And he wants to pretend that is not how we got there, and not where we were. Good luck. Let's hope his subsequent blog offerings show a bit more of a basis in reality.
Good luck with that.
POLITICS: The Statist Impulse
Emily Bazelon pens a perfectly good two-paragraph column about why it's more dangerous to ride in a car with your seat reclined...but somehow just can't resist turning it into a two-page screed on why government regulation is needed to protect ignorant consumers from avaricious automakers who don't want to warn you not to use one of the features in your car.
September 13, 2007
POLITICS: Harry Reid Draws A Line In The Sand
One of the basic rules of political power is never to stake everything you have on a fight you are not sure of winning. But with rumors swirling that former Solicitor General and Reagan Justice Department official Ted Olson might be tabbed as the next Attorney General, the Senate Majority Leader yesterday laid down an ultimatum on which he was willing to stake the full prestige of his office:
"Ted Olson will not be be confirmed by the Senate," Reid said after a Capitol news conference. "I intend to do everything I can to prevent him from being confirmed as the next attorney general."
Reid may well be betting on a sure thing, as the rumor of the day is that Olson is no longer the frontrunner for the job, perhaps due to White House concerns over a messy and difficult confirmation process for Olson in spite of his stellar resume, unquestionable qualifications for the job, past confirmations by the Senate and undoubted ability to best any Judiciary Committee Senator in verbal combat. But for a Senate leader who has accomplished little and failed at many of his goals since gaining the majority, betting it all that Ted Olson will never be confirmed is a risky gamble.
September 10, 2007
WAR/POLITICS: The September 10 Party
Nancy Pelosi is visiting Ground Zero today to promote...a health care bill. No, you couldn't make this up if you tried:
The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, will meet with Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Spitzer today and tour the World Trade Center site on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Now, I'm not necessarily opposed to compensating people, especially those who worked (formally or informally) for the government in clearing the site and got sick as a result. Although of course with any such bill creating a new spending entitlement there will be issues of how exactly the government will decide what sort of proof is required to tie illnesses or claimed illnesses to the site.
But it's so typical of the Democrats that they are most comfortable dealing with soldiers, cops, firemen, etc. when they can get away from endorsing anything they actually do and treat them solely as passive victims to be nursed by the federal government.
September 7, 2007
POLITICS/LAW: Because He's The President And You Are Not, That's Why
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:27 PM | Law 2006-08 | Politics 2007 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Neither A Surgeon Nor A General
Yuval Levin had an interesting article in the most recent National Review (subscription only) explaining, against the backdrop of recent charges by Congressional Democrats of undue politicization of the Surgeon General's office, that the Surgeon General job really has nothing else to do but make politically provocative pronouncements, given that the real responsibilities of the office have long since been given away to the Department of Health and Human Services and subsidiary agencies like the CDC and NIH:
When the post was created in 1871, the surgeon general was head of the Marine Hospital Service, which cared for American merchant sailors. Under the first surgeon general, John Maynard Woodworth, the MHS took the form of a uniformed pseudo-military service, and was assigned some crucial public-health responsibilities, most notably the maintenance of quarantines. In 1889, the larger U.S. Public Health Service was created, and the surgeon general was made its head. The MHS, meanwhile, was folded into the PHS and became its Commissioned Corps, a uniformed service assigned to help prevent the spread of disease and bring medical care to areas in need. Today, it continues to perform these functions through its roughly 6,000 doctors, nurses, pharmacists, engineers, and other uniformed officers.
This is much the same problem that besets the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. All government agencies are inherently political to one extent or another, but agencies that have no real executive responsibilities have no check on becoming simply mills for churning out propaganda.
Levin's argument, which is worth reading at length, is that the Surgeon General has basically come to be an oracle of public health, one of the last bastions accepted by the Left - along with environmentalism - for the role of public moralizer (albeit the kinds of morals promoted on the Left). But really, the article can just as easily be read as a brief for abolishing the office entirely. There are more than enough agencies already charged with actually carrying out the job of improving public health. We shouldn't have to pay another one to preach the government's gospel to us.
August 31, 2007
POLITICS: Compare and Contrast
Rod Dreher offers some pointed exemplars of why it's preferable to raise teenagers in a culture, or subculture, that is supportive of avoiding unmarried teen sex than, well, the culture in which so many teens in this country are saturated. It's another example of why we can't let the periodic failings of individual political or religious leaders convince us to abandon the goal of defending virtue.
August 28, 2007
BASEBALL/POLITICS: When The Bronx Was Burning
I recently finished reading Jonathan Mahler's book The Bronx is Burning, the companion piece to ESPN's miniseries of the same name concluding tonight (which I have not had the opportunity to watch). The title comes from the final collision between Yankee mayhem and civic disorder, when Howard Cosell intoned "There it is, ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning," as a massive fire raged in view of the TV cameras during Game Two of the 1977 World Series at Yankee Stadium.
The book is well-done and a brisk read, and successfully weaves together the story of Reggie Jackson's first year with the Yankees with a series of portraits of the political scene and atmosphere in New York City in 1977. Since I was five years old at the time I remember a lot of this stuff only in an impressionistic fashion, but the 1977 Yankees were really the first baseball team I hated - the first baseball team that was really bought on the market in the fashion that is at least partly true of all successful teams since - and the summer of 1977 was about the time I started to understand that there was something seriously wrong with the City of New York. Mahler does a fine job of bringing both to vivid life.
The key storyline, though told in large part from Reggie's point of view (Billy Martin and Thurman Munson are dead, and Steinbrenner's old and not talking), is as much Billy's story as Reggie's, and in some ways is more sympathetic to Martin than to Jackson, who comes off as even more of an insufferable egomaniac than I had remembered, which is saying quite a lot. Reggie hadn't really started to feud with George yet, so the battle lines are Reggie vs Billy, Billy vs George, Reggie vs Thurman, Billy vs himself, and Reggie vs the press and his own big mouth. At the end, Reggie's 3-homer game to win Game Six and the World Series is Reggie's triumph, but merely a respite for Billy, who suffered the same constant threat of being fired the following year until George finally sacked him in July.
If Mahler's treatment of the baseball side can be faulted, it's for an unduly narrow focus; whether out of a desire to avoid re-covering ground previously trod in many other books or due to a drive to produce a quick and compact book, he leaves a lot of famous one-liners on the cutting room floor and focuses so entirely on the Reggie and Billy stories that he either ignores or relegates to a single supporting anecdote many of the colorful characters on that Yankee team - Mickey Rivers, Sparky Lyle, Graig Nettles, Lou Piniella, Mike Torrez. You would never know from reading the book that Nettles led the team in homers and Lyle won the Cy Young Award. (Fran Healy gets more ink in the book than Nettles). He also inexplicably leaves out the single best line of 1977 for tying the action on the field to the city's meltdown, Lenny Randle's crack after the blackout of '77 cancelled a Mets home game a month after the trading deadline: "I can see the headline now: Mets trade Kingman, call game for lack of power."
Since Mahler's subject is the Yankees he skips quickly through the other huge New York baseball story of 1977, the Mets trading Tom Seaver, and it's also where Mahler (who I presume is a liberal) makes his most tin-eared gaffe of the book, referring to Seaver's nemesis Dick Young of the New York Daily News, the Lavrenti Beria of the New York baseball press corps, as "the press box equivalent of a neoconservative," proof if any were needed that Mahler (like many on the left) has no clue what that word means.
As for the political side, I didn't count pages but Mahler actually appears to spend less than half the book on baseball. While he takes in a lot of different threads in the City's horrible summer as well as the cultural ferment beneath (from Studio 54 to punk rock to the development of SoHo), there are two major episodes in the book (the July blackout and the Son of Sam manhunt), one major running theme (the 1977 Democratic mayoral primary) and one minor theme (January 1977 was the beginning of Rupert Murdoch's ownership of the NY Post). On the latter, Mahler is unsparing on the Post's reckless tabloid attitude towards the truth and towards its readers, but seems to recognize that the introduction of a right-wing tabloid into a liberal city with liberal papers was nonetheless a very healthy development. One detail I had forgotten, that Mahler discusses in the course of the transformation of the Post back to its Hamiltonian roots and away from its more recent incarnation as a sleepy liberal paper: its film critic when Murdoch bought the paper was Frank Rich.
The dramatic high point of the book is Mahler's treatment of the chaos that surrounded the slightly more than 24-hour blackout in July, the looting and arsons that did for New York's image (and self-image) what Rodney King did for LA in 1992 and Hurricane Katrina did for New Orleans in 2005. It's all here, concentrated in his account of the blackout from the streets of Bushwick: the wholesale destruction of local business, the cops arresting more people than the system could process and having to resort to just beating guys until their nightsticks broke to keep a poor substitute for order, the collective suicide of whole communities. I was actually amazed, on reading this, that the blackout wasn't longer; we've had longer ones since 1977 but without the same social meltdown. In that sense, as in many other ways, the book is an inadvertant campaign commercial for Rudy Giuliani, just as is Tom Wolfe's novel Bonfire of the Vanities, set a decade later; Mahler's portrait of a city whose social structure and self-confidence were wrecked by liberalism stands in stark contrast to the city as it has been since the mid-1990s.
As for the mayoral race - which was entirely determined by the Democratic primary - Mahler traces the improbable rise of Ed Koch and the self-destruction of Bella Abzug as the city began to rebel against the hapless liberal status quo.* Most notably, Mahler returns again and again to the opportunities handed on a platter to Mario Cuomo - endorsements he could have had, themes he could have pressed, voting blocs he could have wooed - and how Cuomo frittered them away in his pride, arrogance and stubbornness. As in 1994, a major contributor to his downfall was his insistence, even obsession, with martyring his political career over his determination to impose his moral objections to the death penalty on an unwilling populace (a stance ironically at odds with Cuomo's later claim to be morally opposed to abortion but unwilling to impose his own morality).
All in all, not by any stretch a comprehensive history of the period or the Yankees, but a fine attempt to bring together all the elements that created the mood of the city in which Reggie, Billy and George made headlines.
* - New York in 1977 had a Democratic Mayor, City Council, Governor, State Assembly, President, Senate and House, plus a U.S. Supreme Court dominated by liberal Republicans (Brennan, Blackmun, Stevens), a liberal Democrat (Marshall), moderate Republicans (Burger, Powell, Stewart), and a moderate Democrat (White), with only one conservative (Rehnquist). Only the Republican-led State Senate was any sort of counterweight.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 PM | Baseball 2007 | Politics 2007 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
August 27, 2007
POLITICS: Gonzales Out
The Attorney General steps down, joining Karl Rove and Tony Snow as August departures from the Bush Administration. Whatever his other merits or faults, Gonzales had to be one of the most politically incompetent people ever to hold such a high position in Washington. It's hard to think of anything he touched in six and a half years in Washington that didn't end up getting President Bush the worst possible press (with the arguable exception of when he advised Bush not to put Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court).
