Category Archives: Election ’08

Sarah Palin And The Bridge To Nowhere

She was for it before she was against it:

ST.PAUL — In her nationally televised speech accepting the job as John McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said she “championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress” and opposed federal funding for a controversial bridge to a sparsely populated island.

“I told Congress, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ on that bridge to nowhere,” Palin said Friday in Ohio, using the critics’ dismissive name of the project. “‘If our state wanted a bridge,’ I said, ‘we’d build it ourselves.'”

While running for governor in 2006, though, Palin backed federal funding for the infamous bridge, which McCain helped make it a symbol of pork barrel excess.

And as mayor of the small town of Wasilla from 1996 to 2002, Palin also hired a Washington lobbying firm that helped secure $8 million in congressionally directed spending projects, known as earmarks, according to public spending records compiled by the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste and lobbying documents.

Wasilla’s lobbying firm was headed by Steven Silver — a former chief of staff to Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, a key proponent of the bridge project.

“We need to come to the defense of Southeast Alaska when proposals are on the table like the bridge, and not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that’s so negative,” Palin said in August 2006, according to the Ketchikan Daily News.

The Anchorage Daily News quoted her in October 2006 as saying she would continue state funding for the bridge. “The window is now, while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist,” she said.

She didn’t change her mind, apparently, until the project, and the state of Alaska, had become a laughingstock when the rest of the nation realized that they wanted yet more of our money:

She changed her mind, he said, when “she saw that Alaska was being perceived as taking from the country and not giving, and that impression bothered her and she wants to change it. … I think that Sarah Palin is someone who has the courage to reevaluate situations as they developed.”

And yet another Republican with a supposed reputation for fiscal conservatism bites the dust.

Flip, meet flop.

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

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Is Palin a reformer and fiscal conservative?

One thing I am hearing right now is that Sarah Palin is a fiscal conservative. The Club for Growth released a statement on a potential Palin VP candidacy that praises her stance on earmarks and support for opening ANWR.

Fighting earmarks and opening ANWR are important, but they are only half the battle.

When the Alaska Creamery Board decided to close the state-owned Matanuska Maid Dairy, she objected. She couldn’t fire Creamery Board members, so she fired members of the Alaska Agriculture Board who in turn replaced Creamery Board members. The Matanuska Maid Dairy remained open, jacked up milk prices and eventually closed anyway after substantial losses. Only then did Palin believe that it should be sold to a private company. Unfortunately, the state received no bids for the diary and taxpayers were stuck with a loss.

John McCain has been critical of Barack Obama’s plan for a windfall profits tax on oil companies, correctly citing that it would hurt potential oil exploration in the United States and increase dependence on foreign oil. Criticism should be point toward Sarah Palin as well.

Palin signed a windfall profits tax into law last year that has taken $10 billion from oil companies. Part of the plan, as conservative blog Hot Air noted earlier this month, is very similar to a plan pushed by Barack Obama:

Palin’s plan looks similar in concept to Barack Obama’s plan. The state gave Alaskans $1200 checks from oil revenues as a one-time bonus to pay for increased fuel prices, a move Palin pushed. That echoes the Obama plan to send one-time rebates to taxpayers, funded by similar levies on oil companies.

However, the results in Alaska should warn the rest of the country about pursuing this policy. Already oil companies have stopped drilling on state lands, thanks to the tax burden Alaska imposes. It should be cheaper to drill and extract from these areas, but the oil companies have decided to focus their investment instead on the Gulf, where the costs and risks would normally be higher. In Alaska, the government takes 75% of the price on a barrel of oil at current prices, which gives them no incentive to work there.

Then there is ethics. She has made a name for herself as a reformer. Palin demanded answers from and openly criticized Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens when he was indicted. She was right to do so. As far as I’m concerned, Stevens is a crook for more things that what he was indicted for. It turns out that she may have ethics issues of her own.

Walt Monegan, former Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner, claims that he was pressured by Palin and individuals close to her pressured him to fire State Trooper Mike Wooten, who happens to be Palin’s former brother-in-law. Monegan was eventually fired by Palin:

Monegan said phone calls and questions from the Palin administration and the governor’s husband, Todd Palin, about trooper Mike Wooten started shortly after Monegan was hired and continued up to one or two months ago.

The governor herself also had a brief conversation with him about Wooten in February, Monegan said.

The new assertions from Monegan, who has been mostly silent on his abrupt firing July 11, conflict with what the Republican governor said earlier in the week. She said she never put pressure on the commissioner to fire her sister’s ex-husband and no one from her office had complained about Wooten. She has also said replacing Monegan with Kenai Police Chief Chuck Kopp had nothing to do with Wooten. She has offered little explanation for the dismissal.
[…]
Monegan said he still isn’t sure why he was fired but thought that Wooten could be part of it. “I don’t know that it’s all of it. … I worked at the pleasure of the governor,” he said.

I’m sure more will come out about Palin in the coming months. I don’t know why conservatives are jumping up and down about Palin. She doesn’t seem all that great. She may support transparent government, but that does not make someone a fiscal conservative.

Note: Jason Pye is on the staff of Libertarian Presidential nominee Bob Barr.

Bob Barr: The Lone Candidate in the Lone Star State

As with most third party campaigns, the Barr/Root campaign has had an uphill battle to make the ballot in certain states. In Texas, however, Bob Barr is the only presidential candidate on the ballot. The McCain and Obama campaigns have failed to meet the August 26th deadline to file the necessary paperwork and are not even listed as possible write-in candidates.

