Archive for August, 2010
August 23rd, 2010 at 7:21 pm
Republican Chuck Hagel Backs Democrat Joe Sestak’s Senate Bid

Finally, some above-the-fray bipartisanship!  Tomorrow former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) will support Congressman Joe Sestak’s (D-PA) bid to enter the body Hagel once inhabited.  On the surface, the endorsement can be rationalized.  Both men served in the military (Hagel in the Army, Sestak in the Navy), and neither could be confused with a strong ideological commitment to forceful shows of American power.

However, there’s probably something more to Hagel’s otherwise ineffectual endorsement.  (He is virtually unknown to Pennsylvania voters, and his refusal to back Republican Pat Toomey won’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Hagel’s moderate record.)  With Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates (another middle-of-the-road-Republican) retiring at the end of next year, look for Hagel to get extra attention to replace him.

Here’s the take from Chris Cizilla of the Washington Post:

On the other hand, there could be genuine benefit for Hagel — albeit symbolic. Hagel is rightly understood as trying out for a Cabinet job and the more he can show a willingness to put party aside to do what he believes is the right thing, the more attractive he will be to President Obama and his inner circle.

It will be interesting to see if — and where — Hagel chooses to insert himself between now and Nov. 2 and what benefit, if any, he accrues in the eyes of the White House for those endorsements.

Funny how the “right thing” in this scenario is calculated to boost Hagel’s chances at landing one of the most important jobs in the United States government.  Hey, we can’t all be political martyrs – right, Pat Toomey?

August 23rd, 2010 at 6:11 pm
Christopher Hitchens Cuts Through the Noise on the Ground Zero Mosque
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With the Ground Zero Mosque raising the hackles of some of the loudest and most cloying voices on both sides of the political aisle, it’s becoming increasingly rare to find a pundit of any ideological persuasion who can put together a reasoned position on the proposed house of worship.

A glaring exception comes courtesy of Christoper Hitchens’ piece on Slate today, where he highlights some of the darker views of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, the head of the group looking to build the mosque. Foremost among them is Rauf’s unapologetic embrace of the radical regime in Iran — a position that Hitchens rightly notes can’t be squared with any authentic belief in democracy or liberalism.

That’s particularly ironic when you consider how much Rauf and company have wrapped themselves in the flag of tolerance as they push forward on the mosque project, a tactic brilliantly dissected by Hitchens:

Emboldened by the crass nature of the opposition to the center, its defenders have started to talk as if it represented no problem at all and as if the question were solely one of religious tolerance. It would be nice if this were true. But tolerance is one of the first and most awkward questions raised by any examination of Islamism. We are wrong to talk as if the only subject was that of terrorism. As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything “offensive” to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter …

In recent days, many critics of the mosque have been tarred by liberals who use the most extreme examples of opposition to Rauf’s plans to indict the nearly2/3 of the public who are opposed to it (see Frank Rich’s column in the New York Times this weekend for an example). With spokespeople as eloquent as Hitchens, however, that line of attack will ultimately prove fruitless.

August 23rd, 2010 at 5:59 pm
Britain’s ‘Big Society’ Gamble May Be the Best Hope of Shrinking Big Government

Unless you’re looking for it there isn’t much stateside coverage of the political revolution going on in Britain under the country’s Coalition Government.  The stories that to poke through, however, are well worth the read, as is this article in today’s Christian Science Monitor.  A sample:

The final sight – and this is the most difficult to see – is the coalition’s attempt to create a “big society,” or a bolstering of social groups, charities, and entrepreneurs to step in as government withdraws from much of its role. The best example of this altering of Britain’s social fabric are preparations to enlist 16-year-olds into national volunteer service.

The big society is Cameron’s vision, one that assumes people are ready to shed decades of dependency on London and step in to help others.

The concept could be almost as difficult as the biggest of the budget cuts, due in October, which will test the coalition’s finely woven political compromises. And will the private sector be ready to fill the holes left by the cuts.

So, the biggest gamble in the Coalition Government’s plan to reduce the size of England’s central bureaucracy isn’t the “austere” budget reductions or even the controversial referendum to change a century’s worth of election law.  It’s whether Prime Minister David Cameron’s “Big Society” program can inspire enough of the private sector to step into the social services breach created by the receding government.

