Category Archives: Media

The Daily Show Illustrates the Shortsightedness of Government

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The above video clip from The Daily Show, while very humorous, illustrates a fundamental problem of government: shortsightedness.

In this example, the State of Arizona is offering to sell the state capitol for $735 million and rent it back from the new owners.

“What happens next year when you have to pay rent?” asks Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones.

Sen. Lopez responds that the state government is more concerned about this year…they will deal with the next year’s budget (and subsequent budget) shortfalls when the time comes.

If this doesn’t illustrate the shortsightedness of government (at all levels), I don’t know what does. Our government officials do not look far beyond the immediate future (i.e. the next election). They don’t worry about the insolvency of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the long term financial difficulties of the bailouts etc, they will worry about those problems (which they created and will also blame on the free market, big business, or lack of regulation) when they can no longer pretend the problem doesn’t exist. If they are lucky, the other party will be in power by that time and the American public will turn its anger against that party by voting them out.

What the American public needs to understand is that whether the blue team or the red team controls the levers of power, this shortsighted mentality is standard operating procedure for both. They are not interested in solving long term problems but trying to appear as though they are.

Politicians will not be accountable for their deceitful actions until we, the people, hold them accountable.

…I won’t hold my breath.

The NEA Con-Call; There’s Not Much “There” There

On August 10th, a conference call occurred, including folks from the White House, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the arts community. The purpose of the call was to “rally the troops” of artists who had spent time working for the Obama campaign, enlisting their help to push national service initiatives. The revelation of this call was the follow-up by Andrew Breitbart to the ACORN scandal, and as a fellow contributor to his “Big Hollywood” site put it, was pretty damning.

Monday, we have the NEA under the microscope. The Obama Administration was caught red-handed (is that “racist”?) funneling tax payer dollars into an official propaganda department. I can’t wait to see what the excuse will be this time.

Yeah, that’s pretty damning — if true. If there are taxpayer dollars being funneled into the arts community as a walking campaign for Barack Obama, there’s definitely something to be concerned about.

Thankfully, though, this is the internet age. Some anti-government crank in California like me can look at the transcript of the call (available here, courtesy of the very same Andrew Breitbart site), and piece together exactly what happened and what this means.

Because this is going to be a long post, let me set my thesis up front. I don’t like this call. I don’t like what it means. I view what occurred on this call as more properly being the domain of the DNC than the NEA or White House. But I don’t think any laws were broken, I don’t think this is really a walking Barack Obama campaign ad, and what was discussed on the call is not outside the mandate of the NEA.

So let’s look at the call:

Main Participants:
Mike Skolnic: Organizer of call. Independent filmmaker now Political Director for Russell Simmons, asked by United We Serve to arrange this call due to his extensive contacts within the art community.
Buffy Wicks: White House Office of Public Engagement (actual title not disclosed)
Nell Abernathy: Outreach Director for United We Serve
Yosi Sargent: Director of Communications, National Endowment For the Arts
Various artists: Mainly artists already engaged in Democratic activism, some who worked for Obama campaign.

Purpose of Call:
United We Serve is an initiative managed by the White House and the Corporation for National & Community Service, a federal agency formed in 1993 (as an outgrowth of existing agencies) to administer programs like SeniorCorps and AmeriCorps, and expanded in 2002 by George W. Bush to include USA Freedom Corps. United We Serve is an initiative looking to publicize and coordinate community and volunteer service through their Serve.gov web site. The conference call was intended to publicize this site and the United We Serve initiative to influential artists to help them further this in their communities. As such, the call was directed at furthering United We Serve primarily (although assuredly benefiting Barack Obama is a secondary benefit for the White House).

Potential Issues Raised by the Call:
There are several things that could be improper about this call, some of which I will accept and some of which I hope to dispel.

  • Using the National Endowment for the Arts, a funding arm for art and art education, in the furtherance of partisan goals of Barack Obama.
  • Similar to the above, the use of taxpayer funds for the same.
  • Direct influence of the White House Office of Public Engagement on the NEA.

So, again, we need to look at the transcript of the call to hash a lot of this out, because looking at the purpose of the call as I state it above compared to the potential issues raised by the call leaves a lot of room for subtlety and nuance. So if you didn’t click over already, I suggest you read the transcript itself. The advantage of the internet tends to be great access to primary sources, and you do well to make yourself familiar with them before forming a full opinion.

So let’s dispel a few things right up front.

Are taxpayer funds being used?
As far as I can tell, no. There was never a single mention that I could find in the transcript of offer or even discussion of the NEA providing grants or funds for these programs. It was rather one-sided, inasmuch the artists were pretty much told “you’ve shown previously that you care about X, here are some ways that YOU can help make X happen in your community and how Serve.gov will help you do so.”

Is this about partisan legislative efforts and Barack Obama’s agenda?
Again, no. The topic of the call was community service and volunteerism, and the furtherance of Serve.gov rather than legislation. A question was asked by one of the artists at the very end of the call regarding Organizing for America, and Nell Abernathy on the call very expressly stated that the two groups are different, unrelated, and that United We Serve has no intention of using the assistance of the artists for anything other than the furthering of community service and volunteerism. It was left by Nell along the lines of ‘the most I can do is tell you who to contact at OFA, but that’s a ball they need to run with.’