Bob Barr’s campaign manager, Russ Verney, doesn’t for a second believe that Texas will uphold its law to keep McCain and Obama off the ballot:

“We know all about deadlines,” says Verney. “We are up against them constantly in our fight to get on the ballot across the nation. When we miss deadlines, we get no second chances. This is a great example of how unreasonable deadlines chill democracy.”

“Republicans and Democrats make certain that third party candidates are held to ballot access laws, no matter how absurd or unreasonable,” says Verney. “Therefore, Republicans and Democrats should be held to the same standards.”

In another press release, Verney elaborated more on this Texas two-step around the state law:

“According to Texas Election Code § 192.031 , a political party is allowed to have their candidates on the ballot if “the names of the party’s nominees for president and vice-president” are submitted before “5 p.m. of the 70th day before” the presidential election.

Given that neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party nominated a candidate before Aug. 26, it would be impossible for either party to file under Texas law.

A spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State’s Office claims that both parties “filed something” on time, despite the fact that neither party had nominated a candidate by the deadline as required by Texas law.

“We agree that unreasonably early deadlines are absurd,” says Verney. “We’ve run into them in states like Oklahoma, West Virginia and Maine during our fight for ballot access across the nation. But if third parties are required to adhere to the law, then we expect the same for the candidates of any other party. Maybe this will show Republicans and Democrats what it is like to be on the wrong side of ballot access laws.”

It doesn’t take a Harvard law degree to know that the Barr/Root campaign has a legitimate case here. If we were truly governed by the rule of law as opposed to the rule of men then there is no question that Bob Barr should be the only choice on the Texas ballot (I sincerely hope that the Barr/Root campaign challenges the Texas Secretary of State Office and/or the McCain and Obama campaigns in court if only to make a point and perhaps grab some headlines).

Upon reading this, it occurred to me that perhaps a good solution to improve informed voting would be to require all candidates for all offices to be write-in candidates. This would mean that in order to vote, the voter would at least have to know the name of his/her preferred candidate. If the candidates have campaigned effectively, then their supporters should have no problem writing their names next to the office.* This would at least disenfranchise the most illiterate and most ignorant individuals from inflicting their illiteracy and ignorance on the rest of us.

» Read more

Obama And The Libertarians

Reason’s Steve Chapman lists some reasons why libertarians should not panic if Barack Obama becomes President:

He’s liberal, but not that liberal. Contrary to the famous National Journal ranking that put him most leftward in the entire Senate, another study found he is really the 11th-most liberal. In the primaries, when Democratic candidates are under the most pressure to veer left, he insisted on hewing closer to the economic center than Hillary Clinton or John Edwards—even when it exposed him to charges that he didn’t support the holy grail of universal health care.

Obama did pander to the left’s phobia about globalization by villainizing the North American Free Trade Agreement. But as soon as he had the nomination locked up, he confessed to Fortune magazine that his NAFTA rhetoric had been “overheated and amplified.”

Organized labor howled about “corporate influence” when Obama hired Jason Furman as his chief economic adviser. Among Furman’s sins is his longtime association with Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who pushed President Clinton to emphasize deficit reduction rather than big new spending programs.

He’s open to evidence. The New York Times recently reported that Obama “likes experts, and his choice of advisers stems in part from his interest in empirical research.” Nobel laureate economist James Heckman of the University of Chicago, who was asked for input on education policy by Obama’s advisers, told the Times, “I’ve never worked with a campaign that was more interested in what the research shows.”

That would be a change not only from more doctrinaire liberals but also from the Bush administration, which has never been exactly obsessed with real-world data. If Obama were a true believer, he wouldn’t care so much about evidence.

Boston College political scientist Alan Wolfe says, “Ideologues don’t need that information, or want it, because they know what they want to do.” Ask yourself: Is there any conceivable evidence that would cause George W. Bush to question the wisdom of tax cuts?

He’s not enchanted with the big-government model. On health care, Obama opposed Clinton’s proposal to require every American to buy health insurance, preferring to offer subsidies and then let individuals decide. He balked when she said all adjustable mortgage rates should be frozen for five years—with Obama’s campaign quoting an expert who said, accurately, that it would be “disastrous.”

He’s far less suspicious of the operations of markets than most people in his party. And when was the last time a Democratic nominee openly worried about corporate tax burdens? Furman has said that if some loopholes can be closed, Obama “would like to cut the corporate tax rate.”

Chapman does raise some good points, and some of the dire predictions coming from Republicans these days about Obama remind me of the things that were said about Bill Clinton when he was running for President in 1992. Yes, things looked bad at the beginning when he tried to ram Hillary-care down our throats, but once that failed he moderated significantly and actually became the Democratic Leadership Council-type President that some thought he would be. For the most part, the Clinton years weren’t any worse than the last eight years of George W. Bush, and there’s some reason to argue that, for liberty, the Bush years have actually been worse.

Will the same thing happen with Obama ?

My Thoughts On The Convention

On a Purdue football message board, one of the off-topic threads asked what we thought of the Democratic National Convention. My reply:

I hear Obama himself is speaking on Thursday, right?

I think NC State @ South Carolina will be far more compelling viewing…

As with most things when it comes to politics, the convention will be about as authentic to what will actually be done in Washington as the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics is to the life of an average peasant in a Shanghai slum.

As I’ve said before, I absolutely hate politics and want nothing whatsoever to do with it. The only reason I blog about politics is that– despite my wishes to be left alone– politicians seem to believe they have the right to tell me what to do and how to live.