I have to assume that Larry Thompson and/or Michael Chertoff will be the replacement. Both are quality guys, although not without their faults - Chertoff alienated a lot of conservatives during the immigration battle and took some heat for Hurricane Katrina.
UPDATE: Chertoff seems to be the rumored candidate...his record at Homeland Security has been checkered, and I always thought he was more suited for the AG job anyway. But like Gonzales he has a serious political tin ear. Of course, a Chertoff nomination means having to get a new Homeland Security head as well. Apparently Paul Clement will run DOJ for now, although I'm sure he will be more than happpy to get back to his day job as Solicitor General as fast as he can.
August 17, 2007
BASEBALL/POLITICS: You Must Not Read the Sports Pages Too Often
Posted by Dr. Manhattan
I wrote about some related topics on my own blog a long time ago (a piece much of which, ahem, has been massively overtaken by events). One item that still holds up is the common creation myth of the Bill James revolution and the blogosphere generally - the outsiders rising up against the hidebound (baseball/political/media) establishment and changing the game. This paradigm applies equally to the liberal blogosphere that arose after I wrote my piece and the conservative blogosphere from the heady days of early 2003. There is a reason that Benjamin Wallace-Wells, in profiling Markos Moulitsas for the Washington Monthly, compared Moulitsas to Bill James.
July 31, 2007
POLITICS: Two Cheers For The Hypocrites
A few weeks back, Washington DC buzzed with the news that Louisiana Senator David Vitter, a conservative Republican, admitted (a step ahead of public disclosure, possibly by hard-core porn magnate Larry Flynt) that he had frequented a prostitute. The response on the left was numbingly predictable, attacking Vitter not for his immorality but on grounds of hypocrisy because of his socially conservative campaign themes and voting record, such as his opposition to same-sex marriage. A common theme was the idea that Vitter should not be able to argue again for such positions, because his private sins compromised his public positions. Even Glenn Reynolds got into the act, suggesting "How about moving to make prostitution legal in the District instead [of apologizing]? It would be an appropriate penance, and D.C. would be a . . . fitting . . . place to start."
This is wrong, and dangerous. Our politicians and civic leaders have never been saints, but the punishment for their sins should not fall on the rest of us. I would much prefer to see a wicked man be a hypocrite and vote for what is right and good, rather than choose consistency and advocate for wrongdoing.
The left's argument on this front - usually implicit, sometimes made explicitly - is that immoral behavior, especially in matters sexual, proves that moral standards are impossible to satisfy, and thus that the whole project of promoting virtue is a fool's errand. Go and do what feels good, you can't be expected to know better.* But nobody ever said that moral standards are easy, or the history of human behavior and philosophical and religious thought wouldn't be littered with battles over what is right and wrong and how to get people to choose the former.
Moreover, the critics set an impossibly high standard when they claim that a moral failing in one area should cause a man to abandon the advocacy of virtue in others. Thus, we hear that Bill Bennett, because he has had a gambling problem, should not be heard to speak on other issues of public and private morals, ranging from sexual mores to drugs to obstruction of justice. But with rare exceptions, the same logic isn't applied to the champions of vice. The left never argues that figures like Madonna or Hugh Hefner, just to pick two examples of people who have built decades-long careers on championing sexual immorality, are hypocrites because they don't also have gambling problems. Pursuing this asymmetrical line of reasoning can only have the result of unilaterally disarming one side. If only saints can defend right and good and virtue, they will be undefended, while the ranks of the defenders of wrong and sin swell to bursting.
In any event, the left's champions are no less frequently guilty of advocating standards they don't follow or impose on themselves. They call for limits on the use of energy, while galavanting around in private jets and high-powered SUV motorcades. They argue that society benefits from keeping poor kids in public schools without a choice to leave, while sending their own kids to expensive private academies. They hire picketers and leafleters to protest low wages and benefits, and pay them a pittance and no benefits. They press for strict gun controls, then hire armed private bodyguards of their own. The greatest moral controversy in recent memory, the Clinton impeachment, came about when a variety of rules created by moralizing liberals - the independent counsel statute, sexual harrassment litigation, liberal rules of discovery in civil litigation - were turned against one of their own, with predictable howls of outrage.
None of this is to suggest that a man's private immoral or illegal behavior is irrelevant to his fitness for public office. Voters certainly have to judge the totality of a candidate's character - moreso in the case of candidates for executive or judicial positions, who exercise broader individual discretion, but it's not irrelevant for legislators either - and the private and public behavior are all a part of this. The fundamental question Louisiana voters will need to ask about Sen. Vitter is whether this changes their view about his ability to do his job, keep his promises and avoid misusing his office. You don't take the public man in isolation, but neither do you take the private man in isolation; the whole must be examined and judged as one.
But in asking that question, Sen. Vitter's continued willingness to fight for the things he campaigned on should be a plus. If you are a Louisiana voter who thinks prostitution is bad for your community, why should you have to live with it because of a Senator's private sins? If you are a Mississippian who thinks racial preferences are bad policy, why should you have to live with them because of Trent Lott's mouth? In fact, the courage to stand up for the right thing to do even when it exposes you to the hypocrisy charge is one of the most important attributes of a leader, the facet that makes it possible to pursue justice and virtue without constantly checking to trim your positions to fit your own failings. Consider the "chickenhawk" charge, the assertion that Presidents Clinton and Bush should have been hesitant to use military force, not having served in combat themselves. It was apparent, watching Clinton at work, that while he sent the military hither and yon on 'humanitarian' interventions, he was nonetheless hypersensitive to the argument that he should avoid using the military, precisely because of his own personal history; it is equally obvious that Bush does not put stock in such arguments, and makes his calls as he sees them. I much prefer to see Republicans who will stand up against abortion, for example, regardless of the state of their private lives, than those who feel that they have to take a squishily pro-choice position because they fear the scrutiny of the anti-moral scolds.
It takes a truly twisted perspective to see a man who commits private sins while arguing in public for virtue, and choose to take issue with the latter.
So, two cheers for the hypocrites. Even if they don't do right by themselves or their families - even if, at times, they deserve to be punished by the law or defeated at the polls - they should still be proud to have done the right thing in their time in public service.
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* - This is another day's argument, but this attitude is a major reason why so many people drift politically leftward in their teens, when the search for a justification for rejecting prevailing moral standards on sex, drugs, etc. is literally seductive.
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July 30, 2007
POLITICS: More Links 7/30/07
*Gonzales vindicated. Well, on one count, anyway. He has a gift for trouble, though; I don't know anybody who still has faith in his competence. And anyway, an investigation of top-secret programs involves, you know, top secret information. Unless smoking out that information is the entire point.
BLOG: Quick Links 7/30/07
*Pedro Feliciano's meltdown on Saturday can probably just be chalked up to nobody being perfect (Wagner, whose ERA is down to 1.39, is almost certainly overdue for one of those games), but with Joe Smith down in the minors, it's also a reminder that guys like Feliciano can go south on you in a hurry if overworked. The Mets don't have the juice for a Mark Teixeira deal at this point, so the deal they need to make is for another arm in the pen.
*Via Bob Sikes: Bill Robinson has died. Robinson always seemed like a classy guy, and as a ballplayer he was (along with Mike Easler) one of the guys rescured off the scrap heap in mid-career to help build the Pirates into a championship team in the late 70s and early 80s: Robinson was a 31-year-old .235/.386/.281 hitter and busted ex-prospect when he came to Pittsburgh, but batted .276/.477/.313 (114 OPS +) over 8 seasons at Three Rivers. RIP.
*David Pinto makes an excellent point about changing sizes of ballplayers: scrappy little Craig Biggio is the same listed height and weight as Willie Mays and Carl Yastrzemski.
*For all the guff David Wright takes, recall that in 2007, he is batting .295/.516/.423 with runners in scoring position and .333/.611/.400 in the late innings of a close game.
*I banged out a quick column on Spitzergate last week that I never got around to cross-posting here. Mindles Dreck and Prof. Bainbridge both point out that Spitzer would not have cared whether corporate executives claimed, as he does now, not to have known of their subordinates' misconduct.
I'll be honest: I hated when Steve Phillips and the Mets signed Tom Glavine five years ago. I thought it was a stupid, misguided attempt to steal away a rival's player and a complete waste of money. But, while Glavine's never been a personal favorite -- I'm Irish, grudges don't fade as easily for us -- he's far outperformed any reasonable expectations of him while behaving in the most professional, likeable manner possible. He may not be dominant any more, and he seems particularly prone to giving large leads away lately, but I'll always remember the tremendous performance he turned in during last year's playoffs. And I'll be thrilled to see him finally achieve his 300th win.
He also quotes this bizarre statement from Wallace Matthews:
Historically, he may be the best pitcher the Mets have had on their staff since Tom Seaver was run out of town 30 years ago...
How soon they forget. Has Matthews never heard of Pedro Martinez?
*Jaw, meet floor: Byron York notes Obama's pledge in last week's debate "to meet, one-on-one, in his first year as president, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashir Assad, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and Kim Jong Il."
They never learn. They never, ever, ever learn.
*There are many reasons to doubt the veracity of TNR's formerly pseudonymous mil-blogger Scott Thomas Beauchamp, but Megan McArdle, as usual, cuts to the root of why the stories set off people's BS meters even beyond the parts (e.g., the Bradley dog-hunting tales) that seemed to clash with physical reality:
It beggars belief that 100 or more people silently watched some pottymouthed privates taunting a cripple who had acquired her injuries in the line of duty. I'm moderately well-versed in the stories about battle-hardened veterans committing atrocities in World War II. I've never come across a single story about making fun of your own side's wounded.
*This study doesn't sound too promising by itself, but it is true that fantasy baseball is a great microcosm of how humans learn and adapt - getting your butt whipped in a fantasy league, and the desire to avoid doing so again, is a great motivator for not just gathering information but also learning how to sift between the useful and the fool's gold (similarly, I have crammed years of lessons about, say, the value of on base percentage into the past year by playing Strat-O-Matic with my son).
*Hanson is back. I actually thought those guys had talent, if not much depth to them (unsurprising, at their age back then). I'll be interested to see if they've done anything useful with it now that they have grown up.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:55 AM | Baseball 2007 | Blog 2006-13 | Law 2006-08 | Politics 2007 | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
July 10, 2007
POLITICS: How's That Workin' Out For Ya?
