Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Other Shark in the Water

Perhaps you have forgotten about that other ominous monster from the deep out there, but it has not forgotten you. I refer to the Cap and Trade bill lurking off to port, forced to wait its turn for a bite of taxpayer shank as its larger cousin, the Jaws-like health care killer, makes its repeated passes past all that taxpayer flesh, sizing up just the right moment to carry off its pound(s) of flesh.

It's hard for me to imagine how the economy survives the bite from just one of these, let alone both; but some form of both have some non-zero probability of getting through. So, maybe it'll just cost an arm and a leg; we'll be economic paraplegics instead of quadraplegics--a nation of "bobs", as it were.

This video trailer from the Cascade Policy Institute will help you stay focused on the other predator out there. Perhaps a sharp rap on the snout by alert citizens will send it back into the deep.

ObamaCare Means Lay Down Your Life

In the competing views of health care reform, we see the fruit of different political philosophies and different moral universes. When considering the public good, Democrats think more socially whereas Republicans are more individualistic in their approach to the question. In modern times, the social trump leads in the direction of totalitarianism, an all powerful state overseeing and directing all things for what it judges to be the good of the people (or so they say). Individual sovereignty leads increasingly to a destruction of moral community. In other words, they lead to Castro's Cuba and Capra's Potterville, respectively. The Founders of our republic envisioned neither one.

Betsy McCaughey, in "Obama's Health Rationer-in-Chief," shows how the social trump that neglects the importance of individual self-government and the inherent worth of every human being works its way out in the Obama administration's approach to managing scarce health care dollars from Washington instead of at the point of consumption.

It is horrifying, but at the same time revealing, that a man with this moral orientation would have such a prominent role in the formulation of our government's health care policy.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, health adviser to President Barack Obama, is under scrutiny. As a bioethicist, he has written extensively about who should get medical care, who should decide, and whose life is worth saving. Dr. Emanuel is part of a school of thought that redefines a physician’s duty, insisting that it includes working for the greater good of society instead of focusing only on a patient’s needs. Many physicians find that view dangerous, and most Americans are likely to agree.

The health bills being pushed through Congress put important decisions in the hands of presidential appointees like Dr. Emanuel. They will decide what insurance plans cover, how much leeway your doctor will have, and what seniors get under Medicare. Dr. Emanuel, brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, has already been appointed to two key positions: health-policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget and a member of the Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research. He clearly will play a role guiding the White House's health initiative.

ObamaCare gives new meaning to the call to lay down your life for your country. It gives a perverse twist to Kennedy's noble call at the end of his 1961 inaugural address: "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Of course, I would like to re-produce the entire article, but I can only encourage you to read the whole thing in the Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Like Lunch, There is No Free Health Care

The Democrats are puzzled as to why Americans aren’t flocking to grab a piece of the “free health care” that their generous and compassionate party is trying to arrange for us. Paul Krugman attributes this insanity to the “zombie” ideas of the Reagan years which, though dead, continue to live among us ("All the President's Zombies" NYT, Aug. 23, 2009).

But Guy Sorman explains in this short City Journal essay ("Paying for Le Treatment," Aug. 24, 2009) that, as it is with lunch, there is NO FREE HEALTH CARE. He uses the recently celebrated French system as an example.

In a New York Times Magazine essay ("Le Treatment"), Sara Paretsky, a novelist travelling in France with her husband (ah, the privileges of wealth) explained how impressed she was by the quality and speed of the care that her husband received when he went to the hospital with chest pains. This care would have been free if they had been French citizens. Instead, the system billed them, but for only $220. She recommends this paradise which can be ours if we would just follow the President into the happyland of hope and change that he promised us and is now trying to deliver.

Wealthy liberals believe this sort of fantasy because they are used to having things just handed to them. They turn on the tap of life, and out flows whatever abundance they desire. They put bad things at the foot of their driveway, and the next day it has magically disappeared. Surely the government--especially the Obama government--can institute a national health care system than mandates low prices from wicked price gougers and top quality care from health care professionals who, as government employees, will become public spirited instead of narrowly selfish in their service to patients.

What a wonderful world. But it exists only in the dreams and delusions of political liberals. The rest of us look at the post office and the IRS, and dread the thought of our health care in the hands of the similarly callous and inefficient.