They may have the power to do so, but the last thing I want to do is actually take part in it. So I’ll be tuned into ESPN on Thursday, rather than watching with glowing adoration as St. Obama tells us how he will solve all our problems.

Biden And Pay For Play

First, a disclaimer. I’m not singling out Joe Biden for the below piece for any reason other than that he’s now become a vice-presidential candidate. I firmly believe that situations like the below are quite common in our government, at all levels. That being said, this one is particularly conspicuous.

Joe Biden, breaking ranks with many Democratic senators (and his running mate, Obama) at the time, voted in favor of the 2005 bankruptcy bill, widely favored by the banks and credit-card companies.

A principled move by a maverick willing to buck the party line? Perhaps, but as we follow Occam’s razor, petty corruption seems more likely:

A son of presumed Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden was paid an undisclosed amount of money as a consultant by MBNA, the largest employer in Delaware, during the years the senator supported bankruptcy legislation promoted by the credit card industry and opposed by consumer groups.

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign said Biden helped forge a bipartisan compromise on the law, which makes it harder for consumers to obtain bankruptcy protection in the courts.

MBNA’s consulting payments to Hunter Biden, first reported by the New York Times, followed his departure in 2001 from the company, where he had been an executive.

MBNA employees have given more than $200,000 to Biden’s Senate campaigns over the last two decades, making donors working for the credit card company the senator’s largest source of campaign money.

Sounds like something I’d expect from the Chicago/Daley political machine. Perhaps that’s why Obama chose Biden? Nah, it’s just a matter of how the system works– i.e. the system’s goal is to perpetuate itself, not to enact the best policies for us.

Joe Biden And Liberty

Both The Club For Growth and The Cato Institute are out today with analyses of Joe Biden’s position on economic issues of importance to libertarians and, as you might suspect, it’s not good.

First from Cato on the issue of international trade:

Here are the highlights and lowlights of Biden’s voting record on trade:

On the positive side from a free trade perspective, he voted consistently to maintain normal trade relations with China, including permanent NTR in 2000; for the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in 1993; for the Uruguay Round Agreements Act in 1994; for the Freedom to Farm Act in 1996; for fast-track trade promotion authority in 1998; to defund enforcement of the travel ban to Cuba; to cut sugar production subsidies; and in favor of the Morocco and Australian free trade agreements in 2004.

On the negative side for those who support the freedom to trade, Biden voted for steel import quotas in 1999; for the 2002 and 2008 protective and subsidy laden farm bills; against trade promotion authority in 2002; against the Chile, Singapore, Oman, and Dominican Republic-Central American FTAs; in favor of the Byrd amendment directing anti-dumping booty to complaining companies; in favor of imposing steep tariffs on imports from China to force changes in that country’s currency regime; and in favor of screening of 100 percent income shipping containers by 2012.

For a senator who prides himself on his foreign policy experience, Biden’s record shows great ambivalence about American participation in the global economy.

The Club for Growth, meanwhile, takes a look at Biden’s positions on a number of economic issues:

“Over his thirty-five years in Washington, Senator Biden has been a reflexive liberal on every single economic issue,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. “Whether the issue is taxes, spending, regulation, or school choice, Senator Biden has voted consistently for more taxes, more spending, more government, and less freedom and choice. Taxpayers can expect more of the same from the Obama-Biden ticket—more government, less prosperity.”

A few examples:

Joe Biden on Taxes:

  • Voted for President Clinton’s tax hike (RC #247, 1993)
  • Voted against repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax (RC #261, 1999)
  • Voted against eliminating the marriage penalty (RC #79, 2001)
  • Voted against the 2001 tax cuts (RC# 170, 2001)
  • Voted against repealing the Death Tax (RC #151, 2002) (RC #109, 2007)
  • Voted against a repeal of the 1993 tax increase on Social Security benefits (RC #94, 2003)
  • Voted against the 2003 Bush tax cuts (RC #196, 2003)
  • Voted for a 50% windfall profits tax on oil profits (RC #331, 2005)
  • Voted against extending the 2001 tax cuts (RC #118, 2006) (RC #107, 2007)

Joe Biden on Spending:

  • Voted for the Farm Bill in 2002 and 2008 (RC #103, 2002) (RC #130, 2008)
  • Voted in favor of the Bridge to Nowhere (RC #262, 2005)
  • Voted against capping spending (RC #286, 2005)
  • Voted to kill a resolution stating a moral obligation to offset new spending with spending cuts (RC #140, 2007)
  • Voted for the expanded SCHIP bill (RC #307, 2007)
  • Voted against an earmark moratorium (RC #75, 2008)
  • Voted to override President Bush’s veto of the Farm Bill (RC #140, 2008)
  • Was declared Porker of the Month by Citizens Against Government Waste in January 2002

(…)

Joe Biden on Regulation:

  • Voted for the burdensome Sarbanes-Oxley legislation (RC #192, 2002)
  • Voted against exempting small businesses from Sarbanes-Oxley (RC #139, 2007)
  • Voted for a minimum wage hike (RC #257, 2005)
  • Voted for the “card check” bill—stripping workers of their right to a secret ballot when voting to form a union (RC #227, 2007)
  • Voted to kill the Davis Bacon waiver (RC #334, 2007)

Joe Biden on School Choice:

  • Voted against a vouchers program for DC schools (RC #260, 1997)
  • Voted against school choice for low-income earners (RC #179, 2001)

(…)

Joe Biden on Political Free Speech:

  • Voted for McCain-Feingold (RC #64, 2001)
  • Not surprising for a liberal Democrat, of course, but yet another indication that there really isn’t anything about an Obama/Biden Administration that libertarians should look forward to.

