Sunday, November 28, 2004

Chuck Muth on pork-barrel spending and who's really "pro-choice"

Chuck Muth points out how the White House crowd regularly paints everyone and anyone who voices an objection to ILLEGAL immigration as anti-immigrant or, worse, a racist... Josh Bolten, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, brags that raising the debt ceiling to over 8 TRILLION dollars and passing a larded-up $388 billion omnibus spending bill is somehow "a significant victory in the battle for spending discipline in Washington" by President Bush and Congressional leaders... And pro-choicers lament that allowing hospitals to opt out of providing abortions is somehow a great step back for women's rights... Hogwash. If a woman chooses to have a legal abortion after this bill is enacted, she’ll just have to get it from a doctor or hospital which chooses to provide that service. Congress merely extended “choice” on this issue to others. But apparently, in the minds of the abortion rights crowd, the pro-choice road is a one-way street.

Time for Some Political Truth-In-Labeling

Friday, November 26, 2004

Selective Bullying, by Harry Browne

Harry Browne says the Bush administration is unleashing the dogs of war again, this time on Iran.

Selective Bullying, by Harry Browne

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Once Again, Incumbents Are the Big Winners

Patrick Basham and John Samples write:

Election Day 2004 showed the power of incumbency in American politics. For the fourth time in row, incumbents in the House of Representatives won over 98 percent of their races. And not only are they winning consistently, but they're doing so by increasingly wider margins; incumbency now adds about 11 percent to the vote share of the average officeholder. The past three elections constituted the least competitive elections (with one exception) since 1946.

The congressional franking privilege allows incumbents to flood their districts with mail that often is little more than taxpayer-funded campaign literature. Large administrative and political staffs on Capitol Hill and in district offices attend to the needs of voters, all the while stressing the qualities of their bosses. Incumbents also receive taxpayer-subsidized travel, easy access to the media and, most recently, Web sites to communicate with the electorate. And they have the power to deliver pork barrel spending to their districts. The limits on all of those advantages are set by their beneficiaries -- the Congress members themselves.

And the incumbents' advantages are growing. Thirty years ago, in the wake of Watergate, Congress imposed restrictions on campaign contributions. The more recent McCain-Feingold legislation has set that limit at $2,000 for a congressional candidate. Under the rhetorical guise of warding off unspecified corruption, an incumbent is happy to cap contributions at $2,000 per contributor if his challenger must operate under the same limit. Certainly, an incumbent may detest the phone calls he has to make to potential donors and the fundraising breakfasts, lunches and dinners he has to attend. But at night he sleeps well in the knowledge that his challenger back home must do the same (more, if the challenger is serious about winning) without, in most cases, a comparable network of contacts, donors and lobbyists whose longstanding collective investment in the incumbent's career ensures continuing financial commitment...

Political gerrymandering has also helped incumbents. More and more House districts have become safe for Democrats or Republicans thanks to redistricting by state legislatures. In nearly a third of this year's House races, the winning candidate (i.e., the incumbent) was either unopposed or faced an opponent without campaign funds.

The public understands the electoral game is fixed. A Rasmussen poll found 72 percent of Americans agreed with the statement that, "In American elections,members of Congress have unfair advantages over people who want to run against them."

American elections do have competition between the political parties. After all, the Democrats could win back the House and Senate in 2006. What we lack is competition between insiders and outsiders. No one can seriously believe even 10 percent of incumbents will lose in 2006. This lack of competitive congressional elections is a direct consequence of public subsidy.

In the Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote that the House of Representatives was a "numerous and changeable body" that would most directly reflect the shifting popular will. These days, changes in the House are the rare exception rather than the democratic rule. Representative democracy works best when voters have choices and competition for office. Americans have too little of both now.

This article appeared on, November 21, 2004.

Once Again, Incumbents Are the Big Winners

Ron Paul: Where To From Here?

U.S. Representative Ron Paul writes:

It’s important to note that total future obligations of the United States government are estimated at well over $70 trillion. These obligations obviously cannot be met. This indebtedness equates to an average household share of the national debt of $474,000!

No serious thoughts are expressed in Washington about the constitutional principle of local government. The notion of a loose-knit republican form of government is no longer a consideration. The consensus is that the federal government has responsibility for solving all of our problems, and even amending the Constitution to gain proper authority is no longer thought necessary...

With stronger partisan control over Congress, the president will have even less difficulty in raising the limit as necessary. It is now acceptable policy to spend excessively without worrying about debt limits. It may be a sign of the times, but the laws of economics cannot be repealed and eventually a price will be paid for this extravagance...

It is imperative that we resolve the dilemma of why it’s proper to financially reward an abortionist who acts one minute before birth, yet we arrest and prosecute a new mother who throws her child into a garbage bin one minute after birth...

Being more attuned to our Constitution and having a different understanding of morality would go a long way toward preventing unnecessary and dangerous wars. I’d like to make a few points about this different understanding:

First: The United States should never go to war without an express Declaration by Congress. If we had followed this crucial but long-forgotten rule the lives lost in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and Iraq might have been prevented. And instead of making us less secure, this process would make us more secure. Absent our foreign occupations and support for certain governments in the Middle East and central Asia over the past fifty years, the 9-11 attack would have been far less likely to happen.

Second: A defensive war is morally permissible and justified, even required. Just as a criminal who invades our house and threatens our family deserves to be shot on the spot, so too does a nation have the moral duty to defend against invasion or an imminent threat. For centuries the Christian definition of a just war has guided many nations in making this decision.

Third: The best test (a test the chicken hawks who promoted the war refused to take) for those who are so eager to send our troops to die in no-win wars is this: “Am I willing to go; am I willing to be shot; am I willing to die for this cause; am I willing to sacrifice my children and grandchildren for this effort?” The bottom line: Is this Iraq war worth the loss of more than 1200 dead Americans, and thousands of severe casualties, with no end in sight, likely lasting for years and motivating even more suicidal attacks on innocent Americans here at home?