I'll have more on the David Vitter saga later, but in the meantime, I just had to laugh at this angle to LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's affair with a newscaster:
The new mayor was actually born Antonio Villar. In 1988, he and his new wife, Connie Raigosa, combined their surnames into the more colorful, but less pronounceable, Villaraigosa.
So, what's his name now?
July 5, 2007
POLITICS: The Libby Fallout
Patterico offers up criticisms of the Libby commutation. Now, I should start by saying that I'm not necessarily a huge fan of the decision; I still think there was an arguable case for prosecuting Libby and that he was probably guilty, but the decision to commute his prison sentence nonetheless strikes me as a reasonable call, and maybe the right one. I mostly enjoyed the spectacle of the brain-bending hypocrisy of the people who think anything less than years in prison is too small a price for perjury...but also that being guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice should be no obstacle to staying president and even being returned to the White House in 2008; people who think that this pardon is some horrible abuse of power, yet pardoning fugitive traitors for cash and terrorists for votes is no reason not to vote Clinton again in 2008.
Anyway, for background I'll repeat here what I said in the comments of the last thread:
My two cents, since I was too busy to comment when the verdict came down? First, I think Libby's conviction will be overturned on appeal due to the limitations on his ability to impeach the star witness against him, Tim Russert. Second, I do think Libby was trying to hide the truth, but I also think he suffered from a lousy memory and that Russert was untruthful - I doubt very strongly that he intended to tell a story that much at odds with the chronology, I think he misremembered what happened and tried to shade it further. That's not a defense of Libby, it's just what I think happened. Also, I have never ripped Fitzgerald, and I'm not joining the caucus that says he was horribly abusive, but I do think all things considered he should probably have pulled the plug on his investigation once he knew who the leak had come from. He didn't prosecute Armitage, which strongly suggests that he knew that there was no legal basis for a prosecution based on the leak. Instead, he called Libby and Rove and others repeatedly to the grand jury for no other reason than to investigate their statements to the FBI. Under the circumstances, that strikes me as a waste of resources and poor prosecutorial judgment. And I do think the people in the media he chose not to question strongly suggests there were answers he wasn't interested in hearing.
That said, Patterico - who was in favor of the prosecution - offers three main criticisms of the commutation. One is that Bush didn't work through the usual pardon process (in fact, he seems to have reached the decision while fishing with Vladimir Putin). This strikes me as a minor quibble in this case; the main purpose of the process is to vet the submission that goes to the president to make sure that he gets a fair presentation of the facts rather than the slanted perspectives of one side in a criminal case. Here, Bush was already familiar with the players and the facts (we all are, by now, but Bush knows them personally). Granted, the process also provides another benefit (the professional staff can provide perspective on how similarly situated defendants are sentenced), but fundamentally, this was a judgment call Bush was well-entitled to make himself.
The second criticism, from Orin Kerr, is a little more substantial: that Bush has scarcely used the pardon power at all (no doubt in large part due to the bad odor from the previous Administration), and thus this is more in the nature of special treatment than is usually the case for presidential pardons of associates of the President.
That's a fair argument, but at bottom I think the motive here is Bush's belief - as has been the belief of past presidents, fairly or otherwise - that Libby would never have been prosecuted in the first place were it not for his political position (it was only the political firestorm over the Plame leak that forced the appointment of a Special Prosecutor in the first place). High executive branch appointees do get special treatment the rest of us don't, but they also face a risk of criminalization of their daily activities that ordinary people don't. It cuts both ways. On some level, letting Libby go to jail would have been a legitimazation of the kind of criminalization of foreign policy that the Democrats specialized in during the 1980s, and that is a kind of calculus that makes this decision wholly unlike the situation of ordinary criminal defendants.
Third, Patterico argues that the GOP will pay a terrible political price. Maybe I've grown more cynical after the 1990s, but I doubt it. Bush is unpopular, to be sure, and the Democrats have had great success with the "culture of corruption" mantra in convincing the public that the Republicans are up to their eyeballs in shady land deals and defense contracts and freezers full of cash, plus Democratic candidates are busy working to mislead the public about what Libby was actually prosecuted for. But first of all, this is an instrumental argument - that Bush should have let the electoral impact of the decision govern his judgment. Second, I think political people consistently underestimate the built-in cynicism of the average voter with regard to politicians. Third, this story hasn't had nearly the cache with voters that it has with bloggers, who have obsessed about it endlessly since July 2003 (I've certainly posted about it enough, and I'm far from one of the most obsessed bloggers), and there will be a lot of other water under the bridge by November 2008. Fourth, the Democrats remain highly likely to nominate Hillary.
Bush had a tough decision to make. I think he made a reasonable call, given the nature of the underlying prosecution and the political origins of the entire investigation.
UPDATE: WSJ Law Blog says that some criminal defendants will be asking judges for the same treatment Libby got. But judges are not the president; the pardon power has always been the exception to the rule of law.
July 2, 2007
POLITICS/LAW: Bush Commutes Libby Sentence
Just hours after the DC Circuit affirmed the order requiring Scooter Libby to face jail time pending the appeal of his conviction, President Bush used the presidential pardon power to commute Libby's sentence, thus sparing him jail time while leaving in place the conviction - in other words, an unsentenced conviction for a victimless crime:
President Bush Monday spared former vice presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby from going to prison for 2 1/2 years for obstructing the CIA leak investigation, a White House official said.
Now, we get to hear what Hillary Clinton thinks about the proper uses of the pardon power and whether losing your high position in federal office is insufficient punishment for perjury.
UPDATE: What do I mean by "victimless crime"? Libby was convicted for misleading an investigation into a whodunit where the investigators already knew whodunit and didn't prosecute. Granted, Libby's false statements to the FBI (unlike his grand jury testimony) preceded Fitzgerald's appointment and Armitage's confession, but even so, the "harm" to the investigation was pretty fleeting and had no real consequence.
I don't underrate the seriousness of perjury, but in sentencing, or using the pardon power, you consider mitigating factors. Unlike the Paula Jones case, no individual litigant was harmed by obstruction of the discovery process. And unlike the Sandy Berger case, there was no successful coverup.
June 21, 2007
POLITICS: Finally, A Man Harry Reid Can Respect
Was it the pork? The filibusters against civil rights? The white sheet?
Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid calls Robert Byrd "this unusually brilliant man."
Well, that's a change of tune. Consider what Harry the Insult Comic Senator has had to say about a number of other distinguished public servants:
I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.
Pace is also a yes-man for the President. I told him to his face, I laid it out last time he came in to see me. I told him what an incompetent man I thought he was.
I don't believe him. . . isn't in touch with what's going on in Baghdad.
Reid on Alan Greenspan: "one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington."
Reid on Bill Frist: "no institutional integrity"
Given the company, I'm quite certain I'd rather be criticized by Senator Reid.
June 20, 2007
POLITICS: Independent Mike and The First Law of Third Parties
So Mike Bloomberg's brief membership in the Republican party has ended, now that he made the cover of Time Magazine. (H/T)
Bloomberg and the GOP were always a marriage of convenience; a lifelong Democrat until he ran for Mayor, Bloomberg is your basic Northeastern centrist, liberal on social issues, fiscally moderate, but disdainful of the interest-group pathologies of the Democratic Party. The marriage made sense for both sides: Bloomberg needed a party and found an easier path in the GOP, which lacked longtime officeholders to get in his way; the GOP needed a successor who wouldn't dismantle the progress - especially on law enforcement - made by Rudy Giuliani, and wouldn't be beholden to the Al Sharptons of the world. By running as a Republican, Bloomberg made both sides happy, without ever really governing as a genuine Republican as opposed to a neoliberal. Now that he is term-limited from running again, the reason for the marriage has evaporated.
That said, the biggest winner from this announcement is Eliot Spitzer. Bloomberg would have been a formidable challenger for the governor's mansion, running as a self-financed, widely-known, moderate Republican with executive experience but no ties to Albany. I can't see him taking out an entrenched incumbent as an independent, and his decision to leave the party suggests a disinterest in going in that direction.
Speculation is rife, of course, that Bloomberg has his eye on national office. Think he will run even a semi-serious third party campaign for president? Think again. Remember the first, and perhaps only, rule of even modestly noteworthy third parties in our system: they must be organized around some issue on which the two major parties agree. The gravitational pull of the major parties is too strong to overcome simply by fielding a candidate who is charismatic (as the bloodless Bloomberg most assuredly is not - it's not that he lacks the warmth and empathy of Bill Clinton, it's that he lacks the warmth and empathy of Mike Dukakis) or who picks a different set of positions from the menu than either major party candidate. I've argued for some time that the sweet spot for an impact third party in 2008 would be anti-abortion, anti-war, anti-immigrant, anti-spending, anti-trade and perhaps anti-racial preferences - in short, a candidate with populist appeal to isolationist, socially conservative blue-collar voters - and almost none of that describes Bloomberg. I can't think of any issue on which he is likely to dissent alone from a consensus shared by the two major parties' nominees, and without that he would lack a rationale other than "let's elect a really, really rich guy."
Despite his various forays into nanny-state-ism, Bloomberg is, by New York City standards, not a bad mayor; like I said, he's a technocratic caretaker who has done a lot to consolidate Mayor Giuliani's gains. But he will not get 10% of the vote in any state in November 2008 if he runs.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:32 AM | Politics 2007 | Politics 2008 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: What Are You, On Crack?
No, I can't really top Ace on the Thomas Ravenel story.
Tough week for Rudy Giuliani - Ravenel was the top elected official in his South Carolina campaign, while tops in Iowa was Jim Nussle, who is now headed to DC to be the Budget Director.
May 30, 2007
POLITICS: Kerry Campaign Busted Spending Limit - On Customized Jets
Dignity. Integrity. Duty.
Aw, heck, why not just blow it all on fancy airplanes?
Sen. John Kerry broke spending limits by nearly $1.4 million during his 2004 presidential bid, including some funds spent on customizing his campaign jets, a Federal Election Commission draft audit concludes.
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About $1.3 million was spent to reconfigure two jets before the general election. Kerry's primary campaign committee paid for most of the work.
Kerry denies any impropriety. Interestingly, the Globe notes that "[t]he Kerry-Edwards campaign account has about $4.3 million remaining". I'm sure the campaign's donors are thrilled to hear that.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:26 PM | Politics 2004 | Politics 2007 | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
May 22, 2007
POLITICS: Tax Amnesty For Illegal Immigrants: Paying Taxes is For Suckers
As I have explained at great length before, there are two types of amnesty for violations of the law: complete amnesty, meaning no penalties whatsoever, and partial amnesty, by which people are absolved from consequences for lawbreaking for some penalty less than the full force of the law. It's been obvious for some time that the current immigration bill would provide a partial amnesty for people currently in the U.S. illegally. For people who oppose any type of amnesty, that's reason enough to oppose the bill. For people like me, who are willing to support a 'legalization' process under the right circumstances, the question is the details. But one thing should be absolutely non-negotiable: anybody who wants to stay in the U.S. legally has to pay their taxes.