    Three words on Obamassiah and Biden

    Gross

    Tactical

    Error

    I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

    Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

    Strange Bedfellows To Say The Least

    Ron Paul endorses Alaska Congressman Don Young (R., Bridge To Nowhere):

    Former Republican presidential contender Ron Paul has endorsed Don Young in his bid to win an 18th term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Paul, the 72-year-old congressman from Texas whose maverick presidential bid drew wide support in Alaska, sent out a letter to his supporters here urging them to vote for Young.

    “Don and I have served together in Congress for many years, and I consider him a friend,” Paul wrote in the letter. “Don has been an outspoken voice against environmental extremists over the years and has strongly opposed the types of federal regulatory overreach advocated in the name of environmentalism.”

    Paul and Young are a bit of an odd couple. Paul is a fiscal conservative; Young believes in earmarking federal dollars for Alaska wherever possible. Paul opposes the Iraq war; Young supports it.

    And Young is being opposed by a guy who sounds a heck of a lot better than the King of Pork.

    But, then again, Congressman Paul hasn’t really acted like he thought earmarks were a bad idea either.

    Freedom Democrats isn’t pleased about this at all:

    Ron Paul is very quickly burning any and all credibility he has as a figurehead of the small government movement within the Republican Party. He’s backing a pork-barrel and Mike Huckabee-endorsed Republican over a small government conservative, Sean Parnell, backed by the Club for Growth. Almost all of the scenarios discussed here at Freedom Democrats for the resurgence of true small government conservatives depended on an alliance of sorts between the Club for Growth and the Ron Paul Revolution. Now, we instead have growing signs of an alliance between Mike Huckabee’s Christian conservatives followers and the Ron Paul Revolution. This is sham limited government conservatism. We’ll get a party that will continue its social, cultural, and religious intolerance despite cries of “FREEDOM!” at the top of their lungs.

    I’ve read elsewhere that Ron Paul has generally refused to endorse any candidate running against an incumbent Republican Congressman, even ones that describe themselves as “Ron Paul Republicans.”

    Frankly, I don’t understand the logic behind it.

    H/T: Club For Growth

    Barack Obama: Starting Forced Volunteerism Early

    If you want to go see Barack Obama speak on the last night of the Democratic National Convention, you’ll have to agree to be the guinea pig for his first exercise in forced volunteerism:

    Some of those hoping to wrangle a seat for Barack Obama’s speech were told this week they have to put in six hours of volunteer work for his campaign by Friday to have a shot at a ticket.

    And that ruffled at least a few feathers.

    “My whole reason why I’m so mad about it is because Democrats need to act like Democrats,” said Heather Kreider, a working mother from Centennial.

    “Democrats work for a living, and they have to work and take care of their families. And they say these are open to those in the community, so they shouldn’t ask people to drop everything in their lives for this,” Kreider said Tuesday.

    “It’s not fair. It’s elitist. And they need to practice what they’re preaching,” she added,

    Doing the volunteer work only makes someone eligible for a ticket and doesn’t guarantee one, according to the phone message from the campaign.

    (…)

    People asked to volunteer are those in line for “all star” tickets that will put them closer to the stage and are being contacted first, said Stephanie Mueller, campaign spokeswoman. Applicants who didn’t offer to volunteer will be contacted later this week, she said.

    But Kreider said she is certain she didn’t hit the “volunteer” box on the online application.

    Still, Kreider got a message telling her that she had to do six hours of volunteer work by Friday if she wanted a chance at a ticket. Kreider said she will not do the work.

    “Absolutely not,” she said. “Now it’s pure principal. I was a Hillary Clinton supporter, and this is literally my first touch with the Obama campaign. And it’s just disappointing.”

    You come on now, you can’t tell me you’re surprised.

    After all, Michelle told us months ago that Barack Obama would require us to work.

    Welcome to Obama Nation, my friends.

    Barr Weighs in on No-Knock Raids

    I didn’t see the press release from the Bob Barr campaign when I wrote yesterday’s post so I thought I would pass along some of his thoughts on the issue today. The case Barr is specifically referring to is the recent raid in Berwyn Heights, Maryland. Here are a few excerpts:

    “Absent exigent circumstances, not present here, so-called no-knock raids are an affront to the Constitution,” explains Barr. “So is a shoot first, ask questions later philosophy by the police. Yet the Prince George’s police have done this before—last fall they invaded a house at the wrong address and shot the family dog. All Americans are at risk when the police behave this way. Just ask yourself what might happen if a suspicious package is delivered to your home and the cops bust in,” says Barr.

    “But there is an even larger point. Law enforcement agencies have become more arrogant and less accountable in cases other than those involving drugs. Most people are aware of well-publicized examples like Waco and Ruby Ridge, but similar abuses are common across the country, though they usually receive little or no public notice,” notes Barr. “We all want police to do their jobs well, but part of doing their job well is respecting the people’s constitutional liberties.”

    “As president I will ensure that federal law enforcement agencies set a good example for the rest of the country,” says Barr. “In a Barr administration, government officials will never forget that it is a free people they are protecting.”

    It’s nice to see a presidential candidate address this issue. Clearly, the phenomenon of no-knock raids isn’t on John McCain’s or Barack Obama’s radar at this time.

    Quote Of The Day – National Greatness Conservatism

    From NYT:

    “We are fast becoming a nation of alienating individualists, unwilling to put the unifying values of patriotism ahead of our narrow self-interests,” Mr. McCain warned in a speech during his 2000 presidential campaign. He added that “cynicism threatens to become a ceiling on our greatness.”