Alternatively, the language from Mike Skolnic (who, as he points out, is not employed by the government) was a bit more open. But I think it was clear that he was speaking not as a voice of United We Serve, the NEA, or the Office of Public Engagement when he made his statements in this manner.

Is the White House exerting partisan pressure on the NEA?
This, again, I don’t really see. It is clear that the NEA is signing up to help United We Serve, but the implications of that are far more interesting.

This is an excerpt (some portions cut to remove unnecessary language) from Yosi Sargent’s portion of the talk. It immediately suggested to me that the NEA was overreaching its mandate to further the arts and art education. The language here is arguably the most objectionable of the entire call (emphasis added):

This is what we fought for. We fought for a chance to be at the table and not only at the table but we’re setting the table. And now the official rule of National Endowment for the Arts, as director of communication and say, We here at the NEA are extremely proud to participate in the president’s United We Serve initiative.

This is a chance for us to partner with the White House and the corporation for national community service along the arts community in immediately affecting some change in our communities.

Really I want to emphasize, and I know that other people have brought it up already, but I want to just hearken back to it really quickly in that this is just the beginning. This is the first telephone call of a brand new conversation. We are just now learning how to really bring this community together to speak with the government. What that looks like legally, we’re still trying to figure out the laws of putting government Web sites on Facebook and the use of Twitter.

This is all being sorted out. We are participating in history as it’s being made. So bear with us as we learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely and we can really work together to move the needle and to get stuff done.

He is quite clearly saying that the NEA is excited to be joining in a partnership with United We Serve and the Corporation for National & Community Service. He is clearly saying that the NEA will be working not just to promote the arts, but to promote actual Federal government programs outside the arts.

Now, this seems to go beyond the NEA’s mandate as explained in their “About Us” page:

The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.

You see, nothing there says that they should be serving the government’s agenda. Their mandate, according to this very short blurb, is to promote the ARTS, not the government. So, on its face, it appears that the NEA will be going too far…

…but that doesn’t take into account the legislation forming the NEA (PDF), and what mission it was truly tasked with. From Title 20 U.S.C. § 954:

(o) Correlation and development of endowment programs with other Federal and non-Federal programs; expenditure of appropriations. The Chairperson shall correlate the programs of the National Endowment for the Arts insofar as practicable, with existing Federal programs and with those undertaken by other public agencies or private groups, and shall develop the programs of the Endowment with due regard to the contribution to the objectives of this Act which can be made by other Federal agencies under existing programs. The Chairperson may enter into interagency agreements to promote or assist with the arts-related activities of other Federal agencies, on a reimbursable or nonreimbursable basis, and may use funds authorized to be appropriated for the purposes of subsection (c) for the costs of such activities.

What does this mean? The Corporation for National & Community Service is a federal agency, and United We Serve is a portion of that agency that may need arts-related activities. Thus, the National Endowment of the Arts, per the actual founding legislation created by Congress, is well within its authority to use its power, through funding or without funding, to help United We Serve achieve its goals. The NEA is not overstepping its bounds here. Those bounds may be farther out than we realized, but there’s nothing I see that suggests they cannot be doing this.

Now, as a libertarian, I don’t expect myself or most conservatives to like what was discussed on this call. There are reasons to object, largely based on the appearance of impropriety and the fact that the government views these artists as vessels to promote its agenda. There’s a fundamental view of the relationship between the government and its citizens that I believe gets confused. This administration seems to see a path to self-actualization for all Americans through collectivism organized by government. But I don’t see this as anything different, new, or particularly “damning” knowing what we already know about this administration. This is certainly less of a “gotcha” than the ACORN tapes, in factual terms, but I suspect that if you listen to the Glenn Becks of the world, they’ll make a mountain out of a molehill.

Newspapers Report Green Shoots — In Sep 2008?

Want a laugh? Well go back one year to this column, and ruminate on whether it could be possible for the author to be any more wrong…

There have been 11 recessions since the Great Depression. And we’re nowhere close to being in the 12th one now. This isn’t just a matter of opinion. Words — even words as seemingly subjective as “recession” — have meaning.

Whatever the political outcome this year, hopefully this will prove to be yet another instance of that iron law of economics and markets: The sentiment of the majority is always wrong at key turning points. And the majority is plenty pessimistic right now. That suggests that we’re on the brink not of recession, but of accelerating prosperity.

Yes, folks, that was Sep 14, 2008!

He goes on to talk about how employment, industrial production, and the housing market really aren’t that bad and not in for anything severe.

I’m all for optimism. Any chance I can get some of whatever Luskin was smokin’?

I think Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture puts it best:

If you had a time machine, knew the future, and purposefully tried to write something where every word was literally wrong, you could not have done a better job.

Go read the whole thing. Then decide whether you can take the MSM’s announcement of green shoots seriously.

Jon Henke Appearance on Rachel Maddow Show

Having spent a few years in the ‘sphere, I remember the good ol’ days when Jon Henke was a fellow obscurity at QandO — which I’d point out was then and is today a bit less obscure than The Liberty Papers. He’s gone on to quite a few high-profile gigs, including online media coordination for the 2006 Republican Senate candidate from Virginia.

He recently got himself into a fight with WorldNetDaily, where he may have inadvertently learned George Bernard Shaw’s lesson:

I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.