American conservatives and libertarians have long said that private charity and other civil society institutions are much better at creating a social safety net.  With Britain’s budget forcing policy makers into decisions they would never dream of implementing in good economic times, now is the moment for limited government types to seize the opportunity to deliver a better, more efficient version of the social safety net.  Otherwise, liberals and socialists will be quick to remind voters of all the needs that went unaddressed when government grew “too small.”

August 23rd, 2010 at 8:59 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Obama’s New Campaign Slogan
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

August 22nd, 2010 at 3:31 pm
Is Thomas Friedman Defending the Bush Doctrine?

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman offers what may be the most thought-provoking commentary on the withdrawal of American combat forces from Iraq:

In short: the key struggle with Islam is not inter-communal, and certainly not between Americans and Muslims. It is intra-communal and going on across the Muslim world. The reason the Iraq war was, is and will remain important is that it created the first chance for Arab Sunnis and Shiites to do something they have never done in modern history: surprise us and freely write their own social contract for how to live together and share power and resources. If they could do that, in the heart of the Arab world, and actually begin to ease the intra-communal struggle within Islam, it would be a huge example for others. It would mean that any Arab country could be a democracy and not have to be held together by an iron fist from above.

Considered in the most favorable light, this was the hope propelling former President George W. Bush’s decision to depose Saddam Hussein.  If Iraq could be successful, then the path would be open to other Arab nations to trade the strong man model for stronger civil society.

So far, the jury is still out; especially with Iraqi politicians locked in disputes over a power-sharing agreement after an inconclusive national election.  (Perhaps if the U.S. State Department had exported our winner-take-all system instead of the Europeans’ proportional scheme, the Iraqis would at least be able to get on with governing after they vote.)

Friedman’s column is a welcome addition to the debate about how the United States can best remake other countries.  As of August 2010, probably not much.  At the end of the day, the solution to what ails the Muslim world lies in the ingenuity and statesmanship not of some “great man” ready to play the part of George Washington or Nelson Mandela, but in the collective will of the Iraqi people.

August 22nd, 2010 at 2:57 pm
Baby Boomerism, Reexamined

In a fascinating article published in today’s Guardian (UK), British newsman Will Hutton gives an eyewitness account of how the free love socialism of the 1960s ultimately led to the unfettering of the Western financial industry.  Faced with the decision of managing capitalism or destroying its constraints, Baby Boomers chose chaos over order.

It was an inevitable victory, but it meant that the movements of the 1960s no longer had a political champion for industrial and economic change from below. The liberalism of the great social movements would transmute into economic liberalism – and when Labour lost the 1992 general election the rout was complete. Capitalism had lost every check and balance. There was no Labour movement and no idea of socialism. There was no political party committed to reforming capitalism. There was not even the cultural acceptance of restraint, the need for rules and proportion. (Emphasis mine)

The result has not been pretty.  Short-sighted policies in the housing and derivatives markets fueled the excessive tendencies of an entire generation.  The spike in paper wealth ushered in the kind of largesse only a self-defining rich nation thinks it can afford: lavish public pensions; diversity czars; a McMansion for every college graduate.

Though he ends his article with the wistful hope of a purer form of new socialism, Hutton strikes upon the deeper current driving the waves of voter discontent in the Western world.  The collapse of the economic order was the tipping point that made people aware of how much the rise in wealth over the last twenty years papered over the decline of Western culture.  No nation is immune.  After two decades of enjoying money for nothing, citizens of the West are finding that what they really have is nothing to show for all their money.

August 21st, 2010 at 3:40 pm
Obama Administration Knowingly Killed Jobs with Drilling Ban

Here’s some fodder for your two minutes of hate, courtesy of the Obama White House:

Senior Obama administration officials concluded the federal moratorium on deepwater oil drilling would cost roughly 23,000 jobs, but went ahead with the ban because they didn’t trust the industry’s safety equipment and the government’s own inspection process, according to previously undisclosed documents.

Spanning more than 27,000 pages, they provide an unusually detailed look at the debate about how to respond to legal and political opposition to the moratorium.

They show the new top regulator or offshore oil exploration, Michael Bromwich, told Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that a six-month deepwater-drilling halt would result in “lost direct employment” affecting approximately 9,450 workers and “lost jobs from indirect and induced effects” affecting about 13,797 more. The July 10 memo cited an analysis by Mr. Bromwich’s agency that assumed direct employment on affected rigs would “resume normally once the rigs resume operations.