    The only people “alienated” by my individualism, as far as I can tell, are nanny-state bureaucrats. I suspect I’d alienate John McCain to a great degree. But hey, when people spend their time telling me what to do for the common good, I don’t mind being a thorn in their unifying greatness.

    Want to Serve Your Country? Well, What’s Stopping You!

    Time has an ongoing series which advocates the need for “voluntary” national service. In the magazine’s latest article by Managing Editor Richard Stengel, the author praises both John McCain and Barack Obama for their urging of Americans to “serve interests greater than self.”

    It is a unique moment for the idea of national service. You have two presidential candidates who believe deeply in service and who have made it part of their core message to voters. You have millions of Americans who are yearning to be more involved in the world and in their communities. You have corporations and businesses that are making civic engagement a key part of their mission.

    If “millions of Americans” wish to be “more involved” in service to others and “their communities” what’s stopping them? Do we really need a President McCain or President Obama to force “inspire” these Americans to serve their fellow Americans? Is their really a “volunteer” deficit?

    In Stengel’s original article on this subject A Time to Serve he seems to suggest the opposite:

    Polls show that while confidence in our democracy and our government is near an all-time low, volunteerism and civic participation since the ’70s are near all-time highs. Political scientists are perplexed about this. If confidence is so low, why would people bother volunteering? The explanation is pretty simple. People, especially young people, think the government and the public sphere are broken, but they feel they can personally make a difference through community service.

    I fail to see the problem here. If people do not have confidence in the government, this is a very good thing*! Ordinary Americans are helping others on their own volition, not because some politician told them to do so.

    Despite this seemingly positive news, this isn’t enough for Stengel:

    [T]he way to keep the Republic — is universal national service. No, not mandatory or compulsory service but service that is in our enlightened self-interest as a nation. We are at a historic junction; with the first open presidential election in more than a half-century, it is time for the next President to mine the desire that is out there for serving and create a program for universal national service that will be his — or her — legacy for decades to come. It is the simple but compelling idea that devoting a year or more to national service, whether military or civilian, should become a countrywide rite of passage, the common expectation and widespread experience of virtually every young American.

    Am I missing something here? How does a president “persuade” people who otherwise would not be inclined to national service without using some form of coercion? Toward the end of the article, Stengel offers a 10-point plan on how the next president should implement a national service agenda:

    1. Create a National-Service Baby Bond (a.k.a. forced wealth distribution)

    2. Make National Service a Cabinet-Level Department (a.k.a. taking money from citizens to pay for another Bureaucracy)

    3. Expand Existing National-Service Programs Like AmeriCorps and the National Senior Volunteer Corps

    4. Create an Education Corps

    5. Institute a Summer of Service (a.k.a. teenagers serving the government to learn that all great things come from government)

    6. Build a Health Corps (a.k.a. “volunteers” helping low income people access government healthcare programs which they are not already taking advantage of such as SCHIP)

    7. Launch a Green Corps (similar to FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps but would improve infrastructure and combat climate change).

    8. Recruit a Rapid-Response Reserve Corps (a.k.a. volunteers doing the job the National Guard traditionally does in the wake of natural disasters).

    9. Start a National-Service Academy (a.k.a. a school to train government workers)

    10. Create a Baby-Boomer Education Bond (a.k.a. forced wealth distribution).

    In one way or another, every one of these proposals requires government to use force**. While this form of coercion is not as visible as directly “drafting” people into government service, make no mistake, coercion is still very much part of the equation.

    To Time’s credit, the magazine did offer a counterpoint to Stengel’s article. Michael Kinsley calls B.S. on this whole notion of national service (particularly on the part of young people):

    One of the comforts of middle age — a stage that the editor of TIME and I have both reached — is that you can start making demands on young people, safe in the knowledge that they won’t apply to you. Having safely escaped the Vietnam era draft ourselves, we are overcome by the feeling that the next generation should not be so lucky. Many of these young folks are volunteering for socially beneficial work, and that’s good. But it’s not good enough. “Volunteerism” is so wonderful that every young person should have to do it.

    […]

    I’m perfectly prepared to believe that today’s young people are deplorable specimens, ignorant and ungrateful and in desperate need of discipline. Or I am also prepared to believe that they are about to burst with idealism like a piñata and only await somebody with a giant pin. But they aren’t the only ones who could use a lesson about social obligation. What about grownups? Grownups, who still have some hope of collecting Social Security and Medicare before they go broke, who have enjoyed the explosion in house prices that make the prospect of home ownership so dim for the next generation; who allowed the government to run up a gargantuan national debt, were miraculously bailed out of that, and immediately allowed it to be run up a second time; who may well have gone to college when tuition was cheap and you didn’t automatically graduate burdened by student loans. We are not in much of a position to start dreaming up lessons in social obligation for the kids.

    As I pointed out in my last post, many people are in favor of “service” and “sacrifice” if it is being done by someone else. Kinsley also points out that the answer to serving the needs of others is good old fashioned Capitalism!***

    Let’s be honest. If you really want to “serve your country/community/world,” again I ask you: What’s stopping you? Your level of service has not one thing to do with who occupies the White House at any given time.

    » Read more

    Analysing John McCain’s Foreign Policy Wish List – No Ponies For Little Girls

    Calvin\'s Christmas ListJohn McCain must hate little girls. It is one of many inescapable conclusions that arise from reading his National Security position paper, which promises all things to everyone – well almost everyone. His foreign policy plans promise more submarines, more ships, more aircraft, more divisions, more security, more military assistance for allies, more attacks on enemies, more purchases from the military-industrial complex. About the only thing he does not promise in the document is to give every little girl in America a pony. I presume that this is not an oversight. Sen McCain is very focused on foreign policy and military matters, and I cannot imagine that the omission of free ponies was anything but intentional.