The bill currently under discussion appears to fail that test. The immigration bill would bestow a massive tax amnesty on illegal immigrants. The supporters of this bill think that you, as an American citizen, should pay taxes - but illegal immigrants can become legal residents without paying their own share. This is scandalous. The bill should be rejected for that reason alone, and its supporters should be made to explain why they didn't want illegal immigrants to pay the taxes they already owe.
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I'm working here off of National Review's PDF copy of the bill, as well as N.Z. Bear's annotated copy. If I read this bill correctly, the sections establishing the "Z visa" that gives lawful status to people currently illegally in the U.S. are Sections 601-02 and 609, at pp. 260-85 and 294-95 of the draft bill.
What do you have to pay to get the Z visa?
What do you have to pay to go from a Z visa to lawful permanent residence?
"They never contribute more than they take out and at retirement they become very costly," Rector said in Capitol Hill press conference on Monday with Sessions, Sen. Jim Bunning (R.-Ky.) and Rep. Bill Bilbray (R.-Calif.). "Every person that gets the Z visa, and that would be about 12 million people, 9 million of which are adults - is immediately eligible for Social Security. They start to contribute to that system. They start to earn eligibility for Medicare. The White House has claimed they don't get welfare benefits. That is absolutely untrue. For the first 10 years or so they are in the country, the adults would not get welfare benefits, but the children would. They are going to be here for fifty years. For the first 10 years they don’t get means tested welfare, but for the next forty they are going to be eligible for every single type of means tested welfare."
Apparently the Bush Administration feels that collecting back taxes will be too hard to calculate:
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, asked in a telephone interview yesterday to clarify Chertoff's remark, said it referred only to future taxes.
Of course, the bill is very flexible on how you go about proving that applicants have been, and continue to be, employed and resident in the U.S. for a certain period of time. This being a voluntary statutory solution rather than a compulsory court proceeding, there's no reason why a similar process and formula couldn't be adopted for computing an estimated tax liability. As I have noted before, requiring full payment of all back taxes reduces the incentive to exaggerate how long you have been here, since a longer term of residence means more tax liability. A similar amnesty program could be put in place to encourage the employers of illegals to report and pay their back withholding/payroll taxes using the same formulas.
We can have a fair debate about whether it's proper to let people who entered illegally stay here. But if the idea is to legalize people who are supposed to be hardworking, taxpaying Americans, there's no justification whatsoever for not making them pay their taxes like the rest of us.
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May 21, 2007
POLITICS: Forget the War, Taxes, and Abortion
John Hawkins, who I usually respect, is joining the caucus that is ready to blow up the Senate GOP over immigration. As I have said, I'm not thrilled with where we seem to be headed on this issue, and I understand the concern of people who think that more immigration will damage the GOP electorally (and help offset the Democrats' natural demographic disadvantage that flows from being the party of people who don't bear or beget children).
But I can't sign on to going bonkers over this issue. There's a war on. There are still fundamental differences between the parties on scores of core issues - taxes and economic liberties, life, the courts, the rule of law. Face it, we have lived with bad immigration policy for decades. We should fix that - but it's not the end of the world if we don't, and electing Democrats, of all people, won't help.
May 18, 2007
POLITICS: Why Harry Can't Reid
Regular readers will know that immigration isn't exactly my top issue. The system is broken in many ways, unfair to legal immigrants, impotent in the face of mass illegal immigration and unlawful entry by criminals and terrorists, and lethargic and undermanned even when it takes action, but I remain skeptical that our political system is even capable of dealing seriously with these issues. I'm in favor of comprehensive reform, but only if it contains real enforcement teeth; I'm OK with more legal immigration and fine with allowing present illegals to become citizens, but only if there is a substantial price of entry paid for the privilege of citizenship (I discussed the "amnesty" issue at much greater length here).
All that said, there is no reason whatsoever for the Senate to be rushing a vote on the massively complex immigration bill when there will barely be time for Senators to read the thing and no ability for the public to examine its provisions and peaceably assemble to petition for redress of grievances with the bill.
May 17, 2007
WAR/LAW: Sandy Berger Won't Say
Allahpundit notes that Sandy Berger has surrendered his law license rather than face cross-examination about his destruction of original classified documents to obstruct the investigation of the 9/11 Commission. Allahpundit thinks that Berger would have been able to assert the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering those questions, but I'm not so sure; after all, he has already been sentenced for the conduct in question, and in light of the Double Jeopardy Clause the right against self-incrimination no longer attaches after sentencing.
Unless, of course, there are other crimes he could still be charged with besides the ones he was convicted and sentenced for.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:12 PM | Law 2006-08 | Politics 2007 | War 2007-12 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Eliot Spitzer's Pro-Abortion Zealotry
Most of you should be familiar by now with the Seven Stages of Liberal Legal Activism:
1. It's a free country, X should not be illegal.
We have known since very early on in Eliot Spitzer's tenure in public office that he was a pro-abortion zealot who would stop at nothing to serve the financial interests of the abortion industry. The only question now is whether New York's Governor is at Stage Six or Stage Seven.
Read More »
A New York NARAL Political Action Committee brochure reads: "NARAL/NY was central to the narrow yet critical triumph by Eliot Spitzer in the race for Attorney General" in 1998. The brochure also quotes Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat, as saying that "NARAL/NY was instrumental in my victory."
Eliot Spitzer, the state attorney general . . . is conducting a civil investigation to determine whether they are practicing medicine without a license, and also whether they are intentionally misleading women into thinking they can obtain abortions at the centers. The attorney general's office subpoenaed the records of nine CPC operations, but withdrew them under protest and legal challenge by CPC lawyers, who are representing the money-strapped centers for free.
Anne Downey, who represents the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Western New York, says, "There certainly seems to be a political motivation" behind the attorney general's investigation: "We have never been given any specifics about this alleged violation at our center. We don't know if there's even a factual basis for this significant intrusion into our activities." Downey also complains that the investigators "keep coming back and narrowing what we are allowed to say"; for example, the attorney general wants CPCs to put up signs on their doors explicitly saying the centers are not abortion clinics.
What do CPCs do that so offends abortion-rights proponents? "The charade is that they provide alternatives, when they don't provide alternatives, they frighten women with horror films about abortion, they lie about the psychological impact of abortion; they have even been known to lie about whether a woman is pregnant," Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt told the Washington Post. Even worse, from the abortion-rights point of view, CPCs are getting savvier about employing ultrasound technology to "trick" pregnant women into having their babies instead of aborting them. An increasing number of CPCs offer sonograms for pregnant women who visit them-and they report that women, once they see their babies moving in their wombs, overwhelmingly choose to carry the pregnancy to term. Fumed one Long Island abortion provider in the New York Times: "The bottom line is no woman is going to want an abortion after she sees a sonogram."
As the NY Sun noted, the investigation was characteristically intrusive and costly:
The subpoenas, which demanded the names of staff members and their credentials, training materials, promotional information, and data on all policies relating to client referrals, created an onerous burden on these centers, which are nonprofit and funded by private donations.
More here. Yet, Spitzer refused to take action against an abortion clinic that did engage in deceptive practices, including "advertising in a section of The Yellow Pages that is solely reserved for organizations that do not provide abortions or references for abortions."
Unsurprisingly, Spitzer got an ethusiastic endorsement in 2006 from NARAL.
Now, in reaction to the Supreme Court upholding the bipartisan ban on partial-birth abortion - a ban so limited and moderate that it was supported by the last two leaders of Spitzer's own party in the Senate as well as numerous reliable Congressional liberals like Patrick Leahy, Joe Biden, John Dingell, Patrick Kennedy, Jack Murtha and David Obey - and the collapse of any further challenges to that ban in New York, Spitzer is rolling out the "Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act," which according to Spitzer will do the following:
*Affirmatively state that a woman has a fundamental right to control her own reproductive health *Establish protections for the rights ensured by Roe: that a pregnant woman has the right to an abortion at any time when her life or health are in danger *Ensure the continuation of public funding for reproductive health services *Decriminalize abortion in New York *Solidify in New York law the existing federal right to contraception and remove the statute that makes it a crime to provide non-prescription contraception to minors.
More here and here; Spitzer's wife stressed that "[a]t a time when the future of Roe is uncertain, states must ensure that their protections of reproductive rights are as robust as they can possibly be."
As if this were not enough, however, the New York State Catholic Conference notes that the bill quietly goes much further:
The Governor’s bill would:
(I'm quoting from a NYSCC email, portions of which are also reprinted here).
It's time for the New York State Senate to stand up against Spitzer's extremism. And it's also time for New York's two leading presidential candidates to weigh in. Hillary Clinton happily took Spitzer's endorsement; is she willing to publicly embrace Spitzer's extremism on this issue? And Rudy Giuliani has struggled to convince pro-lifers that his longstanding support for legal abortion, donations to Planned Parenthood and acceptance of honors from NARAL doesn't amount to the kind of pro-abortion stance that Democrats like Spitzer have taken; now is his chance to put some substance to that effort.
Spitzer is outside the mainstream, even in New York. He must be stopped.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:06 PM | Politics 2007 | Politics 2008 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
Patterico responds again to the idea (see here, h/t here) that voter fraud is a non-existent problem simply because it is hard to get criminal convictions for voter fraud. More background in this post, and that's before we even get to some of the voter-turnout figures for cities like Philadelphia and Milwaukee (I've never heard a legitimate explanation as to how a large city can have voter turnout in excess of 100%).
May 16, 2007
RELIGION/POLITICS: Jerry Falwell's Legacy
Like a lot of conservative pundits, I could exhaust my server with examples of things Rev. Jerry Falwell said that I would not want to associate myself with, the short summary of which is that for much of his career, he was not a political asset to the conservative movement. (Go here, though, for one example of me defending Falwell on theological grounds)
But a man's passing has a way of focusing attention on the big things he did with his time on this Earth, rather than the raw, rough edges of his public statements. And an article in the current New Republic inadvertantly gives Rev. Falwell a legacy any man would be proud to leave behind:
The Catholic Church was the first to attack abortion: Even before Roe, the Church hierarchy coordinated a parish-by-parish effort to stop any sort of reform bill, including those for therapeutic abortions. This predominantly Catholic movement didn't broaden into the more ecumenical one we know until the late '70s and early '80s, when Protestant evangelicals first joined in. In 1978, Jerry Falwell preached his first sermon on abortion; a year later, the newly formed Moral Majority put abortion at the top of its list of secular humanist scourges. Two years later, Ronald Reagan was the first presidential candidate in U.S. history to run on a party platform that condemned abortion.