Sorman ends his brief lesson in the economics of "free" government goodies with this warning:

"In the end, who paid for Paretsky’s husband’s nearly free ride in a French hospital? French workers and taxpayers; American patients; and the young, unqualified, and out-of-work French unable to find jobs because of the unemployment that national health insurance engenders. There is no such thing, anywhere, as a perfect health-insurance system. It’s always a trade-off among competing goods, and the choices to be made are ultimately political ones. Americans commenting on health-care reform should try to make the costs and consequences of these choices transparent, rather than resorting to misleading morality plays."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

We Have Seen the Future--and it's Oregon

Sarah Palin coined the phrase "death panels" that is sticking like death to the ObamaCare health care debate. We note that it is Sarah Palin, mindless gun toting hillbilly, ONE, Barack Obama, brilliant constitutional lawyer and auto and health care industry expert, ZIP. Due to the whistle blowing by the ex-governor, the Senate was shamed into removing the provision they said did not exist. They lost this round to Palin because there were just too many eyes on the thing for their denials to hold up--even the Washington Post's Charles Lane admits the slippery-slopiness of the provision requiring end of life counseling. Eugene Robinson, one of the president's staunchest supporters, agrees that the import of the provision is to shorten lives, and thus curtail the medical spending that supports the waning years of people's lives.

Nat Hentoff, an Old Left colleague of Christopher Hitchens at the Nation magazine two decades ago, weighs in with his characteristic bluntness in his piece "I'm Finally Scared of a White House Administration" . As a constitutional scholar and ardent critic of government power (mostly Republican government power), he validates and then some Palin's concerns over where this is going.

Despite media reports, Palin's Facebook post responding to Obama is a model of successful refutation--clear, concise, and heavily footnoted. I don't know if she wrote it--she may still have staff working for her--but no fair minded person would associate such successful argumentation with the cartoon character the media has invented to represent her.

But it is not just the logical points that immediately follow from the language in the bill that show the likelihood of the death panel charges. The actual implementation of the laws Congress writes falls to unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats whose only means of administering such massive programs is to shuffle individual cases into the nearest category and get on to the next case. Or go to lunch, Whatever. It is they who decide what the categories are, and what the criteria for judging which cases fit which category. And they will never see a single patient whose life outcome they are deciding. There is also the inconvenient fact that in several government-run health care systems the advice given to old patients turns out to be euthanasia (Sweden and Holland both give a lot of weight to government doctors to make the decision to pull the plug, even against the patient or the family's wishes, often outside official guidelines).

And now this story from Oregon's experiment in socialist living surfaces just at the wrong time for the deceiving sponsors of government control of everything. This is exhibit A in what government run health care portends for a large swath of its victims, in its all-caring, all knowing benevolence. I meant to say bureaucratic callousness.

This lady has a form of cancer treatable with a drug deemed too expensive for her case. The letter she received from the Oregon state authority suggested her best option under their wise and noble program is "aid in dying". So thoughtful of them. Listen to the director of the state commission--Oregon's death panel-- skate around the obvious cost basis analysis for the twice-appealed decision.

Funny Foreign Song

I've been busy these days with a grant application and children's swimming lessons, so I'm just going to post this video that my wife and I think is both hilarious and infectious. Five and half million YouTube viewers think so too (of course, there are repeat views; we have seen it many times).

There's nothing to be learned in this (is that ever true?). It's just fun.

The song itself has become surprisingly popular. Since when did Americans listen to foreign songs? These guys must be the richest guys in Moldova.

It was first released in 2004 and became a hit all over Europe. Its foothold in America apparently started with this utterly pointless waste of time on YouTube, although 31 million viewers disagree with me. Truly, man knows not his time, whether for raving popularity or for death.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Reagan Weighs In On ObamaCare

If only Ronald Reagan were alive to speak into the debate about government takeover of the health care system.

But take heart! Though he is gone, he speaks nonetheless!

Here is the Gipper himself in 1961 explaining at that time why citizens should actively oppose "socialized medicine." This is a 10 minute recording on a record album produced by the American Medical Association. But it's all Reagan: his thoughts on the subject; his eloquence.

Notice how he speaks directly to the ordinary American as an ordinary American himself without talking down or pretending to be something he was not. Notice also his appeal to political theory and the Founding. Notice lastly, that his appeal is not to prosperity nor to fiscal sanity, as good and legitimate as those are. His appeal is to the noble concern for liberty.

He closes with this warning:

If you don't do this [call your Congressman] and if I don't do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children's children, what it once was like in America when men were free.