    Don’t believe me? Well, let’s go through the document together and we can look at all the things he does promise, and you will see the glaring omission of ponies for little girls in this fantastic proposal.

    In a dangerous world, protecting America’s national security requires a strong military. scratcccccchhhhhh

    Wow, one sentence in, and I can already see Sen McCain’s famed courage – I see this was published without being reviewed by an editor who knew how to write English well! This is the public relations equivalent of going commando. Just as charging recklessly at the pillbox can get you shot needlessly, Sen McCain has opened himself up to an attack – Do we really want a president who wishes to defend that national security apparatus of the United States? What happened to defending American’s who are not involved in national Security? Of course, this attack is unfair. Rather, Sen McCain or a staff member merely screwed up the topic sentence of one of his more high profile position papers.

    Starting again:

    In a dangerous world, protecting America’s national security requires a strong military. Today, America has the most capable, best-trained and best-led military force in the world. scratcccccchhhhhh

    Does anybody remember the strategic surprise of the Russians capturing that airport in Kosovo? Osama bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora? The first attempt to smash Fallujah? The U.S. military gets away with a lot because they have an overwhelming amount of firepower, and have faster communications than the little tin pot dictators or rudimentarily armed militias they’ve been fighting. If the U.S. military has the best officer corps in the world, then we must be entering into a new age of prosperity and peace since all the other militaries must be officered solely by incompetents without a single officer of average intelligence amongst them.

    But much needs to be done to maintain our military leadership, retain our technological advantage, and ensure that America has a modern, agile military force able to meet the diverse security challenges of the 21st century.

    John McCain is committed to ensuring that the men and women of our military remain the best, most capable fighting force on Earth – and that our nation honors its promises to them for their service.

    And here we go!

    The global war on terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, threats from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and the rise of potential strategic competitors like China and Russia mean that America requires a larger and more capable military to protect our country’s vital interests and deter challenges to our security. America confronts a range of serious security challenges: Protecting our homeland in an age of global terrorism and Islamist extremism; working with friends and partners overseas, from Africa to Southeast Asia, to help them combat terrorism and violent insurgencies in their own countries; defending against missile and nuclear attack; maintaining the credibility of our defense commitments to our allies; and waging difficult counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Wow! It seems that the United States taxpayer must take part in every fight on Earth! Let’s review the conflicts:

    The occupation of Iraq

    The occupation of Iraq is a purely discretionary exercise. Iraq does not, nor did it ever pose a threat to U.S. citizens living within the borders of the United States. If the United States were to withdraw all its forces as fast as possible, it would be decades, if ever, before whatever gang took over and proclaimed itself as the government of Iraq had mustered up the firepower to launch a significant attack on the people of the U.S.

    It did however threaten the Saudi monarch, and John McCain understands that preserving freedom at home requires sending U.S. soldiers overseas to die to prop an unpopular king on his throne.

    The occupation of Afghanistan

    Many people consider this to be required to defend the U.S. from attack. Certainly, if you accept the need to fight a global war on terrorism, the occupation of what was Al Queda’s rear areas is a requirement. Of course, this occupation is going badly; Slowly but surely, the United States is controlling less and less territory there. Occupying Afghanistan so weakened the Russian military that it collapsed. the U.S. army’s experience is similar to the Russian one – an seemingly easy early conquest followed by a slow war of attrition that saps men and wrecks equipment. Every month is harder than the previous one.

    The Taliban who were bankrolled by the Saudi King (the guy U.S. soldiers are dying in Iraq to protect), the Pakistani government (who were trying to counter Iranian influence in Afghanistan) and increasingly by the lucrative heroin trade (high profits courtesy of the U.S. War on (Some) Drugs. The Taliban were also bankrolled by al Queda which purchased their protection.

    The War on Al Queda

    Al Queda’s mission is the overthrow of the Saudi king (whom U.S. soldiers are dying in Iraq to defend). They targeted the United States because the United States loans soldiers to defend the Saudi King, builds the bases he uses to secure his territory and supplies him with weapons, ships and aircraft. The leadership of al Queda, many of whom survived the vicious Egyptian security forces (funded and trained by the United States) who viewed the religious conservatives as a threat to their power (the Egyptian rulers being old school pan-arab socialists who were bankrolled by the soviet Union until the U.S. government offered to give them taxes collected from U.S. citizens), have developed a hatred of the United States for bankrolling their attackers.

    Iran

    The Iranian government is unpopular. It levies heavy taxes on the population, harasses young people looking for love, meddles in school curricula, and has pursued an inflationary monetary policy which is wrecking the economy. And like every powerful government that is screwing up domestically, they try to play up external threats. They make noises about how they are surrounded by enemies and that other governments pose a threat to the Iranian people, in an attempt to awake nationalist feelings. And they can easily make this case; their substantive negotiations with the U.S. state department in 2002 were shut down by the Bush administration. Most of the nations bordering Iran have U.S. bases with combat troops stationed in them. And the U.S. government, which initiated a war against Iran in 1954 has been obligingly threatening to bomb them… with nuclear weapons…

    Officially, the purpose of this new proposed war is to keep the Iranian government from using nuclear weapons (which they don’t possess) against Israel.