PS - That TNR piece also claims - revealingly, of the dehumanized mindset that sets in on this issue - that partial-birth abortion isn't a big deal because "only" 2,200 of them are performed a year . . . how, I ask, would the writer of that piece respond if a conservative said that "only" 2,200 deaths from the Iraq War per year was too small a number to be of concern to anyone, or that "only" 2,200 executions a year shouldn't be enough for anyone to care about.
I thought so.
May 4, 2007
POLITICS: You Get What You Vote For (And You Pay For It Too)
The 2006 elections brought us eight new Democratic governors, plus the re-election of 11 Democratic incumbents. Nobody should be surprised, however, to see that several of those governors are reaching for Democrats' favorite cure for all ills: higher taxes. Let's take a look at some of the Democratic governors who think taxes just aren't high enough, as well as a few who have learned their lesson (and one Republican who hasn't):
The Main Offenders:
Illinois: Rod Blagojevich
Following his re-election, Gov. Blagojevich proposed the largest tax increase in Illinois history, "a tax on businesses at every step in providing services or products," carrying an estimated $7.6 billion price tag and supporting a plan "to boost spending on health insurance, schools and pensions," a plan that has drawn stiff bipartisan opposition in the state House and even led Chicago's Democratic Mayor to blast Blagojevich for jacking up taxes and using anti-business rhetoric.
Michigan: Jennifer Granholm
Michigan voters knew, with the state's economy badly lagging behind the nation as a whole, that they were voting for more of the same by re-electing Gov. Granholm. But apparently deciding that the business climate wasn't bad enough, she is proposing $1.5 billion in new taxes, and threatening cuts to essential services to get the state legislature to play along. "Granholm favors a 2-cent service tax that would tax everything from haircuts to car washes. An across-the-board sales tax increase is also an option," and she insists that a hike in income taxes is the only other alternative. Michigan retailers are crying foul.
Pennsylvania: Ed Rendell
Affable big-city machine politicians like Rendell, handily re-elected after a challenge by Lynn Swann, become a lot less likeable once the tab comes due. Rendell proposed upping the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, which would put Pennsylvania second only to California in sales taxes, and continue a sharp upward trend in the state's tax burden. Two thirds of the hike was earmarked for new spending, with a third offsetting planned property tax cuts:
About 40 percent of the $1.246 billion in new revenue would go toward expanding the $1 billion a year in property-tax reductions that slot-machine gambling is eventually expected to generate; the rest would be used to finance other state programs.
That proposal looks dead now due to opposition in the legislature, though legislators are split on whether to support other tax increases or to support the hike if the whole thing is earmarked for property tax cuts. Rendell had also proposed other tax increases:
Rendell's $27.3 billion budget includes proposals for . . . increasing waste-disposal fees from $6.25 per ton to $9 per ton to help the state's hazardous site cleanup fund and establishing a new electricity usage tax of $0.0005 on kilowatts of energy used per hour to help fund an energy independence program. It also proposes taxing oil companies 6.17 percent on their total profits and taxing businesses that do not provide health insurance to their employees 3 percent of their annual payroll to fund state health care.
All of this is intended to pay for "a 3.6 percent or $948-million increase in spending growth."
Colorado: Bill Ritter
While he stumbled in recent years, Colorado's former GOP Governor Bill Owens was rightly lionized for the hard line on taxes and spending that had earned him a National Review cover calling him "America's Best Governor". Central to that effort was the 1992 Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which restricts the ability of Colorado state government to raise taxes.
So of course, Owens' Democratic successor, Bill Ritter, is looking for ways around TABOR, setting up a possible constitutional crisis in Colorado. The proposal Ritter supports - and which passed the state Senate on a largely party-line vote - would strip away built-in protections against property tax hikes driven by increased property values:
Under current law, mill levies, which are used to calculate property taxes, ratchet down as property values rise, because of an interaction between the 1994 School Finance Act and various constitutional provisions, including TABOR.
Call it what you will, but a bill to cause taxes to go up 29.8% when they otherwise would not certainly sounds like a tax hike to me. And it will to Colorado homeowners, too.
Massachusetts: Deval Patrick
Deval Patrick reclaimed the "Taxachusetts" governors' mansion for the Democrats for the first time since Michael Dukakis, and what's on his menu? First, closing "loopholes" to increase business taxes by some $500 million, though he is proposing a commission to nail down the specifics:
The Patrick administration proposes seven changes to corporate tax codes that would:
Patrick's administration "explains that these are not anti-business but a matter of fairness and shared responsibility." He also wants to open up new avenues of local taxation (a plan opposed by the state Senate's leading Republican):
Patrick's plan would allow communities to raise meals taxes from 5 percent to up to 7 percent; lodging taxes could be raised from 9.7 percent and 12.45 percent (for Boston, Cambridge and Springfield) to 10.7 percent and 13.5 percent. Patrick has proposed a separate idea allowing communities to tax telecom companies' properties.
Maine: John Baldacci
Baldacci, re-elected in 2006, wants to raise $131 million with a $1-a-pack hike in the cigarette tax (don't you love when Democrats propose regressive taxes on a product people are addicted to? At least it's a concession that this is one activity that won't go away if you tax it, though it can be evaded if you can drive to another state.) Some fellow Democrats disagree and think the alcohol tax should be raised instead, or want to "put more of the tax burden on visitors to the state." Republicans have been opposing any new taxes, while Democrats play chicken with business taxes:
Sen. Karl Turner, R-Cumberland, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said Republicans on the panel have worked out a list of proposed cuts to bring the budget into balance without raising taxes.
Wisconsin: Jim Doyle
The purplest state in the nation in the 2004 election re-elected Democrat Jim Doyle last year, campaigning on a platform of (among other things) not raising taxes, while the state legislature is split. Now, the bill is coming due, with perhaps as much as $1.75 billion in new taxes. As one state Republican explained:
Suder got down to the brass tacks of Doyle's proposal, $7.6 billion in new spending and borrowing over the biennial period.
[The budget includes] a tax on small business owners who file quarterly business forms by mail . . . and taxes on music downloads, e-mail greeting cards and soda purchases.
Republicans have opposed those new taxes. Doyle wants a staggering $1.25 per pack increase in the cigarette tax. And he proposes a 2.5% gasoline tax that is bound to be passed on to consumers one way or another:
A tax on oil companies proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle could be passed through to consumers at the gas pump, according to an analysis by state tax officials cited in a conservative group's new report.
Oregon: Ted Kulongoski
Oregon has a $1 billion budget surplus, so what does the state's newly re-elected Democrat governor, Ted Kulongoski, want to do? Raise what some estimate as up to $1.6 billion in new taxes. To pay for a vast new healthcare spending plan, he proposed an 84.5 cent hike in, yes, the cigarette tax. But while Democrats control both houses of the state legislature, tax increases require more votes than the Democrats have, and so the cigarette tax hike bit the dust when only one Republican joined all 31 Democrats in the state House in supporting it.
New Hampshire: John Lynch
New Hampshirites may have a longstanding reputation for their flinty opposition to taxes and spending, but with Democrats controlling the legislature for the first time in over 80 years, Democratic Gov. John Lynch, re-elected in 2006, apparently doesn't share that view. Lynch proposed what some called an increase of 15-17% in state spending, and the state House passed a budget that raised spending 11% (compared to a Lynch proposal decribed as a 9% hike), plus tax hikes:
[L]awmakers approved two new tax increases: a 45-cent increase in the cigarette tax, to $1.25 a pack, and a 4 percent increase in the real estate transfer tax, raising the rate for home buyers and sellers from $7.50 to $7.80 each per $1,000 of home value. The House also voted to raise the state portion of the vehicle registration fee by $6.
On the tax side, "Lynch had proposed a 28-cent cigarette tax hike and a larger fee hike on registering large trucks." Republicans have denounced the tax hikes, and only two Republicans voted for the new budget.
Tennessee: Phil Bredesen
Gov. Bredesen rightly won plaudits in his first term for his centrism (he has resisted calls for a state income tax), and times are rich in Tennessee; the governor admitted in a recent address to the General Assembly that "I have never had a year with as much new money as we have before us now." Yet, he is standing by his request to triple the cigarette tax to pay for education spending, a 40-cent-a-pack hike that has drawn stiff opposition from Republicans who say taxes should not need to be increased in good economic times.
The Mixed Bags:
Iowa: Chet Culver
Iowa Democrats in the legislature proposed 20% increases to the state sales and use taxes. Iowa's new Democratic governor, to his credit, opposed the plan, which bit the dust, but ended up signing a $127 million increase in cigarette taxes to pay for new spending:
[One Iowa Republican] said a record wage and benefits increase of $1.8 million to state employees was too much, while Seymour criticized that 625 new state jobs will be created in the year beginning July 1. . . .
New Mexico: Bill Richardson
There are any number of reasons to be alarmed by the thought of Bill Richardson as the Commander-in-Chief, but give the man his due: on taxes, he's as good as a Democrat with national aspirations is likely to get, compiling at worst a checkered record on taxes. He came into office in 2003 promising supply side tax cuts in income and capital gains taxes. After signing an income tax cut that slashed rates from 8.2% to 4.9% over five years, though, he backslid in raising other taxes and fees over the following years, including "tax increases on everything from cigarettes to fuel and a complicated, Dickensian, and later repealed surcharge on nursing home beds--all totaling a net tax increase of roughly $174 million through fiscal year 2006, according to the conservative Americans for Tax Reform." This year, he championed a popularly enacted $49 million sales tax hike to fund the construction of a Virgin Galactic spaceport in southern New Mexico.
New York: Eliot Spitzer
Eliot Spitzer surprised a lot of people when he promised on the campaign trail not to raise taxes after 12 years of Republican management in Albany. His record on the job has been more mixed, though not as bad as some of his Democratic cohorts. In March, Spitzer drew criticism from Mayor Bloomberg for a proposal to raise some $2 billion in taxes on banks (a crucial industry in New York City) through the closing of "loopholes," once again to finance a big-spending budget. The final budget backtracked significantly on those tax hike proposals, and contained a mixed bag for business taxes:
The budget does reduce the corporate tax rate from 7.5 percent to 7.1 percent and cuts the tax on manufacturing income to 6.5 percent from 7.5 percent. It also reduces the corporate alternative minimum tax from 2.5 percent to 1.5 percent. The moves will help save New York companies $150 million, according to the governor's office. Other changes, however, will close what Spitzer has described as "loopholes" that allowed companies to shield income from state taxes. The changes will generate about $450 million in new revenue for the state. That means a net tax increase for businesses, Duerr says.