I’ve largely avoided the WorldNetDaily stuff, the birthers, and all that nonsense. I do so because frankly I don’t have the time or energy to even give these conspiracy nuts a mention, much less spend more than a minute debunking them. These days, I barely have time to post about stuff I actually like to think about! And this nonsense doesn’t interest me in the slightest. Besides, my co-contributor Doug does an excellent job of it on his own. But suffice it to say that I’m in the Mataconis/Henke camp. There are a lot of things to criticize the Obama administration for, and silly fights over birth certificates are merely a distraction that obstruct our view of the important issues.

So below is Jon Henke, on the Rachel Maddow show, essentially calling the WND folks (and Maddow) to task for wasting time on nonsense, and suggesting that credible voices would do far well to distance themselves from WND:

Well said, Jon, and good work taking Maddow to task.

AARP Ad: Opponents of ObamaCare Oppose “Health Care Reform”

The “Ambulance Commercial” from AARP claims that the “special interest groups” are “trying to derail” the healthcare debate. Those who oppose “reform” are “spreading myths” about rationing of care. In case you’ve missed it, here’s the ad:

One of the things that really makes me angry about this debate is the way groups like AARP, the Obama Administration, and the Democrat Party use straw man arguments to characterize those of us who oppose government run healthcare are “anti-reform” or happy with the system the way it is. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m sure there are some who are GOP political hacks out there who oppose ObamaCare but would have no problem supporting RomneyCare or whatever variation of government healthcare McCain would have been pushing had he won the presidency. I get that. But despite what Rachel Maddow, Kieth Oberman, or any of these other Left-wing talking heads would have you believe, there actually are legitimate reasons to fear ObamaCare and not everyone who opposes it is not some sort of Right-wing lunatic.

So who is really spreading the “myths” about ObamaCare?

To be fair, I’m pretty sure it’s not the intention of Democrats to create healthcare rationing. Maybe proponents of the bill claim such things as “death panels” to be myths because such panels of bureaucrats are not part of the plan per se. Perhaps what the fans of big government do not understand is that rationing is inevitable, whether or not rationing is intended. If Red Lobster decided to serve steak and lobster for “free” to the general public every Saturday, one would imagine that there would be lines around the block and Red Lobster would run out of steak and lobster very quickly on Saturdays (and not everyone who stood in line would receive their free food).

The same is true for healthcare or any other product. If suddenly some 50 million uninsured individuals suddenly have access to “free” healthcare along with the remaining 250 million with no increase in the supply of healthcare providers, there will be shortages. Whenever there is a shortage of a product or service in a government controlled program, rationing is the only way to meet the needs for the greatest number. In other words, bureaucrats make the decision regarding who receives healthcare and who does not. The most likely choice will be that the elderly will be asked to sacrifice themselves for the good of “more productive” individuals (i.e. tax payers). This very phenomenon is already happening with vital organ transplants in the U.S. and around the world (with the notable exception of Iran of all places!).

But what is even more galling about the AARP ad than the complete ignorance regarding supply and demand is the notion that those who oppose ObamaCare are anti-reform. Just because some of us oppose ObamaCare does not make us anti-reform but simply anti-government healthcare. There are good free market approaches to health care reform; Cato Institute has an entire website dedicated to such approaches . I’m sure Dr. Ron Paul has some ideas and many other free market individuals as well but AARP, the Democrat Congress, nor the Obama Administration want to consider these approaches.

Couldn’t we just as easily say that they are anti-healthcare reform? If anyone is “derailing” the debate it would be AARP and their special interests.

If AARP believes “special interests” are obstacles to a quality healthcare system, just wait until they get their wish and politicians get between the patients and their doctors.

For those who would like to see the free market reforms Cato proposes, click on the banner below.

Popular Mechanics Separates CSI Fact from CSI Fiction

CSI, Forensic Files, The First 48 and other television programs of this genre are among my favorites. Investigators study a crime scene and learn all sorts of valuable information from blood spatter, shoe prints, tire marks, hair fibers, ballistics, and trace evidence. We are to believe that “the evidence doesn’t lie” and that these noble CSI crusaders seek only the truth and determine this truth by their many years of expertise in all areas of science.

That is what we are to believe but is this reliance on forensic science in solving crimes misplaced? The cover story in the August 2009 article of Popular Mechanics makes the argument that the “science” in forensic science isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

On television and in the movies, forensic examiners unravel difficult cases with a combination of scientific acumen, cutting-edge technology and dogged persistence. The gee-whiz wonder of it all has spawned its own media-age legal phenomenon known as the “CSI effect.” Jurors routinely afford confident scientific experts an almost mythic infallibility because they evoke the bold characters from crime dramas. The real world of forensic science, however, is far different. America’s forensic labs are overburdened, understaffed and under intense pressure from prosecutors to produce results. According to a 2005 study by the Department of Justice, the average lab has a backlog of 401 requests for services. Plus, several state and city forensic departments have been racked by scandals involving mishandled evidence and outright fraud.

But criminal forensics has a deeper problem of basic validity. Bite marks, blood-splatter patterns, ballistics, and hair, fiber and handwriting analysis sound compelling in the courtroom, but much of the “science” behind forensic science rests on surprisingly shaky foundations. Many well-established forms of evidence are the product of highly subjective analysis by people with minimal credentials—according to the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, no advanced degree is required for a career in forensics. And even the most experienced and respected professionals can come to inaccurate conclusions, because the body of research behind the majority of the forensic sciences is incomplete, and the established methodologies are often inexact. “There is no scientific foundation for it,” says Arizona State University law professor Michael Saks. “As you begin to unpack it you find it’s a lot of loosey-goosey stuff.”