    Did I mention that Iran has a population that is much larger than that of Iraq? And that the terrain is pretty mountainous. And that they have the capability to cut the southern supply lines of the U.S. army occupying Iraq (in order to help prop up the Saudi King on his throne?

    North Korea

    North Korea tried to build a nuclear bomb. It didn’t work. They flooded most of their farm land and now have a permanent famine going. They pose a threat to … South Korea. Except that South Korean soldiers are better fed and have more modern weapons and have prepared defenses, and have a larger population to draw upon. If the United States Government would quit subsidizing the government with food aid, it would probably have collapsed already.

    China

    Having largely abandoned central planning, the Chinese economy is booming, allowing the government to levy the taxes to build ships, submarines and aircraft that would have been modern in the late 1970’s. the Chinese people do allot of business with people living in the United States. They have territorial ambitions over a few sections of Central Asia and over Taiwan, and have absolutely no interest in attacking the United States.

    Russia

    The Russians have loads of natural resources and little else. While their government is moving in a fascist direction, their territorial ambitions are focused on “defending” slavic peoples’ hegemony in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

    The Equipment Needed When Seeking Out New Enemies

    To take on all these enemies, which do not directly threaten the citizenry, McCain proposes a massive arms build up to “modernize ” the U.S. military. he proposes increasing the size of the U.S. military dramatically. He proposes expanding benefits offered to veterans. He promises that the U.S. will prop up more governments that face popular rebellions, thus increasing the number of people who view the U.S. people as enemies fighting against them. He promises to increase intelligence gathering world-wide – more spies, more expensive spy satellites, more payoffs to local insurgents to provide the U.S. with intelligence (payoffs which all too often fund terrorist attacks against U.S. enemies).

    Who Pays?

    John McCain famously commented that he didn’t know much about economics, and this paper proves it. These new divisions, their equipment, the aircraft, ships, submarines and satellites, the bombs and ammunition required for this adventure in world domination will not be produced by elves working at Santa’s workshop on the north Pole. They will be paid for either by taxes on the U.S. citizenry, or by debasing the U.S. dollar. Unless John McCain is going to eliminate medicare, the U.S. citizenry will be paying for these things at a time when they have little wealth to spare. rather than producing consumer goods or other forms of wealth, the labor of people making or shooting the weapons will be wasted economically speaking.

    Fantasy

    There is one word to describe this proposal: fantasy. this plan will never happen. The United States economy will implode well before McCain has raised half of the divisions he needs to put his plan of world domination into action. and since John McCain is throwing unrealizable wishes left and right in this paper, it’s a shame he decided not to throw in a pony for every little girl in the U.S. Who knows, that is one wish that Santa might have granted…

    The rest of the paper.

    The rest of the paper continues banging the drums of war in much the same vein as what has already been commented on.I am therefore going to leave reading the rest as an exercise to the reader.

    I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

    What is Your Life Worth?

    No, I didn’t ask you about your net worth but what dollar value would you say that your life is worth to you. Most of us would not be able to come up with a figure or might say that putting an exact dollar amount on one individual’s life (especially one’s own) is impossible to quantify.

    If you cannot come up with a figure no need to fear, the federal government has come up with a dollar value for your life on your behalf (isn’t that nice of our government?). Actually, the worth of an individual’s life varies from one government department to the next. The Associated Press reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the government agency which has the highest dollar figure for a human life, has dropped the value by $1 million to its current appraisal of $6.9 million* (in today’s dollars).

    Why is this important, aside from the immoral, collectivist, big government, notion that it is morally justified to sacrifice the few or the one for the good of the many? Well…nothing! As the AP article points out, government agencies make decisions based on this arbitrary figure:

    Consider, for example, a hypothetical regulation that costs $18 billion to enforce but will prevent 2,500 deaths. At $7.8 million per person (the old figure), the lifesaving benefits outweigh the costs. But at $6.9 million per person, the rule costs more than the lives it saves, so it may not be adopted.

    Putting aside the fact that many of the departments, programs, and regulations are completely unconstitutional to begin with, I find it very disturbing (but not at all surprising) that my life could be shrugged off if I find myself in too small of a class to “matter” to government bureaucrats. This is the ugly reality that altruist/collectivists such as Barack Obama and John McCain speak of idealistically when they call for Americans to “sacrifice for the good of the community” and “serve a cause higher than self.”

    Many people find sacrifice is a wonderful and noble thing, particularly if someone else is offering the sacrifice. If Obama or McCain needs to sacrifice the life, liberty, or property of an individual to serve his political/policy desires, each is quite willing to make that sacrifice (what’s $6.9 million in the federal budget anyway?).

    Unfortunately, the age of reason, self reliance, and individual liberty did not survive much longer than Paine, Jefferson, and Madison. Our anti-Western, Judeo-Christian, “mob rule,” culture has conditioned generation after generation of Americans to think this way. Children are taught in government schools and their churches that America is a democracy rather than a constitutional republic, the rule of men rather than the rule of law, and to put “God, family, and country” before self. Obama and McCain are only reflecting this sentiment.

    Not that these same politicians are not willing to pander to vocal minorities for votes. Obama and McCain will consider every minority group but one: the smallest minority.

    The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.
    -Ayn Rand

    So what is my life worth to me? To quote John Galt (the protagonist of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged) “I am the man who loves his life.” My life is not for sale because to me my life is priceless. There is no need for me to set a price for something for which no one has the ability to pay me.