Spitzer is not done hunting for new sources of revenue, including squeezing stores owned by Native Americans in upstate New York to pay more in sales taxes. Spitzer has proposed property tax relief but is opposing a GOP plan to increase tax rebates for senior citizens.
Maryland: Martin O'Malley
Filling Bob Ehrlich's shoes in Maryland isn't easy, and newly elected Governor Martin O'Malley has tried to avoid pulling the trigger on new tax hikes even against the weight of Maryland's left-wing state legislature, opposing a hike in property taxes from 11.2 to 12 cents. But it ain't over yet:
"In the months ahead, I think we need to look at our entire tax structure and make it more modern, inclusive and fair," O'Malley (D) said...The state is required to set the residential tax rate by May 1.
O'Malley has, in fact, drawn criticism for moving slowly in general (some calling him "O'Molasses"); the jury is still out on whether he will follow the lead of his tax-hiking brethren.
Kansas: Kathleen Sebelius
Kansas, as you would expect, has Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature, and has formed a bipartisan consensus (including Governor Sebelius) around low taxes:
On the topic of taxes, it was again a good year to be a business lobbyist in Topeka. The Legislature helped business with an estimated $135 million tax reduction over the next five years with the phase-out of the franchise tax, and an unemployment tax reduction worth $176 million.
Still, Republicans are worried that overspending will erode this policy in the future. And Gov. Sebelius, re-elected in 2006, has announced that she will continue her years-long push for a 50 cent hike in the cigarette tax to pay for new health care spending.
Arizona: Janet Napolitano
After major tax cuts she signed in 2006, albeit after negotiating down Republican proposals for larger cuts, newly rele-ected incumbent Napolitano urged a go-slow approach on Republican legislators looking for further cuts in 2007:
Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, has argued that the state should measure the impact of those cuts before enacting more, but she has not commented recently about where tax cuts figure into budget negotiations.
More recently, the Republican state House passed $62 million in new tax cuts, but Napolitano has endorsed a bipartisan Senate bill that does not include them. In general, Napolitano has acceded to the reality of Arizona's anti-tax mood.
The Good Guys
Not every Democrat is on the wrong side of the tax issue. Here are some who have learned to buck their party's orthodoxy on taxes:
Arkansas: Mike Beebe
Mike Huckabee's successor is off to a good start on taxes, signing into law some $200 million in tax cuts ranging from sales and property taxes to income taxes on low income earners and taxes on manufacturers' energy use.
Oklahoma: Brad Henry
Oklahoma has the nation's lowest tax burden, something the recently re-elected Gov. Henry applauds, and has previously enacted tax cuts still to come online. While Gov. Henry recently vetoed a budget bill passed by the legislature (which is divided among the two parties), tax hikes were not on anyone's radar and further cuts remain possible.
Ohio: Ted Strickland
Losing their way on taxes was a big part of the Ohio GOP's dramatic downfall in 2006, and especially with the GOP still holding the legislature, that lesson has not been lost on new Democratic Governor Ted Strickland. Strickland's new budget won unanimous support in the Ohio House, thanks in no small part to a popular increased property tax exemption for senior citizens, paid for with windfall money from the 1998 tobacco settlement. Strickland is also considering tax breaks for companies that are losing money, although one can debate whether that is really spending disguised as a tax break.
Jodi Rell of Connecticut
Finally, I should add here that at least one newly elected Republican governor has been every bit as bad as any Democrat. Jodi Rell of Connecticut got re-elected in a landslide largely by avoiding the Republican label, but now she runs a serious risk of destroying the GOP's low-tax brand in her state for a generation by proposing a massive 10% increase in the state income tax, while state "Democrats' proposal would raise even more money but would also cut taxes for the middle class . . . [and] increase state spending by 10.4 percent and increase taxes by $1.6 billion" by hiking the top tax rate by 40%. A hardy band of Republicans in the state legislature has proposed a "No Tax Increase Budget" that includes no tax hikes, but with 2-to-1 Democratic majorities in both houses, don't expect much. Connecticut voters have been stuck with an echo, not a choice.
April 25, 2007
BASEBALL: Hunter Becomes Hunted
In light of the Torii Hunter situation, I think what MLB needs to do is retroactively clarify the rule to apply a lower punishment for minor violations. The current punishment is disproportionate to these facts - you can't suspend Hunter for three years. At the same time, if the rule is on the books you have to enforce it, and can't be selective about it. And while the punishment seems especially draconian for a guy who apparently didn't even know of the rule (I'd never heard of it before), I'm not at all comfortable writing into a prophylactic rule of this nature an "out" for guys who claim they didn't know.
This is off topic but this is another reason I've long thought the campaign finance laws were a farce. Back in the 90s, both Newt Gingrich and Al Gore (and they weren't the only ones, witness Tom DeLay's legal difficulties) got in trouble for rather technical campaign finance violations. In both cases their supporters argued that (1) such technical violations couldn't possibly be grounds for prosecuting such important elected officials, (2) they could not have known they were breaking the rule, there was no controlling legal authority, and (3) those laws hadn't been enforced in that way in the past (in Gore's case an 1886 statute nobody'd ever been prosecuted under). Regardless of the merits of the two cases, it seemed to me then and still does that if the laws are vague or technical enough, or the penalties disproportionate enough, that you would blanch at throwing an important person you support in the slammer for breaking them, then they have no business on the books. The same goes here - if you don't think Torii Hunter should be suspended for three years over a couple cases of champagne, change the rule.
PS, Hunter was making good on something he had said last year - did MLB know then, and if so why didn't anyone warn him?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:39 PM | Baseball 2007 | Politics 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: McGovern Agrees With Cheney
In response to Dick Cheney's recent comparison of today's Democrats to the McGovernites of 1972, George McGovern himself responds:
I do agree with Cheney: Today's Democrats are taking positions on the Iraq war similar to the views I held toward the Vietnam War.
Of course, this moment of candid agreement comes in the middle of a long, screedy op-ed basically reiterating that McGovern and Cheney don't agree on very much. But inasmuch as this is virtually the only point in the op-ed where McGovern deals with the specific charge levelled by Cheney, it's a significant concession.
April 23, 2007
POLITICS: Fair and Balanced
French pick woman to face rightist in prez race
Royal, 53, perfectly coiffed and dressed in a chic white suit, urged supporters last night to choose a path to a "new France" that cultivates "human values" and cares for the less fortunate.
Many are predicting violence anew if Sarkozy is elected. Some voters blamed a strong anti-Sarkozy vote for yesterday's unprecedented 84% voter turnout.
But can a woman be elected president of chivalrous France, where Chirac still routinely greets women - even German Chancellor Angela Merkel - with a kiss on the hand?
But the press has no agenda. Just reporting the facts.
April 11, 2007
POP CULTURE: Sticks and Stones
So the Rutgers women's basketball team held a team press conference yesterday to respond to Don Imus:
Rutgers' outraged coach, C. Vivian Stringer, wiped away tears as she recounted her own battles with racism and said she won't let Imus "steal our joy."
The decision to hold this press conference is a horrible failure of leadership on the part of Stringer and anyone else in the athletic and academic establishment at Rutgers who let this happen.
To recap, for those of you just tuning in, radio 'shock jock' Don Imus is in hot water, and justifiably so, for referring to the Rutgers women's hoops players as "nappy headed hos," and a fair debate is to be had as to whether this proves that Imus is
(a) a racist and/or sexist;
I'm not here to defend Imus, as his remark was indefensible, and besides, Imus endorsed and relentlessly touted Kerry in 2004, so let the Left defend him. On the other hand, as I have long argued, not everything that is indefensible is necessarily a capital crime. Imus has, appropriately, been given a two-week suspension for the same reason you hit the dog with a rolled-up newspaper when he poops on the living room rug. Whether he should be fired depends on what you think more generally about shock-jock radio, since this kind of thing is basically an occupational hazard of employing people like Imus. Of course, there's also the fact that Imus isn't funny (granted, I've never been a regular listener, and I first heard him around 1980 so I may be selling his early work short, but in my book a guy who is unfunny for going on three decades is not funny).
But here's the thing: whether or not they think they are just in the business of winning ballgames, college coaches are role models to their players. College students are at a particularly impressionable stage in their lives: finally old enough to first start to see adults as peers rather than distant authority figures, they naturally begin to model themselves on whomever they meet that most impresses them. Most college athletes - and I assume this is true of the Rutgers women as well - will not become professional athletes, and thus are preparing themselves for life and jobs in the real world. It is incumbent on their coaches to teach them lessons that will help them there.
Imus' remarks were crude and ugly, but the lesson Stringer should have been sending these young ladies is that they say a lot about Imus but nothing about them. Different people handle these things differently, but a coach worth his or her salt could have played this at least two perfectly reasonable ways. One is to laugh it off with the traditional "sticks and stones" attitude, and show the players that this really shouldn't mean anything to them; there will always be people who say inappropriate and mean-spirited things in life, and you shouldn't take that seriously. A more combative personality of the Bobby Knight variety would respond by taking some personal public potshots at Imus, drawing the story away from the players and into coach vs. shock jock; this would teach the players the valuable lesson that when somebody sucker punches your people, you hit them back in kind and teach them a lesson.
What you do not do is call a press conference like this:
"I want to ask him, 'Now that you've met me, am I ho?'" said Rutgers center Kia Vaughn of the Bronx. "Unless they've given 'ho' a whole new definition, that's not what I am."
Somebody gave these young women the message - or at least failed to disabuse them of the notion - that they should take Imus' words seriously, take them to heart. This press conference was a show of the coach and the players wallowing in Imus' words, embracing them, and thus elevating them as if any serious person would think less of them - rather than of Imus - for what Imus said. This story should never have been about the players, because Imus' words were generic (indeed, that's precisely why they were offensive). It's the Culture of Victimology at its most destructive, teaching these young women that they should consider themselves to have been genuinely maligned by an aging boor and to seek out the status and posture of one to whom a deep wrong has been done and who is owed.
Put more succinctly, when someone calls you a 'nappy headed ho,' you should not feel the need to call a press conference to deny it. Maybe these young women don't know that - but if they don't, it was the business of someone in a position of authority to teach them. Shame on Vivian Stringer and Rutgers University for failing to teach them that.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 AM | Basketball | Politics 2007 | Pop Culture | Comments (26) | TrackBack (0)
April 4, 2007
POLITICS: Raise The H-1B Cap
Lost in the perennial debate about amnesties, guest workers and lettuce-pickers is the H-1B visa, an economically vital program to let highly educated professionals who already have jobs lined up to enter the country to do them:
There's currently an annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas, which allow foreigners with a bachelor's degree in their area of specialty to spend up to six years working for companies in the United States. Up to 20,000 more visas are available for foreigners with advanced degrees from U.S. universities.