This kind of pokes holes into the notion that the evidence doesn’t lie.

Here’s the money quote of the whole article:

[The National Academy of Science report concerning the state of forensic science used in the criminal justice system] specifically noted that apart from DNA, there is not a single forensic discipline that has been proven “with a high degree of certainty” to be able to match a piece of evidence to a suspect.

That’s right; according to the NAS report, ballistics, trace evidence, and even finger print analysis are far from perfect.

A 2006 study by the University of Southampton in England asked six veteran fingerprint examiners to study prints taken from actual criminal cases. The experts were not told that they had previously examined the same prints. The researchers’ goal was to determine if contextual information—for example, some prints included a notation that the suspect had already confessed—would affect the results. But the experiment revealed a far more serious problem: The analyses of fingerprint examiners were often inconsistent regardless of context. Only two of the six experts reached the same conclusions on second examination as they had on the first.

Ballistics has similar flaws. A subsection of tool-mark analysis, ballistics matching is predicated on the theory that when a bullet is fired, unique marks are left on the slug by the barrel of the gun. Consequently, two bullets fired from the same gun should bear the identical marks. Yet there are no accepted standards for what constitutes a match between bullets. Juries are left to trust expert witnesses. “‘I know it when I see it’ is often an acceptable response,” says Adina Schwartz, a law professor and ballistics expert with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

The good news, according to the article, is that there are certain forensic techniques which are considered good science:

Techniques that grew out of organic chemistry and microbiology have a strong scientific foundation. For example, chromatography, a method for separating complex mixtures, enables examiners to identify chemical substances in bodily fluids—evidence vital to many drug cases. The evolution of DNA analysis, in particular, has set a new scientific standard for forensic evidence. But it also demonstrates that good science takes time.

So should these other methods which do not have a strong scientific foundation all be junked? Not even the critics of these methods in this article are willing to go that far. The article goes on to explain that these methods should be explained in their proper context to jurors (i.e. strengths and weaknesses, variables which can affect the results, and whether the evidence is exclusionary or qualified supporting evidence, etc.). All of this should be disclosed up front rather than relying on a defense attorney who likely does not have a background in forensic science to identify each problem with the presentation of the evidence.

Of course with the damning NAS report, others like it, and more exposure to the weaknesses of forensic science used in the courtroom by mainstream publications like Popular Mechanics, criminal defense lawyers everywhere now have this in their arsenal to create reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors until expert witnesses are required to give full disclosure regarding the techniques.

Obama, Gates, Crowley, and the Troubling Controversy that Seemingly Won’t Go Away

Up to now I have purposely avoided this whole disorderly conduct arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. for a number of reasons.

First reason being that compared to the other cases I’ve written about here and elsewhere, this is a very minor case of police misconduct. I have yet to read or hear any reports that Mr. Gates was roughed up even a little bit.

Second, Mr. Gates seems like a real ass. Gates seems to be someone who has a chip on his shoulder and apparently views the world in black and white (i.e. if the police as much as ask a question, s/he is a racist!). A woman saw 2 men trying to break into Gate’s home; unbeknownst to the woman, one of the men was the resident of the home. The woman even said as much on the 911 call:

“I don’t know what’s happening. … I don’t know if they live there and they just had a hard time with their key, but I did notice they had to use their shoulders to try to barge in…”

Now some people are calling her a racist for making the call to the police to begin with!

Third, like President Obama, I “don’t have all the facts” but unlike the president, I’m not going to say definitively that the police “acted stupidly.” There are no videos that documented the encounter and I wasn’t there so I cannot make a judgment as to who acted stupidly or to what degree. My best guess, based on what I have read about the case, is that both Mr. Gates and Sgt. Crowley acted inappropriately and overreacted.

So why have I decided to weigh in now you ask? I think the reason has to do mostly with the fact that this story won’t go away and with so much commentary in the MSM, talk radio, and the blogosphere, I can’t help but offer my 2 cents because certain aspects of this saga trouble me.

I am troubled that this case has turned into a race issue. This was not a case where a white police officer pulled over a black man for DWB. The police responded to a 911 call of a possible break in. This is what the police are supposed to do!

I am troubled that the president would make a public statement without knowing more about the facts of the case. For whatever reason, President Obama thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to opine about the historically troubled relationship between racial minorities and the police. Whether or not the president has a legitimate case to make, this case is not what I would consider a good example of the police racial profiling. What he should have said was something like: “Mr. Gates is a friend of mine but I don’t know all the facts; it would be inappropriate for me to comment about this case at this time.”

I am troubled that (apparently) the police did not leave Mr. Gates home once he identified himself as the home’s rightful resident, thus proving no crime had been committed.

I am troubled with how the police can apparently arrest someone for disorderly conduct for just about any reason they wish. While I do believe that Mr. Gates acted like an ass…since when is that a crime? Sure, he yelled some nasty things at the police when he should have been thanking them for investigating what appeared to be an unlawful break in, but how is making his displeasure known to the police disorderly conduct? I believe Doug is right: arresting Gates in this case was an unconstitutional voilation of his civil rights.