Yes--he saw socialized medicine itself as being decisive in the fight for liberty against socialism, which he viewed as antithetical to the American spirit and the American system of government, and which he identified with tyranny.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Guns and Public Safety

New York City is a little safer today because an armed citizen with a steady hand blew away four armed men who were robbing his store. This account in the New York Times is moving.

They strode into the restaurant supply store in Harlem shortly after 3 p.m. on Thursday, four young men intent on robbery, one with a Glock 9-millimeter pistol, the police said. The place may have looked like an easy mark, a high-cash business with an owner in his 70s, known as a gentle, soft-spoken man.

But Charles Augusto Jr., the 72-year-old proprietor of the Kaplan Brothers Blue Flame Corporation, at 523 West 125th Street, near Amsterdam Avenue, had been robbed several times before, despite the fact that his shop is around the corner from the 26th Precinct station house on West 126th Street.

There were no customers in the store, only Mr. Augusto and two employees, a man and a woman. The police said the invaders announced a holdup, approached the two employees and tried to place plastic handcuffs on them. The male employee, a 35-year-old known in the community as J. B., struggled with the gunman, who then hit him on the head with the pistol.

Watching it happen, Mr. Augusto, whom neighborhood friends call Gus, rose from a chair 20 to 30 feet away and took out a loaded Winchester 12-gauge pump-action shotgun with a pistol-grip handle. The police said he bought it after a robbery 30 years ago.

Mr. Augusto, who has never been in trouble with the law, fired three blasts in rapid succession, the police said.

The first shot took down the gunman at the front. He died almost immediately, according to the police, who said he was 29 and had been arrested for gun possession in Queens last year.... Mr. Augusto’s other two blasts hit all three accomplices, who stumbled out the door, bleeding. One of them, a 21-year-old, staggered across 125th Street and collapsed in front of the city’s biggest housing projects. ...[A]n ambulance rushed him to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, where he was dead on arrival. The police said he had a record of arrests for weapons possession and robbery. Another wounded man left a blood trail that the police followed to 125th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. The fourth wounded man was picked up, on the basis of witness descriptions, at 128th Street and St. Nicholas Terrace. Both were taken to St. Luke’s.

This is a television report on the incident.

As the WPIX video above reports, Mr. Augusto's shotgun is unregistered, so he faces prosecution for violation of New York gun laws. The laws covering shotguns are more permissive than those pertaining to handguns, however. They require merely a permit, not a license. Furthermore, the New York Times reports, "Under long-established New York law, a person is allowed to use deadly physical force when he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to meet the imminent use of deadly physical force and there is no reasonable chance of retreating from the danger."

All the same, if more people were legally armed--at the very least in their homes and businesses--there would be less need for being armed. It's paradoxical, but true. The same logic applied to the Cold War standoff between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. The existence of nuclear weapons and the credible threat of their use in response to aggression preserved peace between the two alliances. As Robert Heinlein is reported to have said, "An armed society is a politie society."

John Locke, the chief theorist of our liberal democratic system of government and way of life, would view Mr. Augusto's actions as perfectly reasonable and defensible. In the Second Treatise of Government, he argues, being reasonable and just, I should have a right to destroy that which threatens me with destruction: for, by the fundamental law of nature, man being to be preserved as much as possible, when all cannot be preserved, the safety of the innocent is to be preferred: and one may destroy a man who makes war upon him, or has discovered an enmity to his being, for the same reason that he may kill a wolf or a lion; because such men are not under the ties of the commonlaw of reason, have no other rule, but that of force and violence, and so may be treated as beasts of prey, those dangerous and noxious creatures, that will be sure to destroy him whenever he falls into their power.

And hence it is, that he who attempts to get another man into his absolute power, does thereby put himself into a state of war with him; it being to be understood as a declaration of a design upon his life: for I have reason to conclude, that he who would get me into his power without my consent, would use me as he pleased when he had got me there, and destroy me too when he had a fancy to it; for no body can desire to have me in his absolute power, unless it be to compel me by force to that which is against the right of my freedom, i.e. make me a slave. To be free from such force is the only security of my preservation; and reason bids me look on him, as an enemy to my preservation, who would take away that freedom which is the fence to it;...