Whatever your thoughts on immigration more generally, these workers - many of them with advanced high-tech degrees and in great demand by U.S.-based businesses who are trying to onshore employees instead of offshoring facilities - are an exceptionally valuable economic resource our government should be encouraging. And as this year's H-1B lottery, which yet again was massively oversubscribed in record numbers from the very first day it opened (this Monday) shows, the dynamism of the U.S. economy is attracting far more of these workers than our government will permit into the country:
A spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told CNET News.com on Wednesday that the estimated 150,000 petitions received by the agency as of Monday afternoon--and an as-yet uncounted number that came in on Tuesday--set a record for the first days of a new application round.
Yes, you read that right: more than half of the applicants just on the first day will be turned away. Some of those opportunities may not knock a second time.
March 25, 2007
POLITICS: Bloggers Use New Technique
If by "New Technique" they mean "actually reading stuff before writing about it." But this article is correct that a lot of the news-management techniques of the Clinton White House, which were predicated upon manipulation of the behavior and habits of the mainstream media, would have been markedly less effective if there had been a blogosphere back then.
POLITICS: Yes, Virginia (and New Mexico), There Is Such A Thing As Voter Fraud
And those are just the ones who got caught, and by prosecutors willing to make these difficult cases stick.
March 22, 2007
POLITICS: The Roving Eye
March 20, 2007
POLITICS: Why I Love Megan McArdle's Blog
Just go read the latest in her back-and-forth with Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias on school choice. (Better yet, read the whole series).
March 12, 2007
POLITICS: Starting Early
I was watching the Mets-Marlins preseason game yesterday (the one that ended a 5-5 tie in 11 innings) and caught the tail end of an ad touting one of Eliot Spitzer's initiatives, I think his health plan, and saw this tagline at the end: "Paid for by Spitzer 2010."
And people say the presidential candidates are starting early.
March 5, 2007
Following up on my initial reaction here, I agree with this 100%, and this too. An excommunication of Ann Coulter from the organized conservative movement is overdue, both for tactical reasons and as a matter of basic moral hygeine.
March 2, 2007
POLITICS: Friday Afternoon Poll: Electric Al Gore Edition!
Take the Goreland poll:
LAW/POLITICS: Bad News For Libby
Jurors asked for the definition of "reasonable doubt" Friday after completing a shortened, eighth day of deliberations Friday in the perjury trial of ex-White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
I think that's bad news for Libby because Judge Walton will tell them no, the standard for conviction isn't that high, and that will swing the one/several/all jurors who are leaning to acquit under that definition.
February 28, 2007
POLITICS: Your Daily Dose of Glenn Greenwald's Mendacity
For those of you who may be tempted periodically to take Glenn Greenwald seriously, Patterico has a thorough, detailed and highly specific roundup of his latest breathtaking hypocrisy in attacking conservative bloggers for quoting anonymous comments on lefty blogs (more here from Jeff Goldstein), while QandO catches him in a gross distortion of a 2005 Joe Lieberman quote on Iraq.
February 20, 2007
If you have not already, you should read Tom Maguire's roundup of the trial testimony in the Libby case. What remains bizarre about the case is not that perjury charges were brought where there was no underlying crime - that does happen - but that perjury charges were brought where the prosecutor was investigating a whodunit and already knew when he started the investigation who done it.
Did Libby lie? I have to say, Maguire's portrait of the testimony certainly suggests that Libby's account was probably untrue, and difficult to square with the testimony - but also that (1) it would be very hard to have enough confidence in that conclusion to convict him, especially given how much trouble the prosecution witnesses had keeping their own stories consistent over time and (2) Tim Russert probably did not tell the truth either.
February 14, 2007
POLITICS: Federalizing The Local Diner: The Curious Case For A National Minimum Wage
One of the major agenda items for the new Democratic majority on Capitol Hill has been a hike in the federal minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour. Much to their embarrassment, Democrats found that they could not push legislation through the Senate controlled by the Democrat-Socialist majority without agreeing to a tax cut package to relieve some of the burden they are placing on small business. On Monday, House Democrats caved and approved the tax cuts, paving the way for the bill to become law.
The minimum wage, like all attempts at a command economy, is based upon the idea that there is an ideal "fair wage" or "living wage" that can be set by the government, not the market. Longtime observers are wearyingly familiar with the arguments on this point: liberals argue that it's unfair to allow people to work for peanuts, conservatives respond that people are free to work for what they will choose. Liberals argue that you can't raise a family on the minimum wage, conservatives respond that most minimum wage workers are young, single and/or part-time. Conservatives argue that the minimum wage throttles job growth for small businesses and entry-level workers, liberals contend that the job losses resulting from the minimum wage are nonexistent or overstated, conservatives reply that liberals are relying on quack economic studies.
Let's leave all that aside for now, and assume for the sake of argument that it is actually possible for the government to set a Platonic ideal minimum wage that provides a fairer income to workers with the minimum possible cost to job creation. That still doesn't answer three questions:
1. Why should there be a single federal minimum wage law for the entire country, covering every local labor market from Midtown Manhattan to Northern Mississippi?
2. If there really is a need for a single federal minimum wage, why does Congress nonetheless permit individual states to have higher minimum wages - and why should Representatives from those states care what the federal minimum wage is?
3. If the goal of a single federal minimum wage is to eliminate 'unfair' competition from workers willing to work for a lower wage, how do Democratic proponents of the bill expect it to succeed if it's not accompanied by stiffer enforcement directed at illegal immigrants who are the people most likely to work 'off the books' for a lower wage?
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1. Why a Single Federal Minimum Wage?
The case for a national minimum wage set by the federal government is risible. It's obviously ridiculous to suggest that labor conditions are the same everywhere - even if you did have that magic 8-Ball to tell you what is the "just right" level of government-set wages, it would be radically different from urban to rural markets, and among states and localities with drastically different costs of living. Everyone knows that you can live like a king in some parts of this country on wages that would not make ends meet in New York City.
So why try? The usual saw relied on by liberals to argue against different state regulatory environments for employment and workplaces is the "race to the bottom" - i.e., they admit that markets will work to undermine anti-business legislation but contend that if different states are allowed different rules, they will try to outbid each other in business friendliness and steal jobs from jurisdictions that keep a higher wage.
The first problem with the "race to the bottom" argument in the minimum wage context is, well, if states want to swim against the laws of economic reality, let them take the consequences. Why should other states be compelled against the will of their people to suffer the consequences?
A second problem is that minimum wage jobs actually are not all that mobile, so the net result of a single federal rule will be more to eliminate jobs than to prevent them from migrating elsewhere. Let's start with some facts about the minimum wage to explain why. As the Labor Department explains, it doesn't apply without exceptions. First, waiters/waitresses and others who get income from tips may qualify for a lower wage:
There are other exemptions:
Other programs that allow for payment of less than the full federal minimum wage apply to workers with disabilities, full-time students, and student-learners employed pursuant to sub-minimum wage certificates. These programs are not limited to the employment of young workers.
Despite these restrictions, however, the great bulk of minimum wage jobs are not manufacturing jobs but service jobs, in types of businesses that provide services on-site to local customers. Again, the Labor Department keeps detailed statisics on the characteristics of minimum wage workers, who as of 2005 made up 2.5% of the workforce (1.9 million workers), down from more than 15% when Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 (meaning, presumably, that the market has been raising wages without Congressional prompting).
When you look at types of workers, you see that just over half of all minimum wage workers (50.5%) are employed in service occupations, including a whopping 34.4% in "Food preparation and serving related occupations" and 7.1% in "Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations." Another 16.1% are in "Sales and related occupations." Looking at industries, 41.1% are in "Leisure and hospitality," 20% in "Retail trade," and another 14.6% combined in state and local government and "Education and health services."
What does all of this mean? Well, what it means is that unlike manufacturing jobs, most minimum wage jobs can't just pick up and move to another state. West Virginia can't steal burger-flipping jobs from Chicago, because nobody wants to drive from Chicago to West Virginia for a hamburger. Or to have their hospital sheets changed or their lawn mowed. One state or locality can't steal jobs of this nature from another. If West Virginians, who have the nation's highest proportion of minimum wage workers, get priced out of these jobs, they just disappear, meaning not only the loss of employment but also the loss of local services.
That doesn't mean that variations in the minimum wage has no effect, of course. Capital can still move. To offer a practical example, Dunkin' Donuts is planning to expand its chain of stores from its Northeast base to go nationwide. I don't know whether or how many Dunkin' Donuts employees earn the minimum wage, but I do know that a national chain of coffee & donut shops will undoubtedly look at the cost of doing business in different locales before deciding where to open its stores. Decisions of that nature will be affected by the minimum wage. But since many new minimum wage jobs are created by local small businesses, a federal law that actually affects the living wage in Los Angeles doesn't so much prevent rural Texas counties from stealing jobs from LA as it does simply eliminate job creation in Texas at no corresponding job gain to LA.
2. Why Allow States To Have Higher But Not Lower Minimum Wages?
If you buy the idea that a single national minimum wage can make economic sense, why on earth would you allow some states to end-run around the federal rule by raising their own state minimum wages above the federal limit? Isn't that an admission that the federal rule is meaningless in those states - and yet if state governments in other states want to react to local labor conditions by lowering the wage below the federal line, they are prohibited from doing so. How on earth does this make sense?
Under current law, 44 states have a minimum wage equal to or greater than the federal wage. If local lawmakers in those states want to raise the minimum wage to address local working conditions, they are free to do so. This map shows the breakdown of those states - the 30 states in green have a minimum wage above $5.15/hour, and the 14 in blue are equal to the federal minimum:
Even under the new law, by the time the federal wage goes up to $7.25 in 2009, it will already be mooted by equal or higher wage laws in ten states (California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington), the highest being $8/hour in Illinois. If the federal minimum wage is not satisfactory in these locales, isn't that yet another admission that a single federal rule can't possibly get the right answer for every local labor market? And if the voters of those states - every one of them a 'blue' state represented by a lot of the Congressional Democrats supporting this bill - have taken care of the 'problem' in their own jurisdictions, why should they foist their preferred local wage policies on the rest of the nation?
3. What About Illegal Immigrants?
Finally, the case for the minimum wage is, supposedly, about preventing 'unfair' competition by workers who are willing to work for a lower wage. (After all, if employers pay a low wage nobody's willing to work for, the wage goes up). But any student of economics knows that if you artificially raise the price of something, you create a potential black market. So any plan to raise prices, to be effective, needs to be accompanied by increased enforcement aimed at eliminating the black market.