I am troubled by the way certain commentators such as Glenn Beck have gone off the deep end on Obama’s handling of this case, even going as far as calling the president a racist. I didn’t like it when people called Bush a racist and I don’t like it when people call Obama a racist*. That is a hell of a nasty charge to make of anyone (and if one does make that charge, they should have some damn good proof). Like I said before, Obama mishandled this situation but to say he is racist for commenting on race relations with the police (however inappropriate in using this case as an example) is a bridge too far.

I am troubled that other commentators say that because Obama said that the police “acted stupidly” that this is a slap in the face to police officers everywhere…as if he called all police officers stupid. What complete nonsense. I think its worth pointing out that Obama called the actions of the police stupid; he did not call the police stupid. This is a very important distinction. Even the most intelligent, honest, and morally upstanding individual acts stupidly at times. Not even college professors, police officers, or world leaders are immune from this.

Yes, this is indeed a teaching moment. Its just too bad that too many people seem to be learning the wrong lessons.

» Read more

Mother Jones Takes on the War on (Some) Drugs

The July/August 2009 issue of the Left-leaning Mother Jones dedicates several articles to the asinine War on (some) Drugs.
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The title of the magazine’s cover story states it best – “Totally Wasted: We’ve blown $300 billion. Death squads roam Mexico. Cartels operate in 259 cities. This is your War on Drugs. Any Questions?”

Reason’s Nick Gillespie points out that there are many areas that libertarians would disagree with (like I said, MoJo is a Left-leaning publication) but I think it’s good to expose a new audience to the failure that is this nation’s drug policy. From there we can debate the best way to bring the War on (some) Drugs to a conclusion.

A few thoughts about last weekend’s Tea Parties

While I’ve not had enough time to take a comprehensive look at Tea Parties held around the nation on or around Independence Day, here are some quick observations from this full-time Tea Party enthusiast and part-time skeptic.

First of all, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) was booed when he spoke in Austin, Texas.  The key reason reason seems to be that he voted for the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac bailout in order to protect “free market capitalism, with our civil liberties, [which are] are the foundation of American exceptionalism.”  In the hyperlinked explanation for his vote, he quoted Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in order to help spread the blame.  “This bill does not represent a new and sudden departure from free market principles…” explained Cornyn, who was quoting Coburn.

Coburn has also infuriated fiscal conservatives because, in his role as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he sided with “establishment candidate, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, in a Senate primary against young conservative leader, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio” in the Florida Senate race.

Coburn probably wasn’t the only Republican Party leader booed in Texas.  I’ve seen some video of Texas Governor Rick Perry speaking in San Antonio, but I’ve not seen any video with jeers from the audience from anywhere in Texas (he wasn’t allowed to speak at the major Dallas event).  However, there are multiple reports that he was booed for “his advocacy of toll roads to relieve traffic congestion.” I tried to obtain additional information on Twitter and it seems my suspicions were correct: He received some sporadic booing, not specifically because of toll roads, but that the road in question is the “NAFTA Superhighway” or “Trans-Texas Corridor”.  Based upon observations during my campaign work in east Texas in 2006, there are probably quite a few Birchers who still vehemently oppose this effort.

The least biased view of the Austin event which I’ve read comes from Robbie Cooper: » Read more

It’s time for ABC News to put a libertarian in the White House

On June 24th, to be specific. And the obvious libertarian’s name is John Stossel.

For those not following the story, ABC News has announced the following:

Next Wednesday June 24 at 10pmET Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer will moderate what ABC News calls “a primetime conversation” with President Obama about the future of U.S. health care.

During the discussion from the East Room, President Obama will answer questions from an audience made up of Americans selected by ABC News. ABC’s medical editor Dr. Timothy Johnson will also take part.

“Good Morning America” and “World News” will originate from the White House next Wednesday and the conversation will continue later on Nightline.

This has prompted criticism from the Republican National Committee.

“Today, the Republican National Committee requested an opportunity to add our Party’s views to those of the President’s to ensure that all sides of the health care reform debate are presented,” responded Republican National Committee Chief of Staff Ken McKay. “Our request was rejected. I believe that the President should have the ability to speak directly to the America people. However, I find it outrageous that ABC would prohibit our Party’s opposing thoughts and ideas from this national debate, which affects millions of ABC viewers.

A couple of days ago, I made the case that ABC should consider adding John Stossel to the lineup. Today, Michelle Malkin and Allahpundit jumped on board the same bandwagon. Malkin:

ABC News says it welcomes “thoughtful” and “diverse” voices on its White House health care special.

Why not include ABC 20/20 anchor John Stossel? I have confirmed that he has not been asked to be a part of the programming.

Why not?

When it comes to thoughtful and diverse perspectives on freedom, government, and the marketplace, no one matches Stossel.

Allahpundit asked: “Michelle: Will libertarian John Stossel be part of ABC’s Obama infomercial?”  His answer: “Good question, especially given his history of covering the issue. The answer, I’m guessing, is no, since ABC seems intent on excluding representatives of alternative viewpoints even if lip service ends up being paid to those viewpoints in the questions that are asked of The One.”

In addition to McKay, RNC Chairman Michael Steele is having a conniption fit.