H/T: Wall Street Journal

August 21st, 2010 at 2:51 pm
Florida Tea Party Needs to Go Local

As discussed in this week’s Liberty Update, the next great wave of Tea Party enthusiasm needs to wash over local political offices as soon as this year’s federal midterm elections conclude.  A column in the St. Petersburg Times notes that several of Florida’s highest profile Tea Party candidates are mounting what looks to be losing campaigns in the run-up to next Tuesday’s statewide primary elections.

The reason is simple: it’s just too hard to compete for votes and money when running against candidates from the two established parties.  Far better, the columnist suggests, to turn the Tea Party’s attention to city and county races where much of the real world of governing takes place.

Mike Alexander and the Pasadena (CA) Patriots couldn’t agree more.  Like Mike’s wife Patricia likes to say, “Starting at 6 a.m. on November 3rd, we are going to focus on all the municipal elections here in Los Angeles County: county supervisor, city council, school board, you name it.”  Tea Party enthusiasts would do well to check out Alexander’s TEA PAC organization for ideas on how to turn activist energy into winning elections.

August 21st, 2010 at 2:32 pm
Third Place Tea Party Candidate Making Life Difficult for Republican Nominee

Former NFL player and third place U.S. Senate candidate Clint Didier isn’t ready to ask his fellow Tea Party members to back Republican nominee Dino Rossi.  After a closed door session with Rossi, Didier emerged unconvinced that Rossi – a two-time Washington gubernatorial runner-up – is committed to any specific policy positions.

One could make the argument that Didier’s explicit positions on spending, taxes and abortion contributed to his distant third place finish in the recently concluded primary.  It’s also conventional wisdom that Tea Party members are more likely to vote for a Republican than a Democrat if given the choice.

But that assumes that Tea Party members think that that must vote for either of the two remaining candidates; in this case Rossi or incumbent Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).  That’s a false assumption.  Many Tea Party members are active in the movement precisely because they think conventional Republicans like Rossi can’t be trusted.  If Rossi fails to woo a majority of Didier’s supporters, this November will be his third – and likely last – statewide defeat.  The Tea Party will just stay home.

As Didier points out, he’s not trying to back Rossi into a corner, but rather deliver him votes.  It’s time establishment Republicans realized that the Tea Party isn’t a slice of the electorate that can be ignored in favor of the ephemeral “middle” – it’s the conservative base.

August 21st, 2010 at 2:03 pm
Is Congressman Barney Frank Trying Moving to the Right of His Likely Republican Challenger?

You know it’s shaping up to be a bad year for Democrats when the congressman most associated with pressuring banks to accelerate the growth in subprime mortgages says he hopes government mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are dead within a year.  House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) told CNBC host Lawrence Kudlow that he no longer supports “pushing lower-income people into housing they couldn’t afford…”

So what could be motivating Frank’s flip-flop?  Kudlow thinks it could be the rare example of a politician admitting his mistake.  I’m betting it has more to do with the rise of Sean Bielat as a serious contender to challenge Frank in the upcoming general election.

The same week Frank offered his mea culpa to Kudlow, Frank’s campaign staff circulated information that Bielat was formerly a registered Democrat before switching to the Republican Party.  The implication is that Bielat can’t be trusted because he switched parties.

But in an impressively worded explanation, Bielat manages to highlight his resume as a former House page, Marine and Harvard graduate, and why at each step along the way he was more and more conflicted with the Democrats’ liberal agenda.  There’s even a polite reminder that Ronald Reagan was once a Democrat until its leftward tilt helped him discover his inner conservative.

Frank is obviously concerned about Bielat’s appeal this year because of his line of attack on Bielat: Don’t vote for Sean; he used to be a Democrat.  Too bad for Barney, though, because he still is.

August 20th, 2010 at 12:07 pm
This Week’s Liberty Update
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This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out.  Below is a summary of its contents:

Lee:  Obama: “Driving Us Out of a Ditch,” or Setting the Car on Fire? 
Senik:  Tea Party Must be an Intellectual Movement First, a Political Movement Second
Ellis:  Pasadena Patriots Show Republicans How to Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

Freedom Minute Video:  Pelosi’s Folly: We Learned What’s in the Healthcare Bill
Podcast:  Author Lee Edwards Discusses “William F. Buckley Jr., The Maker of a Movement”
Jester’s Courtroom:  Coffee, Tea…or a Lawsuit?