This makes it lawful for a man to kill a thief, who has not in the least hurt him, nor declared any design upon his life, any farther than, by the use of force, so to get him in his power, as to take away his money, or what he pleases, from him; because using force, where he has no right, to get me into his power, let his pretence be what it will, I have no reason to suppose, that he, who would take away my liberty, would not, when he had me in his power, take away every thing else. And therefore it is lawful for me to treat him as one who has put himself into a state of war with me, i.e. kill him if I can; for to that hazard does he justly expose himself, whoever introduces a state of war, and is aggressor in it (sections 16-18).

In brief, anyone who would put me in his absolute power, for example at the point of a gun, should be assumed for the sake of one's self-preservation to have murderous intent. And so, being for the moment beyond the protective reach of the civil authorities, anyone in that situation has the moral right to protect himself with deadly force. Even viewing the matter from within a Christian moral framework, I am under no obligation to prefer the life of a murderous aggressor to my own or to that of my family or employees or, for that matter, any innocent person I find being threatened in that way.

This is the thinking of one local observer who was interviewed for the report: “If I were him, I would kill a dozen of them,” he said. “You have to protect your workers and your family. Case closed.”

The good sense of this statement is intuitively obvious. It follows that if people have the right to exercise that freedom, they should have the freedom to obtain the means to it, i.e., to own a gun. It follows in addition that training people in the proper use of fireams, so that in the event they should have to defend themselves they can do it responsibly and safely, is a public good. Instead of teaching children how to use condoms in order to make what some regard as inevitable teenaged sexual activity safer, the public schools (if we are to have public schools) should be training children in the use of firearms the same way they offer driver's education.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Crash Course in Who We Are

I hope within the next few months (is that asking too much?) to take the civics test for my American citizenship. I will not study for it, of course. If I can't pass this test with a Ph.D. in political science, I don't deserve citizenship or any other kind of honor. But one cannot escape the irony that whereas people from other countries who apply for American citizenship must pass a test on American history and political institutions so that they can participate in our political process more intelligently, people who were born here and have the right to vote simply by virtue of having survived to eighteen years of age can be as abysmally ignorant of these matters as the government school system allows them to be (and that's pretty bad).

Recent developments in Washington--and I'll throw in the last 75 years as well--demonstrate that Americans in general are in need of a remedial course in our political principles. There are many institutions that are working on this national project in adult education. But most recently, David Corbin and Matthew Parks, who teach political science at The King's College and University of New Hampshire respectively, have started an effort in the blogosphere, aptly entitled republican101. Here is one of Prof. Corbin's posts that presents the gist of the blog.

Sarah Palin’s surprise announcement that she was resigning as Governor of Alaska amounted to another bad news day for Republicans. Every news day recently has seemed like a bad news day for Republicans. Which has led some to suggest that the party would do better to resemble its political adversary. This is bad advice. Republicans instead should do the following:

(1) Remember that before there were Republicans, there were republicans.

(2) Consider that the American people are a republican people, not a Republican people.

(3) Understand that this is a good thing.

(4) Begin to transform the Republican party into the republican party.

Well, what is a republican?

John Adams defined a republican as a species of man who ascribes to “an Empire of Laws, and not of men . . .in other words to that form of government which is best contrived to secure an impartial and exact execution of the laws.” Knowing that there was “an inexhaustible variety of Republics because the powers of society are capable of innumerable variations,” Adams endorsed a republican form of government held together by a regime that “introduces knowledge among the People, and inspires them with a conscious dignity, becoming Freemen.” For Adams, the most excellent form of government encourages excellence in both its leaders and its citizens.

How often has government at any level inspired dignity, excellence, and freedom in the past year?

You might be a republican if you’re still racking your brain.

And if you’re a discouraged Republican, you might think encouragingly about the prospect of the Republican party becoming republican again. If the American people are more republican than they are Republican, Republican politicians would do well to take note.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Our Bodies, Ourselves

In that 1970's tract of feminist political thought masquerading as a medical self help book, women were encouraged to regard their bodies as the battleground where the forces of reaction--the Establishment patriarchy grounded in Christianity and capitalism, warred against the progressive, enlightened socialism of the New Left. The same seminal, revolutionary moment brought the slogan that helped collapse the important distinction between what is private and what is public, and what is the legitimate extent of government control and intrusion into private lives: The personal is the political. The Supreme Court almost at the same time famously derived a right to privacy from the "emanations of penumbras" of certain of the articles of the Bill of Rights which finds a right to privacy, and which disallows states from legislating restrictions on abortion, validating in one way the right of a woman to her own body (skipping over of course the baby's right to hers--that, apparently was an emanation not appearing in the particular penumbra examined by Justice Douglas.)