“The liberal special interests have clearly learned from their missteps the last time they tried to force Americans into a socialized health care system — the abysmal failure of the Clinton Administration’s ‘HillaryCare,’” Steele wrote. “That’s why their friends at ABC News will be promoting Obamacare at virtually every opportunity, from ‘Good Morning America’ to ‘Nightline,’ and reach from ABC News’ websites all the way to the White House’s East Room.”

In my article, one of the reasons I suggested that a libertarian should be engaged in the debate is that Republican leaders have lost any credibility on the issue.

For starters, I agree with ABC’s position that Republican Party leadership should not be engaged in the debate, albeit for a different reason. The Republican leadership recently lobbied for and supported the largest government intervention into the health care marketplace with Medicare Part D.  They aren’t qualified to act as the spokepersons for the opposition.  Like a pack of hyenas battling over a dead carcass, one could easily argue that GOP leaders — along with the AMA, pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry  — wish to engage in the debate to ensure they get their proper share of the spoils.

In another example, Karl Rove just “used an example of socialized medicine he helped to promote to illustrate why Democratic socialized medicine is bad, but Republican socialized medicine is good.”  Additionally, senior Republicans are more concerned about quibbling over the details and making adjustments to their speaking points than for making arguments based on principles. Senior Republicans seem happy with ObamaCare Lite, so long their preferred benefactors are the ones who get the benefit of the taxpayers’ dollar.

When libertarians take to the stage, they are typically critical of both major parties. Just from recent television appearances of writers on this site, Jason Pye told Neil Cavuto that he rejects the notion that there may be no groundswell of popular support at recent Tea Parties. “I think, honestly, that conservatives and Republicans were thrown out of office because they forgot their values,” said Pye. “They forgot what they believed in.”

“Newt Gingrich could be one of these two tea bags, because he likes his tea bags sweetened, let’s say, with TARP funding,” I recently stated on the Rachel Maddow Show.  “And this other one could be Mike Huckabee.  We call him Tax Hike Mike in my circles because he likes his tea bag with tax increases.

Additionally, Stossel is on top of his game when it comes to health care reform. After I asked Stossel an ObamaCare question on this program, Judge Andrew Napolitano responded: “Your argument is so logical. It’s pure Economics 101.”

The way I see it, ABC News can make one of three choices right now:

  1. They can continue on their current path and receive a considerable amount of just criticism for some time to come.
  2. They can provide a balance of ObamaCare and ObamaCare Lite by including senior GOP leaders.  As their lack of new and alternative ideas has already caused voters to reject them in 2006 and 2008, this seems a fairly moronic idea.
  3. They could throw in the only real and the only principled opposition to ObamaCare by including libertarians in the debate.

On June 25th, we’ll all know just how serious ABC News is about “looking for the most thoughtful and diverse voices on this issue.”

Quote Of The Day

Krugman, in 2002:

To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble.

Krugman said then that we needed to reinflate the bubble to save ourselves. We did, and we didn’t.

Now he says it’s time for Keynesian stimulus far bigger than what we’ve already done. He’s just as wrong as he was then.

Hat Tip: TJIC

And Republicans still can’t figure out why they keep losing battles in the War of the Tubes

Shortly after I graduated high school in 1980 (yep, I’m an old man, just ask my kids), I responded to two computer programming job ads.  One company wanted a detailed resume of my education and work experience.  The other company was trying to get people to come in and take a test. The test was tough, but the thought process behind it was both simple and germane: We had to write a complex program in RPG to handle a hypothetical business need for this local company.  The programs submitted were the primary basis for the company’s hiring decision. The last time I checked (I ended up taking a job with a third company, EDS), the former business went under while the latter business is still around today.

Not too long ago, the Republican National Committee sent out a widely criticized Request-for-Proposal to move their Internets into the 21st century.

“Friends, either the RNC has no freakin’ clue what the hell it is doing or else all the rumors about certain consultants having an inside track at RNC contracts is true,” wrote Red State’s Erick Erickson. “Why? Because there is no way any competent person would put together an RFP like this. It’s crap. It is not legitimate. It is unprofessional. It is illusory.”

Let’s contrast the RNC to Howard Dean’s Internet guru.  Here’s Joe Trippi’s latest tweet:

I’m looking to hire the next social media whiz kid. Sound like you? Apply here: http://tr.im/nyLU Pls RT

When one follows Trippi’s link, he or she will read the following:

We’re looking for the next Associate to join our team. We posted the job description below on a number of job boards and sent it around to everyone we could think of. But, as we started the interview process, we realized the normal method of just reviewing resumes wasn’t going to work for us.

We need to know the person we hire. We want to see your skills in action and know you have the drive to succeed here…in short, we need to know you “get it”. And resumes and interviews aren’t enough.

So, we’re not going to judge you on your years of experience or your GPA. We are going to judge you on how well you can help us build online movements. We’re looking for the next social media whiz…someone who understands social media, online advocacy, and grassroots organizing and is passionate about using that knowledge to help non-profits and campaigns. That’s it.

If that sounds like you, we encourage you to apply by completing our online assessment. The link is below, but don’t click on it until you’re ready because, once you start, you only have 2 hours to complete it. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to log in again or start over. (You may finish before the 2 hours are up, but don’t take more time than that. The survey tool includes a timer, so we’ll be able to tell if you miss the deadline.)