    » Read more

    A Hell of a Way to Describe the Dilemma

    “When it comes to picking our next president, I can’t decide if I prefer the smooth-talking, inspirational candidate who promises to give my money to people who don’t work as hard as I do, or the old, short, ugly, angry guy with one good arm who graduated at the bottom of his class and somehow managed to shag a hot heiress and become a contender for president. It seems dangerous to underestimate that guy.”

    Scott Adams

    I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

    Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

    Quote Of The Day: Putting The Country First

    For anyone advocating that a libertarian-leaning person vote for John McCain, ask yourself a question…

    Patriotism is deeper than its symbolic expressions, than sentiments about place and kinship that move us to hold our hands over our hearts during the national anthem. It is putting the country first, before party or personal ambition, before anything.

    Is this an individualist or a collectivist/nationalist statement?

    (From Parade Magazine)

    What are you REALLY voting for?

    Yesterday, the supreme court announced that the constitution actually means what it says, and that it’s OK if we want to exercise our pre-existing and fundamental rights… at least most of the time, presuming we follow the allowed restrictions…

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy about Heller, and I think it’s a better ruling than many would have you believe (not that it won’t require literally decades of litigation to resolve those issues)…

    …My problem here is that there had to be a supreme court decision on this; not to determine how much the government could restrict a fundamental right, but whether that right even existed at all.

    The even bigger problem I have with this, is that about 30% of the population have convinced themselves that it doesn’t; and that among that 30% are a strong minority of our national legislature (there are some pro gun democrats, and some anti-gun republicans), and a not insignificant minority of our state legislatures (about 15% of the state legislatures outright, and presumably anywhere from 15 to 30% of the legislators in the rest of the states).

    Even a member of the supreme court, construed the very concept of the limitation of government so obscenely, that he was openly mocked by another; to wit:

    “The majority would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons.” – Associate Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

    YES, that is EXACTLY what the framers did; that is in fact the entire purpose of the second amendment, and the bill of rights as a whole;. and anyone who in any way does not understand that has no business being a citizen of this country, never mind being a supreme court justice.

    Stevens is either a liar, a fool, or disingenuously dissembling to make a fundamental right into nothing more than a hindrance to government.. which is by far the worst interpretation of his actions, and unfortunately I think the correct one. It makes him both craven, and a clear enemy of the core principles of liberty and limited government.

    … but 30% of the population agrees with him.

    … and that frightens me.

    Now, that wouldn’t really be an issue, except for one thing: That 30% controls one of the major political parties in this country.

    Which also wouldn’t be TOO much of a problem, except for one other thing: That 30 percent also controls 4 members of the 9 member supreme court.

    Yesterdays decision on Heller was 5-4 in favor of the idea that the government cannot abrogate our fundamental rights by force of law; except in certain strictly limited ways.

    5-4…

    There were four justices of the supreme court who voted against the very foundation of our limited government…. In fact against the very IDEA of any real limitation on government, as I see it.

    And it’s not just about guns (though Silveira and Fincher are certainly illustrative), it’s also about Angel Raich, and Susette Kelo, and all the other decisions favoring government over the rights of the people.

    Those four justices have been reliable votes against freedom, liberty, and limitation of government (they were frequently joined by Anthony Kennedy, and now retired Sandra Day O’Connor. I also don’t discount the fact that on occasion even the so called “conservative justices have also voted against liberty)

    5-4…

    So, at this point, there comes a decision.

    In 2008, this country will choose our next president. We have two choices (yes, only two. Don’t try and pretend otherwise).

    In addition to the veto pen, and the office of commander in chief; the next president is likely to select at least one, and possibly as many as three justices for the supreme court.

    Barack Obama is one of the 30%, and unabashedly so.

    John McCain is one of those people who have deluded themselves into thinking there is a balance to be struck between the rights of individuals, and government. He’s wrong, in some ways disastrously so (BCRA for example); but he isn’t actively promoting the position that individual rights are superseded by “governments rights” (which don’t exist).

    Obviously, neither are good; but one is clearly worse.

    More importantly though, is the realization that indeed we ARE in a two party game; and what that game really is.

    One party is controlled by those utterly hostile to the notion of individual rights; the other is controlled by people who believe in individual rights but disregard them when it suits them.

    One party is the 30%, the other isn’t.

    For those of you who say “I don’t vote for the party I vote for the man”, or “Continuing to vote for the lesser of two evils is rewarding their bad behavior. We should teach them a lesson”…

    Let me be blunt: Grow the hell up, wake the hell up, and get your head back into the real world where it belongs.

    Let’s face it folks, we ARE in a two party system. No matter what the Libertarian party wants to believe about its own relevance (and nominating Bob Barr showed they really don’t care so long as they can get enough press to get 4% in the general and qualify for automatic ballot inclusion and matching funding) a vote for anyone other than John McCain is a vote for Barack Obama.

    Welcome back to the real world folks; where there hasn’t been someone you could actually vote FOR (as opposed to voting against), since around 1817. All you can do now, is vote against the worse guy (or rather, the worse party).

    Of course that’s “OK” because you don’t actually vote for the president, you’re voting for the party; and as much as we are not a parliamentary system and that should NOT be the case, it is.
    The president himself has very little to do with how the country is run, except in crises. The party, who fill in all the blanks for appointees and bureaucrats, really chooses who runs things and how.

    So, you can vote for the 30%, or you can vote for the other guy, but as the game is right now, there is no third choice.

    I’ll take the other guy thank you.

    I’m not saying I like it, or that you have to like it. I’m saying that’s how it is whether you like it or not, and deluding yourself into thinking otherwise is ridiculous and harmful.

    So either play the game by the rules, don’t play the game, or change the rules.

    I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

    Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

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