It is interesting then to find that same tender concern for the privacy rights of individual bodies kicked to the curb deep in the legalese of the House bill conjuring universal, affordable, non-budget busting health care for all God's children. The bill contemplates boards of experts to advise--no, rule on--both what treatments are necessary and feasible, and which citizens are worth spending the republic's limited treasury on. (Funny--for other purposes, the Treasury is always unlimited--no end to the Blue Sky projecting for the goodness of what the Congressional shepherds intend for its little flock, or what the Congress spends on itself.)

The Congress' insistence on making government the provider of health services forces the logic of the distortion of the public/private distinction to its ugly end: your body is not your own, if the government is paying for its upkeep. It's hard to think of a deeper intrusion into private right than the loss of control over one's own health and life, because, well, there isn't one.

Our Bodies, Our Selves co-author (there were twelve) Nancy Miriam Hawley said of writing the book that "We weren't encouraged to ask questions, but to depend on the so-called experts. Not having a say in our own health care frustrated and angered us. We didn't have the information we needed, so we decided to find it on our own." This laudable, and I should say, quintessentially American attitude, helped foster a take-it-back kind of can-doism recognizable in many aspects as what makes America great and exceptional. And of course that is exactly what is under attack in so much of the legislation of this radical left Congress, unleashed under the aegis of the age of Obama.

It occurs to me that this is not merely an assault on the Constitution and way of life of these United States, a solemnly constituted people, although that is serious enough. It goes beyond the Constitution and self understanding of the people of the United States as encoded in our official public documents, all the way to the natural rights philosophy that grounds the constitution and that self understanding itself. It undercuts the first principle of freedom, articulated most famously by John Locke in his theory of labor, property, and freedom. A person has a natural right to what will sustain his life because he owns his body, his self. He has absolute dominion (humanly speaking), and property in, his own person and body. All property right, and all right whatever, follows from that fact. Personal freedom, personal property, constitutional government by consent, and the rule of law all begin in this natural right to one's own self. This is the basis for the well known triad of Lockean natural rights in the Declaration, of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (or property, as Locke has it).

The intrusion into what one may do with one's body, is, like the intrusion into what one may do with one's property, fraught. There is some State interest in restricting property rights in the interest of the greater public good. Pig farms, abattoirs, and salvage yards are not permitted in residential neighborhoods. Likewise, ingestion of narcotic drugs is restricted because of the danger to the public from people out of their minds on them. To the extent that your personal actions or the property that you control is a threat to the health, safety, or welfare of other equally endowed rights-holders--that is to say, every other person, it falls within the province of the public legislation to limit it. Against such legislation seen to exceed these limits, the Supreme Court has established a benchmark which must be met or overcome--strict scrutiny. The Court will apply strict scrutiny to any law thought to impose an undue burden on any fundamental right, or thought to bring invidious discrimination to groups or individuals based on race, sex, religion, and a growing list of things. The restrictions on abortion that Roe swept away were thought to impinge just such a fundamental right--the right of a woman to choose whether or not to carry a baby to term, not withstanding the state's interest in the protection of life and the interest in the ongoing generation of citizens.

Yet now we begin to see legislation restricting what we consume, starting with trans-fats and tobacco. Sugar, alcohol, and non-organic milk are soon to follow. If Congress is paying for our health care, they will certainly not blanch at serving up as laws and regulations all kinds of good ideas about how we should live. (For a fuller discussion, go here) The property we have in our bodies--literally, what is proper to us, and us alone--is, under the health care monstrosity being considered, about to be taken, in much the same way as real property is taken, via something like eminent domain. The government in such cases abrogates personal property rights in favor of a public good--new highway or sewer line needs to run through your yard, so out you go--thanks for playing.

This seems to be what is in prospect for our most personal property, our bodies. We will have restrictions on choice of procedure and drug regimen based on what an expert panel decides is right (read cheapest) for situations like ours--not even a revue of the actual case at hand, just categories of cases, rated first and foremost by age and ability to contribute. Anyone recall just now the Nazi propaganda initiative against the "useless feeders"--disabled, retarded, insane, aged, etc? Anyone not full of Aryan health and vigor was given the heave-ho. But that's really unfair isn't it, to bring in all those Nazi comparisons. Although they didn't cotton to any natural rights either did they? Everyone created equal? Capable of self government? Government by consent? Freedom for self-actualization? I can hear Hermann Goering cocking his pistol at the very sound of those ideas.