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update by e-mail, sign up here.

August 20th, 2010 at 10:54 am
White House Allies: Abandon Claim that ObamaCare Will Reduce Deficit/Costs
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Ohhhh, so ~now~ they tell us?  White House allies are instructing operatives to abandon the claim that ObamaCare will reduce healthcare costs and the deficit.  Instead, they now seek to persuade the electorate that we can “improve it.”

According to Politico, the messaging conference call and PowerPoint presentation acknowledges the failure of the promises shamelessly fed to the public by ObamaCare advocates:

The presentation’s final page of ‘Don’ts’ counsels against claiming ‘the law will reduce costs and the deficit.’  The presentation advises, instead, sales pitches that play on personal narratives and promises to change the legislation.”

If this doesn’t make you angry and ready to line up at dawn to vote this November, have your pulse checked.

August 20th, 2010 at 10:28 am
Video – Pelosi’s Folly: We Learned What’s in the Healthcare Bill

Prior to ramming ObamaCare through Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously pledged that they had to pass the bill in order for the American people to learn what’s in it.  Now that the dust has settled, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses what we’ve “learned.”  It’s not pretty.


August 20th, 2010 at 9:49 am
Roger Clemens Indictment: Why Not Also Prosecute Congressmen Who Lie?
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So it appears that baseball legend Roger Clemens will be indicted for lying to Congress during his 2008 testimony over alleged steroid use.  While we agree with Congressman Darryl Issa (R – California) that perjury is a serious offense, it raises an interesting question:  If Congress can hold citizens legally accountable for such things as lying about private behavior by professional athletes, why not hold Congress similarly liable for lying to citizens about matters of public concern?

After all, isn’t what’s good for the goose also good for the gander?  It might also clean up Congress quicker than even term limits could do.

August 20th, 2010 at 9:17 am
Podcast: Author Discusses William F. Buckley Jr., The Maker of a Movement
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In an interview with CFIF, Historian Lee Edwards discusses his book, William F. Buckley Jr.: The Maker of a Movement, and offers firsthand insight into what motivated and inspired the man behind the modern conservative movement.

Listen to the interview here.

August 19th, 2010 at 9:23 am
Ramirez Cartoon – White House: Build a Mosque. Okay, Maybe Not Anywhere You Want.
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

August 18th, 2010 at 5:53 pm
Immanuel Kant, Anti-Semite?
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For decades, philosophy buffs have argued over whether Adolf Hitler’s appropriation of Friedrich Nietzsche was a logical extension of the German philosopher’s work or a bastardization of his core themes. Now, a new wrinkle in the debate about how philosophy informs international affairs comes courtesy of the Middle East Forum’s Daniel Pipes (full disclosure: Dr. Pipes was a professor of mine in graduate school) writing in today’s Jerusalem Post.

In a piece titled “Lion’s Den: Immanuel Kant vs. Israel”, Dr. Pipes argues that the post-nation state ideology advanced by the legendary Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant in his 1795 work “Perpetual Peace” is now being used to advance a new paradigm of perpetual war against Israel. In relevant part:

Under the old nation-state paradigm, the lesson of Auschwitz was “Never again,” meaning that a strong Israel was needed to protect Jews.

The new paradigm leads to a very different “Never again,” one which insists that no government should have the means potentially to replicate the Nazi outrages. According to it, Israel isn’t the answer to Auschwitz. The European Union is.

That the old-style “Never again” inspires Israelis to pursue the Western world’s most unabashed policy of self-defense makes their actions particularly appalling to New Paradigmers.

Need one point out the error of ascribing Nazi outrages to the nation-state? The Nazis wanted to eliminate nation-states. No less than Kant, they dreamed of a universal state. New Paradigmers mangle history.

The lesson — in Israel’s case, as in all others — is simple. As the monopoly of legitimate force, government is a necessary evil requiring the vigilance of free citizens to keep it in check. In order to protect human liberty and maintain responsiveness to the citizenry, that means government should be as limited and decentralized as possible. And nothing is more threatening to that goal than the “benevolent” internationalism envisioned by Kant, the United Nations, and all their fellow travelers on the post-nationalist left.