Fourth: Can we as a moral people continue to ignore the loss of innocent life on the other side? Can we as a nation accept the callousness of the war proponents regarding the estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths? Can we believe these deaths are a mere consequence of our worthy effort to impose our will on an alien culture? Is it really our duty to sacrifice so much to pursue a questionable policy of dictating to others what we think is best for them? Can these deaths be dismissed as nothing more than “collateral damage,” and even applauded as proof of the professed progress we are making in our effort to democratize the Middle East? By ignoring the human costs of the conflict we invite problems, and the consequence of our actions will come back to haunt us.

Fifth: Arguing that the war in Iraq is necessary for our national security is pure fiction; that it has something to do with the 9-11 attack or WMDs is nonsense. Our meddling in the Middle East and the rest of the world actually increases the odds of us being attacked again by suicidal guerrillas here at home. Tragically, this is something the neo-cons will never admit.

Sixth: What kind of satisfaction can we achieve from the civil war we have instigated? A significant portion of the killing in Iraq now occurs amongst Iraqis themselves, at our urging. The country is in chaos, despite the assurances of our leaders. Even under the thug Saddam Hussein, Christians at least were protected by the government-- whereas today their churches are bombed and many are struggling to escape the violence by fleeing to Syria. There is no evidence that our efforts in the Middle East have promoted life and peace. Tragically, no one expects the death and destruction in Iraq to end anytime soon.

By failing to understand the history of the region and the nature of tribal culture, we have made victory virtually impossible. Tribal customs and religious beliefs that have existed for thousands of years instruct that family honor requires reciprocal killing for every member of the family killed by infidels/Americans. For each of the possible 100,000 Iraqis killed, there’s a family that feels a moral obligation to get revenge by killing an American, any American if possible.

Ronald Reagan learned this lesson the hard way in coming to understand attitudes in Lebanon. Reagan spoke boldly that he would not turn tail and run no matter how difficult the task when he sent Marines to support the Israeli/Christian side of the Lebanese civil war in 1983. But he changed his tune after 241 Marines were killed. He wrote about the incident in his autobiography: “Perhaps we didn’t appreciate fully enough the depth of the hatred and complexity of the problems that made the Middle East such a jungle. Perhaps the idea of a suicide car bomber committing mass murder to gain instant entry to Paradise was so foreign to our own values and consciousness that it did not create in us the concern for the Marines’ safety that it should have… In the weeks immediately after the bombing, I believed the last thing we should do was turn tail and leave… Yet, the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics forced us to re-think our policy there.” Shortly thereafter Reagan withdrew the Marines from Lebanon, and no more Americans were killed in that fruitless venture.

Reagan’s willingness to admit error and withdraw from Lebanon was heroic, and proved to be life-saving. True to form, many neo-cons with their love of war exude contempt for Reagan’s decision. To them force and violence are heroic, not reassessing a bad situation and changing policy accordingly.

A policy that uses the religious civil war within the Muslim faith as an excuse for remaking the entire Middle East by force makes little sense and will not end well. The more we fight and the more we kill the greater the animosity of those who want us out of their family feud-- and out of their countries.

Here are a few reasons why conservatives ought to reject the current policy of pre-emptive war:

1. The Constitution is on the side of peace. Under the Constitution-- the law of the land-- only Congress can declare war. The president is prohibited from taking us to war on his own.

2. The Founders and all the early presidents argued the case for non-intervention overseas, with the precise goals of avoiding entangling alliances and not involving our people in foreign wars unrelated to our security.

3. The American tradition and sense of morality for almost all our history rejected the notion that we would ever deliberately start a war, even with noble intentions.

4. The Christian concept of just war rejects all the excuses given for marching off to Iraq with the intention of changing the whole region into a western-style democracy by force, with little regard for the cost in life and limb and the economic consequences here at home.

5. America faces a 7.5 trillion dollar national debt that is increasing by 600 billion dollars per year. Fiscal conservatives cannot dismiss this, even as they clamor for wars we cannot afford.

6. History shows the size of the state always grows when we’re at war. Under conditions of war civil liberties are always sacrificed-- thus begging the point. We go hither and yon to spread our message of freedom, while sacrificing our freedoms here at home and eating away at the wealth of the country.

7. Those who understand the most important function of our national government is to provide strong national defense should realize that having troops in over 100 countries hardly helps us protect America, secure our borders, or avoid alienating our allies and potential enemies.

8. The best way to prevent terrorism is to change our policies, stop playing crusader, and stop picking sides in religious civil wars or any other civil wars. “Blowback” from our policies is not imaginary.

9. Promoting true free trade and promoting prosperity through low taxes and less regulation sends a strong message to the world and those interested in peace and commerce.

10. A policy of free exchange with other nations avoids the trappings of the new isolationists, who influence our foreign policy with the generous use of sanctions, trade barriers, and competitive currency devaluations. They are only too willing to defer to the World Trade Organization and allow it to dictate our trade and tax policies.

Conservatives who profess to uphold the principle of right-to-life should have little trouble supporting the position of the Founders and the Constitution: a foreign policy of “peace and commerce with those who choose and no entangling alliances.”

Where To From Here?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

A Forgotten Day & A Forgotten Country

Harry Browne writes:

"Many of us know what once was and what could be again. And that's why we refuse to give up. We want to bring back 19th-century freedom and marry it with 21st-century technology. Then we can again celebrate this day and this country as it should be. And once again that great statue of Lady Liberty can provide light and hope and inspiration to the entire world"

A Forgotten Day & A Forgotten Country