The natural right basis of our Constitution is to be overthrown to accommodate the State's spurious interest in equalizing health outcomes. We will all be made miserable at the same rate by government employees masquerading as health professionals who give a damn. Oh, except for Congress. And their staffs of thousands. And the entire federal workforce. And Hollywood and Silicon Valley elites. And all unionized workers. (want to rethink that offer of union representation at your workplace now?) All the rest of us will queue up and wait for whatever rationed bit of drug therapy or surgical expertise is left over, and our right of personal decision over what is most personally proper to us, our bodies, will have been taken under something very much like the doctrine of eminent domain, where the State's interests supersedes our own.

Makes you wish for the timely publication of a good feminist tract regarding personal body decisions and our right to make them. Oh wait--they've got their abortions paid for in this thing, so we won't be hearing any objections from them this time about "experts" or patriarchal intrusion into personal lives.

If only we had a Court that could look for some more penumbral eminations...

Friday, August 7, 2009

God Is Back In New York

This spring, two editors from The Economist published God is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World (Penguin 2009). John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge distinguish themselves among their associates in the scribbling class with their appreciation for those who are restrained and directed by religious faith, especially the Christian faith.

Of particular interest to me and many readers of this blog is the special mention they give to The King's College in the conclusion.

The Empire State an embodiment of technological prowess and an icon of modern pop culture, the building where King Kong met his tragic end. Yet this icon of modernity is also home to one of America's leading seats of Evangelcial learning. King's College, which moved into the building in 1999, now occupies two floors of the skyscraper.

They quote the college President, Stan Oakes, saying,

For all the sophistication and prestige of the secular colleges, almost all of their professors traffic in spent ideas that do not work--bad ideas that have had a myriad of disasterous consequences in our generation. They are wrong about God, human nature, wealth, power, marriage, poverty, family, sex, America, liberty, peace and many other decisive issues.

They point out that The King's College is not just about great ideas, but also about the great city that the college inhabits.

Many Christians deliberately retreat from the temptations ofd the big city, attending Bible schools and Christian universities in small towns....King's College deliberately brings young Christians to the heart of the beast. ... [W]here better to train people to exercise influence on the world than the capital of the media and financial world, not to mention the home of the United Nations?

Here are reviews from The New York Times, FoxNews, The New Statesman, and the Washington Post.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wisdom For Our Times

Someone I have recently friended on Facebook has been collecting political quotations. I share these with you.

Here are two from Ronald Reagan, the wisdom of which are being reconfirmed in our day by the Obama-Reid-Pelosi government.

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help. ~Ronald Reagan

The government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.~ Ronald Reagan

And let’s add the wisdom of Milton Friedman who was much more politically astute than many of his libertarian followers are:

A society that puts equality... ahead of freedom will end up with neither. ~ Milton Friedman

Barack Obama, like Jimmy Carter before him, has mastered only half of the following advice.

Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. ~Will Rogers.

Turning now to our Democratically controlled Congress:

This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer. ~Will Rogers

“The country,” i.e. its economy and moral fabric, is complex. This Democratic Congress seems to think it can easily and quickly rearrange everything so that justice will reign unsullied and with no significant unanticipated evils that will result from it. These only liberal bulls have learned nothing from the destructive social experiments of the sixties.

The last word goes to our great second President.

In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress. ~John Adams.

Would that they were only useless.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bush, the Law, and the Truth

This week's cover of Time magazine features a close-up of George W. Bush and a sinister Dick Cheney (what else would he be?) peering out from behind him. "Special Report: The Final Days of Bush and Cheney." The title evokes memories of Richard Nixon and the corruption that brought his presidency to a premature end. But what we read about W. in the article itself shows us a man of high moral integrity. It's story of Dick Cheney's campaign in the closing weeks, and even hours, of the Bush years to secure a full pardon for Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby. It's the story of Bush's morally and legally conscientious dealing with the repeated requests from his close friend, the due process he followed, and his principled decisions to decline the request.

Libby was convicted of obstructing justice, perjury, and lying to investigators. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined $250,000. Bush did not pardon Libby, but in June 2007 commuted his sentence, arguing that the prison sentence was an excessive punishment given the fine, the disbarment, and the disgrace were sufficient.