In the labor market, the black market in cheap labor is practically synonymous with illegal immigrants, who enter the country illegally and exist, for all practical purposes, beyond the reach and protection of federal workplace laws. Most of these workers came here from places where prevailing wages were a lot lower than $7.25/hour, and so they have perfectly good reasons to be willing to work for less than that. Raising the minimum wage only increases the likelihood that jobs that would now be offered to legal American citizens will instead be given to illegal aliens.
But what does the new minimum wage bill do to step up enforcement against this source of cheap, illegal labor? What are its proponents doing to keep illegal aliens out of the work force? It's the Democrats who are the most ardent advocates of protecting the position of illegal aliens. That alone should demonstrate their unseriousness about the minimum wage. (The fact that Democrats want to legalize many existing aliens is no answer to this, since they aren't proposing a practical way to avoid having such a path to legalization be seen in Mexico and other countries as an open invitation for still more illegal entry).
Even if you buy the case for a minimum wage, the idea of extending it nationally, allowing some states to render it moot by adding on their own minimum wage, and failing to prevent evasion of the minimum wage by illegal immigrant labor demonstrates to any serious observer that the Democrats aren't serious about a federal minimum wage being good or effective policy. Once again, they are just playing politics at the expense of job creation, for benefits that are at best ephemeral. All in a day's work.
« Close It
POLITICS: Voter Intimidation
Republicans, for some time now, have been pushing for fairly tame measures to prevent voter fraud, most of which revolve around requiring voters to show some form of identification and otherwise leave a record that enables a determination of who, precisely, voted. In response to these common-sense proposals and other efforts to assure the integrity of the ballot, Democrats invariably complain that Republicans are engaging in some form of voter intimidation. Apparently, according to Democrats, even the mere act of having to properly identify yourself is so intimidating as to inhibit the right to vote.
Well. Now that the Democrats are in the majority, they are hard at work on legislation in another election context that will go far beyond mere identification, and eliminate secret ballots entirely, allowing voters to be pressured, even by their co-workers and in their own homes, to vote a specific way. The legislation, involving union elections, involves a practice called "card check," and it will be the subject of a bill markup today in the House.
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Our labor organizing laws are based on the simple and fair assumption that there are rational reasons why workers want to join unions and rational reasons why they don't want to join unions, and therefore workers should be given a free choice before locking themselves into a structure of compulsory union dues and mandatory collective bargaining.
But H.R. 800, the ""Employee Free Choice Act," would change the way union organizers can form a union. Pat Cleary of the National Association of Manufacturers explains:
Now, there's a couple of problems with the card check system. One is its asymmetry: the bill doesn't provide a similar system for decertifying a union. A second is that a card check campaign may deprive employees of the opportunity to hear from both sides, if a campaign is organized before the company has the opportunity to present its side of the story. A third is the flip side of that problem - card check campaigns can actually drag on much longer than secret ballot elections, potentially exposing workers to more abuses from those employers who use abusive and illegal union-busting tactics.
But some of these are minor quibbles compared to the staggering hypocrisy of the Democratic supporters of this bill in eradicating employees' right to a secret ballot. Remember this: any Democrat who votes in favor of a "card check" system, in which union organizers are looking right over the voter's shoulder, should absolutely never be taken seriously again in arguing that far less intrusive efforts to simply identify voters who cast secret ballots in the privacy of a voting booth is somehow "voter intimidation."
« Close It
February 10, 2007
POLITICS: Correction: Dubious Intelligence At The Washington Post
Walter Pincus' Mouth Is Moving, But Carl Levin's Voice Keeps Coming Out
If you read Friday morning's Washington Post, you were unlikely to miss a story on Page A1 (that's the front page) with the dramatic headline
The article, by Walter Pincus and R. Jeffrey Smith, purported to summarize the conclusions of a report by the Pentagon's inspector general, beginning with the news that
Intelligence provided by former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to buttress the White House case for invading Iraq included 'reporting of dubious quality or reliability' that supported the political views of senior administration officials rather than the conclusions of the intelligence community . . .
Of course, the Democrats, led by Michigan Senator Carl Levin, have been making this argument for some time. What was newsworthy, and certainly what was front-page-worthy, was that the Pentagon's own inspector general seemed to agree with Levin.
Apparently, though, this is more a case of Pincus and Smith agreeing with Levin and writing up an article that appears to have been itself so deceptive and misleading from the very outset that you wonder whether anyone read the thing before publishing it besides perhaps the people in Senator Levin's office who must have been dictating this to the dutiful scribes at the Post. Because take a look at the whopper of a correction the Post has posted, essentially recanting the entire thing:
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There goes the entire beginning, theme, title, and newsworthiness of the article. All the Post has left to stand on is a "well, they sounded alike" defense:
Check this morning's Post front page for this correction. Though I will be much surprised if it gets that prominence. After all, unlike the story itself, the correction is actually newsworthy.
« Close It
February 8, 2007
POLITICS: The Money Keeps Rolling In
Increased federal revenues keep on closing the budget gap ever since the 2003 Bush tax cuts (unlike the 2001 cuts, which were back-loaded) took full effect. Funny how that keeps happening.
February 1, 2007
LAW/POLITICS: Memorable Experiences
Ann Coulter (yes, yes, I know; standard Coulter-related disclaimers apply) offers a sensible and practical assessment of why the perjury case against Lewis Libby is so much weaker than was the case against Bill Clinton:
The exact same people who are now demanding prison for Libby for not remembering who told him about Plame are the ones who told us it was perfectly plausible for Bill Clinton to forget that Monica Lewinsky repeatedly performed oral sex on him in the Oval Office. Even if chubby Jewish brunettes aren't your type, be honest: Which of the two events would stand out more in your memory? . . .
Of course, there's also the matter of relevance. Libby was interviewed by federal agents in October and November 2003 and questioned by the Grand Jury in March 2004 - after it was already known to the Special Prosecutor that the Plame leak had come from Richard Armitage. Clinton, by contrast, was answering a series of questions that a federal judge had specifically ordered to be answered on grounds that they were relevant to an ongoing civil case in pretrial discovery, in which the core question (did Clinton sexually harass another subordinate?) had not been resolved.
Perjury being a serious crime, I'm still willing to give Fitzgerald something of the benefit of the doubt on the decision to indict, but there's no question that his evidence is significantly weaker, the defense significantly more plausible, and the case for bringing charges at all significantly more attenuated than in Clinton's case.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:16 PM | Law 2006-08 | Politics 2007 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
January 25, 2007
POLITICS: Webb's Fiction
Jonah Goldberg notes that while Jim Webb was citing a single, flimsy poll to suggest military disagreement with the Iraq War generally, among the details he left out was this, from the same poll: "Almost half of those responding think we need more troops in Iraq than we have there now."
UPDATE: Greyhawk has more detailed analysis. I don't doubt that there are liberal, antiwar Democrats in the military just like anywhere else, but it's silly to suggest that anything like a majority of the military is where Webb is on the war. The problem with the Democrats' worship of identity politics (e.g., the "chickenhawk" meme) is that it requires them to believe that the people fighting the war agree with them.
POLITICS: The Ultimate Opening To A NYT Book Review
I guess the best that can be said of this opening paragraph of a NY Times review of "Supreme Conflict," a new book on the Supreme Court, is that it leaves no doubt as to the reviewer's, er, perspective:
Even as more commentators on both the left and the right are using the adjective "incompetent" to describe the administration of George W. Bush, historians like Douglas Brinkley, Sean Wilentz and Eric Foner have begun to argue that Mr. Bush is in contention for the title of worst president in history, citing reasons like the metastasizing war in Iraq, a ballooning deficit, the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina and a widening credibility gap.
In the second paragraph, the reviewer mentions the book.
January 23, 2007
POLITICS: State of the Bush Administration
We're having another debate over at RedState, this one on what Bush should say tonight. My contribution is here. In particular, don't miss Thomas' post expanding on the political folly of Bush's health care proposal and Academic Elephant's post on a story Bush should tell.
January 19, 2007
POLITICS: And So It Begins
Not for the last time, I am sure, House Democrats vote to raise taxes. Naturally they start with a politically unpopular target: domestic oil companies. The new taxes and fees, of course, raise the costs to domestic producers, thus benefitting their foreign competitors. Nice work. Hopefully, someone is keeping close track of how many times each of the newly elected Democrats ends up voting for a tax hike of one sort or other.
This aspect of the bill could be interesting:
The legislation "amounts to a taking of private property" by forcing oil companies to renegotiate leases they view as valid contracts, [Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican] said.
The caselaw is narrowly divided over the circumstances under which government can change the terms of business with its contractors without incurring liability, but if all that's being done is to refuse future business as an incentive to renegotiate, I would think that doesn't amount to a taking of vested contract rights. But the devil will be in the details.
January 12, 2007
POLITICS/WAR: Keeping Their Stories Straight
Mary Katherine Ham's video on Dick Durbin's Iraq speech (responding to President Bush), juxtaposing Durbin's speech with a long series of quotes (mostly leading Democrats contradicting whatever Durbin is saying) really has to be seen to be believed.
January 9, 2007
POLITICS: Party Like It's 1993
January 8, 2007
POLITICS: Fielding Dreams
Still, you can never go wrong with more Reaganites.
January 4, 2007
POLITICS: Continuing Story of Nukes Gone To The Dogs
In its own way, the Bush Energy Department's inability to fix the security problems at Los Alamos may help the political future of Bill Richardson, given the extent to which those failures in the first instance represent one of the major black marks on his record (his role in the creation of the UN Oil-For-Food fiasco is another story).
POLITICS: Craig Whitney and Gerald Marzorati
If you are keeping track of names of journalists who act like slippery partisan activists, those should be added to the list, according to NY Times public editor Brian Calame's scathing expose of a NY Times Magazine piece on abortion in El Salvador. You have to read the whole thing, but it's all there: the running of a check-able falsehood, the use of a local stringer who was a paid activist with a stake in the controversy, the disinclination to let the readers know the truth once it was discovered.
January 3, 2007
BLOG: Flipping the Calendar
As usual this time of year, I'm creating new categories for the new year. This is especially important for those of you who come here directly to the baseball category page, which should now be here. Update your bookmarks accordingly. Also note that posts about the 2008 presidential race will be in the Politics 2008 category.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:37 AM | Baseball 2006 | Baseball 2007 | Blog 2006-13 | Politics 2006 | Politics 2007 | Politics 2008 | War 2006 | War 2007-12 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)