Thursday, April 28, 2005

Historical Presidential Address?

I wasn't planning on blogging about President Bush's press conference. Far more established blogs were undoubtedly going to cover it in great detail. However, after listening to his opening remarks and then reading reactions on the web, I can't find anyone who has written what I would have. Thus I now feel compelled to make my point. And my point is this...

Perhaps I've become jaded from all the mudslinging and partisan rhetoric, but I was frankly shocked at some of the things Bush said in both his address and later when answering questions. (I found a full transcript at FoxNews.) The comments were (to me) much more middle-of-the-road than I expected from a president that the left derides as a "neocon puppet".

Three moments in particular drew my attention.

To reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, we must take four key steps.

First, we must better use technology to become better conservers of energy.

And secondly, we must find innovative and environmentally sensitive ways to make the most of our existing energy resources, including oil, natural gas, coal and safe, clean nuclear power.

Third, we must develop promising new sources of energy, such as hydrogen, ethanol or bio-diesel.

Fourth, we must help growing energy consumers overseas, like China and India, apply new technologies to use energy more efficiently and reduce global demand of fossil fuels.

Unless I am reading this language incorrectly, three of the four bullet points reference conservation or alternative fuel sources. That's something I'd expect in a Green party speech, not a Republican one.

In the coming days and weeks I'll work with both the House and the Senate as they take the next steps in the legislative process. I'm willing to listen to any good idea from either party.

Too often the temptation in Washington is to look at a major issue only in terms of whether it gives one political party an advantage over the other. Social Security is too important for politics as usual.

I think this was an excellent point. There's been talk, even from democratic leaders, bemoaning the fact that the Democratic party is failing to present new ideas, instead choosing to be reactionary, argumentative, and negative. This would seem to be an opening to change that behavior. After all, if Bush offered to listen to ideas from either party and none are suggested from one side, how will that be interpreted, historically?

And finally, in answer to a rather confrontational question regarding judicial confirmations, Bush said:
I think people are opposing my nominees because they don't like the judicial philosophy of the people I've nominated. And some would like to see judges legislate from the bench. That's not my view of the proper role of a judge.
The great thing about America is that you should be allowed to worship any way you want. And if you chose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship. And if you choose to worship, you're equally American if you're a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim.
In past speeches, I've felt the President Bush has stressed his own personal faith too much. These comments were much more moderate than I would have expected.

Overall, I'd have to say that the speech and responses seemed to me were written with a mind on how the current administration will be viewed historically. There was much more of an effort to appear moderate as opposed to stubbornly sticking to a few talking points. Time will tell whether the change in attitude will be followed through in action.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Social Security

Yesterday's OpinionJournal has a good article by William Voegeli about the "Cynical Idealism of Social Security". It's a little long and wanders a bit near the end. But it's a good read. He describes how FDR managed to set up the system that is widely considered untouchable.

By relying on a system that funded old age pensions through a regressive tax on wages, SS fosters the idea that everyone who has paid has a moral right to withdraw at a later date. Voegeli quotes FDR as saying:
We put those payroll taxes there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.
Further, the SS administration aggressively marketed the program in order to convince Americans that this was really an insurance program with premiums and "accounts". After selling this long enough Americans came to believe it to be so.

A perfect example of this is my father. He's pretty consistently conservative on political issues. But when it comes to SS he's one of the converted. Having lived his whole life with the program it's just part of the world that he accepts. While he agrees that there are financing problems and would be willing to raise the retirement age to address them he reflexively opposes any significant changes. It's almost a matter of faith that SS will and must continue to operate the way it has for sixty plus years.

I'm no great fan of FDR's New Deal policies. I've made the comment, somewhat hyperbolically, that the Great Depression was the worst thing that ever happened to this country because of some of the changes in our government that arose as a result. But I have to admire the tactical political genius displayed by Roosevelt and his administration in pushing through these changes and so skillfully ensconcing them in the American consciousness.

Reprehensible NY Times Behavior

Glenn over at Instapundit already said it more calmly and rationally that I am able so I'll just provide the link.

I'd say that this is the last straw and that I'm done with the NY Times as either an accurate source of news or interesting opinion. It provides neither. But I've been done with them for years now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Syrian Troops Leave Lebannon

Some positive news--Syria has ended its 29-year occupation of Lebanon. Definitely a move the right direction, but movement like this is always slow in coming and shaky. At the end of the article, linked above, there is this quote:
He [Lebanese army commander Suleiman] pledged continued cooperation between the two countries in several fields, including the fight on terror and opposition to Israel.

"Together we shall always remain brothers in arms in the face of the Israeli enemy," Suleiman said.
Fighting terror and opposition to Israel? So does this mean bus bombings and the like will not be used against Israel anymore? Regardless I find it an amazing proof point toward just how much the "war against terror" has become integrated across the world. I am not suggesting that everyone who mentions it actually supports it (many do not) but it is amazing to me the number of people who feel compelled to mention their "opposition" to terror.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Not This Again?

Headlines like this have been the source of numerous jokes, yet people seem to keep coming up with this shocking conclusion:

Crime rate down, but prison population on the rise

Hat tip to The Corner for the link. I especially like one their reader's thoughts on the headline:
Just once I would love to read a headline that says:

"Crime Rate Soars Despite Falling Prison Population"

I want to see it to hear the potential explanations.
Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Schwarzenegger On Illegal Immigration

I've never given much thought to the so-called Schwarzenegger-Republicans. But the more I read about his thoughts, the more I think I might be one. While I'm not in favor of the Schwarzenegger amendment, I find myself agreeing with a majority of his views.