Bush not only noted his "respect for the jury verdict" and the prosecutor, he also emphasized the "harsh punishment" Libby still faced, including a "forever damaged" professional reputation and the "long-lasting" consequences of a felony conviction.
And there were these two sentences: "Our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth," Bush said. "And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable." Particularly if he serves in government. Bush's allies would say later that the language was intended to send an unmistakable message, internally as well as externally: No one is above the law.

We did not see such concern for the rule of law in the previous administration. I doubt that we will see it under the former Chicago politician and friend of ACORN who currently serves in the White House. But I'm happy to be surprised.

Even as governor of Texas, Bush had been generally suspicious of the pardon system, though he was not opposed to it in principle. "His reluctance stemmed not from a lack of mercy but from his sense that pardons were a rigged game, tilted in favor of offenders with political connections. 'He thought the whole pardon system was completely corrupt,' says a top Bush adviser."

The article supplies an illustration:

On Dec. 23, 2008, Bush announced 19 pardons. No big names. No apparent political sponsors. But one planned pardon went to a Brooklyn, N.Y., developer who had pleaded guilty in the early 2000s to lying to federal housing authorities. After news accounts surfaced that his father had given nearly $30,000 to the Republican Party earlier that year, the White House backpedaled. It didn't help that one of the lawyers who had sought the pardon had once worked in Bush's own counsel's office — exactly the kind of inside favoritism Bush despised. Bush, who had retreated to Camp David for a last family holiday, spent Christmas Eve fielding phone calls about the case. By day's end, he decided to kill the developer's pardon. The experience left him, aides say, even more wary of the process than he was before.

Later, Cheney pressed his boss again for the pardon. Bush set up a meeting at which Cheney could make his case and White House counsel Fred Fielding could make his case against it. Cheney made political arguments about Iraq War opponents targeting Libby because they couldn't get at Bush. He made emotional appeals to not leaving any soldiers on the battlefield. "But Bush pushed past the political dimension. 'Did the jury get it right or wrong?' he asked."

In conversations that followed, two considerations kept coming up: repentance and the truth. "Bush would decide alone. In private, he was bothered by Libby's lack of repentance. But he seemed more riveted by the central issue of the trial: truthfulness. Did Libby lie to prosecutors?"

For President George W. Bush, pardoning someone convicted of a crime by due process of law in the American judicial system was a matter of awesome weight. It carried implications for the rule of law on which our system of liberty rested, and still rests. Thus, what was of ultimate concern to him was the question of truth. Those who are currently in power at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue would serve us and themselves better by trembling more sincerely before that consideration.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Zoo Animals Have Great Health Care Benefits

Mark Steyn points out that, sadly, the main argument against Obama's government health care takeover is pragmatic--it would cost too much. Rather, the argument should be a principled defense of liberty. Someone reminded me last night that the predominant theme of Reagan's speeches prior to becoming President was liberty, not prosperity. Prosperity is a natural and happy consequence of liberty, but it is not the noblest aspiration of the human heart. It is beneath contempt to choose comfortable slavery over precarious liberty.

Steyn draws from his Canadian experience of both government health insurance and doughnuts to make his point.

You can make the “controlling costs” argument about anything: After all, it’s no surprise that millions of free people freely choosing how they spend their own money will spend it in different ways than government bureaucrats would be willing to license on their behalf. America spends more per capita on food than Zimbabwe. America spends more on vacations than North Korea. America spends more on lap-dancing than Saudi Arabia (well, officially). Canada spends more per capita on doughnuts than America — and, given comparative girths, Canucks are clearly not getting as much bang for the buck. Why doesn’t Ottawa introduce a National Doughnut Licensing Agency? You’d still see your general dispenser for simple procedures like a lightly sugared cruller, but he’d refer you to a specialist if you needed, say, a maple-frosted custard — and it would only be a six-month wait, at the end of which you’d receive a stale cinnamon roll. Under government regulation, eventually every doughnut would be all hole and no doughnut, and the problem would be solved. Even if the hole costs $1.6 trillion.

How did the health-care debate decay to the point where we think it entirely natural for the central government to fix a collective figure for what 300 million freeborn citizens ought to be spending on something as basic to individual liberty as their own bodies?

Read the whole article: "A Liberty Issue." (Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone.)

Zoo animals have great health care benefits. Does that life look attractive? Are you having trouble? Trying singing "Born Free" once or twice through. Maybe that will help you with your freedom vs comfortable, government captivity decision?