The survey was fairly simple, but germane.  They asked for basic contact information, to describe three influential blogs, then got to the nitty-gritty.  Among other things, they described a hypothetical setting and asked the applicant to create an e-mail for a list of 100,000 people, as well as a blog entry, to promote their hypothetical agenda.

As one local example of how pathetic Republicans are on the Internet, ‘Lil Ol’ Me has almost twice as many Twitter followers as the Alabama Republican governor and each of the GOP gubernatorial candidates combined.

Not that I like the left’s agenda any more than I like the right’s agenda, but it’s obvious that one side “gets it” while the other doesn’t. One might think that the Republican Party would wake up and smell the Tubes.  Instead, they’ve still got their heads buried in the sand.  Or somewhere, at least.

The Liberty Papers hits list of top 100 poliblogs

ABC News has noted Wikio.com’s ranking of political blogs.  The Liberty Papers made the top 100 poliblogs, coming in at number 87.

The rankings are compiled based on links from other blogs — with extra weight given to blogs that rank higher via Wikio’s formulas, and based on how recently an item is published. Blog rolls aren’t taken into account, so only fresh postings impact the rankings.

One of the intriguing aspects of this list is that it puts everyone in the same pot. The list has mainstream media blogs — from ABC News, CNN, The New York Times, and others — alongside well-known partisan bloggers — Michelle Malkin, FireDogLake — and even government-run bloggers, like WhiteHouse.gov’s.

I’d like to thank each of you who stops by from time to time to see what’s going on in LibertyLand.  Double thanks go to those who link our posts.  Triple thanks go to the entire crew here for coming up with fresh postings which are interesting and insightful.

Let’s get some freedom watched on Fox News

A bunch of us are trying to get Judge Andrew Napolitano’s online program Freedom Watch into a televised slot at Fox News. According to an e-mail I received from Judge Napolitano’s colleague Shelly Roche, the Fox producers are telling her the two most important things we can do are “flooding Fox with emails and showing high view counts on the videos.”

If you don’t blog, but would like to see more libertarians on national television, please quickly e-mail Fox and let them know you’d like to see the Judge get his own TV slot.

If you’ve got a blog, you can help out even more. Details are here.

Help put Freedom Watch on Fox News Channel

While I rarely simply cut-and-paste an entire campaign or party e-mail to a blog post, this one deserves to be an exception to the rule:

Help put a libertarian news program on the Fox News Channel!

Dear Libertarian activists,

Thank you so much! Because of your support, the show “Freedom Watch” is finally being considered for an open time slot on Fox news.

You know what that means? A Libertarian television show would be on mainstream media!

Finally a show that reflects the attitudes and opinions of people like you and I who care about personal and economic liberties.

Right now there is an open time slot and Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show, “Freedom Watch” has been put forth as a possible filler for it.

But, there’s one stipulation. I just got off the phone with the producer and I heard they will make the decision so we need to bump up the number of views on the show as much as we can, AND we need as many people as possible to write an email to Fox to request it get on air.

Can you please help?

Here’s the link to the show:

http://tinyurl.com/qcumjb

It’s time for the Libertarians to go MAINSTREAM!

Send them an email here and we can get this show on air!

yourcomments@foxnews.com

Here’s a sample email you can cut and paste:

To Whom it May concern:

I am writing today to request that Judge Napolitano’s “Freedom Watch” be given a chance to be aired on Fox News Channel.

There are so many people out there I believe that would watch it because there just aren’t any shows that really cater to independent minded people like me who care about things like personal and economic freedom.

Having a show like this on television would really be exciting and I would definitely watch it and get my friends and family to watch it too. Fox would be opening up a whole new market and bring in lots of new viewers! Please put it on air!

Thank you!

Again thank you all so much for all you do for liberty,

Sincerely,

Austin Petersen
Director of Outreach
Libertarian National Committee


Don’t Apologize For Funny

Comedy is hard. Really, really hard. Funny requires stepping outside the box — saying something a bit unexpected. There are a lot of ways to screw it up, and often what sounds funny in your head is not so funny when a listener hears it. There’s a reason why many actors say that comedy acting is a lot harder than drama acting.

Comedy and politics is even more difficult, because you have a pretty significant group of people just salivating over the chance to vilify and embarrass you if what you say is at the least bit unfunny.

So I’m not going to criticize Anderson Cooper for this. It’s funny.

Gergen: “They still haven’t found their voice, Anderson. This happens to a minority party after it’s lost a couple of bad elections, but they’re searching for their voice.”

Cooper: “It’s hard to talk when you’re teabagging.”

There are a lot of reasons why that’s funny, but key is that Mr Highbrow Serious Reporter-man Anderson Cooper went for a scrotum joke. If Bill Maher or Jon Stewart said it, it would be expected and might get a chuckle. To see that from Anderson Cooper, though, is priceless. And he deadpans it! It would be too easy to try to play it up, to try to emphasize the line. If it were Rachel Maddow, she’d have said it with that annoying smirk and ruined the joke.

This was funny. It’s a shame he apologized.

Video below:

Presenting the Latest Nominees for the Ramos-Compean Medal of Valor

For going above and beyond the call of duty, I herby nominate these three members of L.A.’s finest to receive the Ramos-Compean Medal of Valor. As clearly shown in the footage below, the first officer bravely kicked the suspect in the head after he had surrendered. The second officer also deserves to be recognized for his efforts in protecting the community for punching the disoriented man as a precautionary measure. Last but not least, the third officer also deserves this distinguished honor for his dog handling skills to have the dog bite the suspect!