Here's a recent example of a speech he gave on Tuesday regarding the need for immigration control on the California-Mexico border. I'm most impressed with the following:
This is a very important debate. I think it's necessary that we solve the problems rather than try to run the other way.
If more politicians would be willing to actually discuss issues, I think the county's respect for politicians in general would be much greater.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Republicans already dominate the courts...

I've noticed a new theme popping up in coverage of the judicial confirmation issue. The story goes that Republicans already dominate the court system in this country. Articles that I could find quickly to verify this include the LATimes and the CS Monitor (my Google search also turned up a article that is subscription only). Nominees of Republican presidents outnumber Democratic appointees on 10 of 13 courts and could have a majority on all but the Ninth Circuit by the time 2008 rolls around. The clear implication is that filibusters of judicial nominees isn't really a problem, because Democrats are just trying to preserve a balanced judiciary.

Obviously measuring how conservative or liberal a court is based on the numbers like this is a simplification. It ignores factors like the background of judges (intellectual hotshot who is likely to be influential on the bench or simply politically well connected) or the Senate confirmation environment (controlled by the president's party or not). Defining a court as Republican or Democrat based on who has a numerical advantage is also misleading when the the numbers are close - a 7 to 6 numerical advantage on the Sixth Circuit will not suddenly make the court right-wing. But I'm willing to accept that studies do show some correlation between the party "affiliation"of a judge and how he votes.

My question is, so what? It only stands to reason that conservatives, or at least Republican nominees, should have a numerical advantage in the federal court system. Not because conservatives are necessarily right. It's simply that Republicans have won 7 of the last 10 presidential elections and as a result have gotten to make more appointments. This is democracy in action. Part of the prize in presidential elections is the right to nominate judges. Make it an issue in the next election. If the American people agree than they'll vote for your side.

The composition of the courts reflects electoral politics. The "correct" balance is not one where both sides of the political spectrum are represented equally. It's where the composition of courts reflects the electoral decisions of the American people.

(Actually, in my ideal world judges would not be controversial because everyone would know they were simply ruling based on the law, not personal policy preferences. But that's another discussion.)


I've been introduced, so I guess it's time to chime in. Dan and I have been talking politics for some time now, so it seems kind of natural for me to start posting here. As he said, we do tend to agree a lot, but hopefully we won't about everything that shows up here. It's much more interesting and enlightening when you're not just preaching to the choir.

A few words about myself from a political perspective. I consider myself somewhere between conservative and libertarian. I believe in small government because I think the primary job of government is to preserve the rule of law. I sometimes joke that I pray at the altar of capitalism; - free markets usually lead to the best solutions.

I like to think I can vent about issues that matter to me while staying calm and rational. Time will tell if I'm right.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Bad Idea By Howard Dean

I read this post on Powerline and I'm actually somewhat speechless. The article linked in the Powerline post quotes Dean as saying:
"We're going to use Terri Schiavo later on," Dean said...
Like Powerline, I'm confused. They probably put it best:
...why is it it that when a minor Republican staffer wrote that the Schiavo case was a "great political issue," it was a scandal that was reported in every newspaper in America, whereas, when the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee says, "We're going to use Terri Schiavo" in the 2006 and 2008 elections, the response is a yawn? I'm sure there must be a reason why Dean's comment is different, but offhand I can't think what it is.
Personally I wish both sides would just let this issue go away and focus on more appropriate and more relevant things.

And Then There Were Two...

I said when I started that I didn't know where I was going with this whole "blog" thing. While it's been very rewarding so far, I've found it more difficult than I thought to post as frequently as I'd like. So, after a discussion with an old (sorry) grad school friend, I'm happy to say that Keith Kannenberg has joined the contributors list here.

Politically speaking, Keith and I agree a lot on some issues, not so much on others. But I'm confident he'll post on interesting and thought-provoking topics.

Welcome Keith!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Thoughts On The EU Constitution

I don't claim to be an expert in EU politics, but I found this post at AnkleBitingPundits interesting.

Operation FALCON

I'm not sure how something of this magnitude didn't make news until now, but I think this is fantastic. Operation FALCON was a joint federal and local effort with the goal of apprehending known fugitives. The final tally? 10,340.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Canadian Liberal Party Scandal About To Explode?

One of the blogs I frequented during the election, Captain's Quarters Blog, has been at the forefront of some interesting news brewing in Canada. There are rumors of some reported scandal involving the ruling Liberal party. However, details are scare because the Canadian government has issued a "publication ban" forbidding anyone to write about the story. (Apparently going so far as to have threatened Captain's Quarters with contempt of court. Can you imagine the outrage if the situation happened in reverse--an American court trying to shut down the media outlet in Canada?)

Captain's Quarters has ignored the ban and posted some details. His latest post on the subject indicates the publication ban may be lifted tomorrow, allowing members of the media in Canada who have much more information to start covering the story.

I must admit I would have probably glossed over the whole story if it had not for been for this publication ban element. I can't really get my head around the concept. Thank goodness, once again, for the Bill of Rights and, more specifically, the right to free speech.

Here We Go Again (Media Bias...)

So on one hand, Chrenkoff has recently posted part 11 of his good news from Afganistan series. I haven't had time to read it all--it's exceptionally long, as usual--but suffice it to say that he was able to find lots of good things happening in Afganistan.

On the other hand, I haven't really read much about Afganistan at all from mainstream media sources. That was until today, when CNN finally found a reason to cover that part of the world--because of a helicopter crash.

Media bias? What me worry?