August 18th, 2010 at 3:57 pm
German Tycoon Calls U.S. Tax Deductions for Charity “Unacceptable”
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According to German shipping tycoon Peter Kramer, “the state” should control private charitable donations and “determine what is good for the people,” not the individuals making those charitable donations.  In an interview with Der Spiegel, regarding the Warren Buffett/Bill Gates Giving Pledge, Kramer ripped America’s tax deductions for charitable gifts and demanded, “what legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow?”

I find the U.S. initiative highly problematic.  You can write donations off in your taxes to a large degree in the U.S.A.  So the rich make a choice:  Would I rather donate or pay taxes?  The donors are taking the place of the state.  That’s unacceptable. It’s all just a bad transfer of power from the state to billionaires.  So it’s not the state that determines what is good for the people, but rather the rich want to decide.  That’s a development that I find really bad.  What legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow?  In this case, forty superwealthy people want to decide what their money will be used for.  That runs counter to the democratically legitimate state.”

Call us crazy, but don’t alarms sound when a creepy German demands that the state “determines what is good for the people?”  Meanwhile, as noted by economist Mark Perry on his blog Carpe Diem, citizens of Kentucky outstrip Germans in the best indicator of economic wellbeing, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

Mr. Kramer, perfect your own supposed workers’ paradise before you attempt to lecture Americans.

August 18th, 2010 at 2:47 pm
City of Bell Corruption Impacting Other Cities

In a year or two, we may look back on the City of Bell public employee compensation scandal as the modern day equivalent of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.  Both stories showed the general public how bad a particular industry behaved, and prompted serious, far-reaching reforms.

The chief villain in the Bell fiasco (so far) is its former city manager Robert Rizzo.  At the time of his resignation, Rizzo was making close to $800,000 a year, and due to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from his public employee pension.  Now that he’s retired, the pension is kicking in – and so are taxpayers in cities that share Bell’s pension pool.

That means that Hesperia, CA, is on the hook for $80,000 of Rizzo’s estimated $600,000 a year pension (not to work!), even though it fired Rizzo after his four year stint ended in 1992.  Taxpayers in Rancho Cucamonga will be paying $160,000 of the bill, with Bell and other cities who never even hired Rizzo chipping in the rest.

And remember, the estimated $600,000 is owed to Rizzo – by law – every year for the rest of his life.  After being fired by at least two of the cities that hired him.  Insane.  Public employee pension reform may not be a “sexy” issue on the campaign stump, but it is certainly a topic that is sure to get people’s attention during this era of runaway government spending.

The Bell scandal may be the the last, best chance to reign in the power of the public employee unions before they ruin the American economy.

August 17th, 2010 at 2:02 pm
The Tea Party Movement’s Cliff’s Notes
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Nearly 25 years ago, Thomas Sowell wrote “A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles”, perhaps the single best volume on the fundamental philosophical differences between modern liberals and classical liberals (the progenitors of today’s libertarians and most conservatives). If your summer schedule doesn’t allow time for Sowell’s 350-page treatise (and it should), then you could do worse than turning to today’s Wall Street Journal.

Today’s edition of the Journal’s opinion section carries a piece entitled “A Tea Party Manifesto” by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and FreedomWorks President and CEO Matt Kibbe (authors of the new book “Give us Liberty”). Contained therein is the best concise distillation of how Sowell’s conflict is playing out in Tea Party America:

The many branches of the tea party movement have created a virtual marketplace for new ideas, effective innovations and creative tactics. Best practices come from the ground up, around kitchen tables, from Facebook friends, at weekly book clubs, or on Twitter feeds. This is beautiful chaos—or, as the Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek put it, “spontaneous order.”

Decentralization, not top-down hierarchy, is the best way to maximize the contributions of people and their personal knowledge. Let the leaders be the activists who have the best knowledge of local personalities and issues. In the real world, this is common sense. In Washington, D.C., this is considered radical.

The big-government crowd is drawn to the compulsory nature of centralized authority. They can’t imagine an undirected social order. Someone needs to be in charge—someone who knows better. Big government is audacious and conceited.

It’s a war of voluntarism and freedom on one side against coercion and statism on the other. The Tea Party crowd should prepare for battle. Armey and Kibbe will provide the ammunition (as will other Tea Party authors, like CFIF’s own Ashton Ellis). Come November, it will  be time to take to the field.