Clearly, these men are all heroes! While they may not quite live up to the high standard set by Ramos and Compean (not one member of the trio fired his weapon at the suspect after the surrender), we can be sure that the LAPD is quite proud that its reputation is still intact.

The Ramos-Compean Medal of Valor is an honor presented by The Badge Worshippers and Law Enforcement Bootlickers of America

The Limits of Campaign Finance Law Abridgement of the First Amendment Tested in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission

During the 2008 presidential campaign, an organization called Citizens United produced an anti-Hillary documentary called “Hillary: the Movie.” The movie was available on pay-per-view cable channels until the FEC pulled the plug claiming that the broadcast violated campaign finance law. The case, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, is now being considered by the Supreme Court.

During oral arguments, the government’s attorney revealed that campaign finance law as currently written could be interpreted to restrict not only documentaries such as “Hillary” but any other political speech “broadcast” during a campaign. A banned “broadcast” could include a store advertising the sale of candidate dolls, toys, or action figures. Even if the advertisement makes no direct endorsements nor advocates the defeat of a candidate, the mere mention of a candidate’s name or likeness would violate current election law.

But surely books would be safe…right?

Not if the book is “broadcast” on a device such as a Kindle, says the government’s attorney. While the FEC believes “dead tree editions” are currently safe from FEC regulation, former Chief of Staff and Council of the FEC Allison Hayward, says that such regulations could be imposed if congress brought such an interpretation into the law.

In the very beginning of the video below, Steve Simpson, Senior Attorney for the Institute for Justice says something which bears repeating here because he captures exactly the First Amendment problems found in current campaign finance law:

“The problem is not too much money in politics; the problem is too much power in government. Government regulates everything and of course, people want to affect the course of the government. So the campaign finance reformers ultimately what they want to prevent is that. It’s the ability to affect the course of our government; it’s the ability to affect which way people vote. That’s the dirty little secret of campaign finance law. They don’t just want to control money, they want to control speech.”

I would like to believe that free speech will ultimately prevail in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, but given SCOTUS’s history, ruling on the side of the Constitution is by no means sure thing. I also can’t help but wonder how an Obama appointed Justice would rule if this case was before him or her. Which side would receive the most “empathy,” the federal government or a private organization or individual citizen? We already know that such a judge would not be considering “abstract legal theories” such as entailed in the First Amendment.

Disharmony @ #tcot, freedom @ #tlot

tlot-logoDespite all of the hullabaloo over #tcot (Top Conservatives on Twitter), there seems to a be a bit of a scrap brewing between TCOT co-founders Rob Neppell and Michael Patrick Leahy.  To date, the argument sounds more like a quarrel between gay lovers than one between some of the God-fearing, pro-torture fag-bashing Republicans who frequently tweet with the #tcot hashtag.  Here’s the first description of the spat I’ve found online:

This morning teabagger-in-chief and “Top Conservatives on Twitter” (TCOT) co-founder Rob Neppell posted this message on TopConservativesOnTwitter.org (which has since been removed) outlining his decision to shut down the site and encouraging fellow TCOT co-founder and notorious douchenozzle Michael Patrick Leahy to, essentially, eat a bag of dicks.

According to the note, Leahy also “was recently asked to leave the leadership team of Tea Party Patriots” “due to his inability to work in a group decision-making environment.” Oh, snap.

Revolution is never easy.

While their front page says it’s under construction, the message is still online and one can peek at it though the back door here. I haven’t seen any sort of response from Leahy, yet.

Over at 7mesh.com, thespaghetticat asks::

I wonder how this will affect #tcot frequent tweeter Karl “Turd Blossom” Rove (@Karl_rove)?

In the meantime, there is also Top Libertarians on Twitter (#tlot), where folks feel that even conservative homosexuals deserve equal treatment under the law.  If you are a libertarian on Twitter, be sure to sign up here.

While we are on the topic of social networking, feel free to follow The Liberty Papers on Facebook here and on Twitter here. Here’s where you can follow or friend some of the individuals at The Liberty Papers:

Chris Byrne

Twitter

Eric Cowperthwaite

Facebook Twitter

Stephen Gordon

Facebook Twitter

Doug Mataconis

Facebook Twitter

Jason Pye

Facebook Twitter

Brad Warbiany

Facebook

Feel free to leave your social networking links in the comment section if you’d like to expand your social networking with other like-minded people.

UPDATE: The old TCOT format and data seem to have survived and are available here.

Libertarian snark of the day

And the award goes to…

…Nick Gillespie for this gem:

Here’s Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) talking with Conservative News Service (CNS) who, like the Canadian Mounties, always seem to get their man when it comes interview:

“I would let people gamble on the Internet,” Frank said. “I would let adults smoke marijuana; I would let adults do a lot of things, if they choose.”

He added: “But allowing them total freedom to take on economic obligations that spill over into the broader society? The individual is not the only one impacted here, when bad decisions get made in the economic sphere, it causes problems.”

As Meatloaf documented so long ago, two out of three ain’t bad (baby), but in this case, it really hurts worse than Phil Rizzuto’s play-by-play in “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.”

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