July 31, 2004

Liability Matters

Fr. Robert A. Sirico on John Edwards and trial lawyers:

Why does it matter that John Edwards has spent his career as a trial lawyer who raids deep pockets on behalf of complainants? It makes him a lifetime participant in one of the most destructive of American pastimes: litigation.

On the day that Edwards was introduced as John Kerry's running mate, I got a call from a doctor in St. Louis. He was, as you might expect, alarmed by the prospect of a trial lawyer - one of the nation's wealthiest and most powerful - becoming vice president of the United States. During the conversation, I asked him about Edwards's representation of parents who had a child born with cerebral palsy.

"Edwards made millions off crippled children by hypnotizing his juries and convincing them that cerebral palsy occurs during the birthing process," the doctor said. "There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support his contentions. But juries in America aren't usually about science, they're about theatrics. And that happens to be Edwards's forte."

He continued: In Missouri, doctors' insurance premiums have escalated 150 percent in the last three years and the state has not been able to pass meaningful medical-malpractice tort reform. Physicians in certain specialties - such as neurosurgery, obstetrics, and orthopedics - packed up and left the state after receiving a malpractice insurance bill of $500,000 on 30 days' notice. Although things are bad in St. Louis, the situation is even worse just across the Mississippi River in Madison County, Illinois. There, the doctor tells me, judicial awards in the megamillion range have attracted trial lawyers "like flies." Entire hospital departments have shut down as physicians attempt to flee to safety. Patients left behind in these communities are frequently forced to cross state lines to seek care.

July 29, 2004

Kerry has Muffed the War Issue

Article by William A. Niskanen:

Senator John Kerry has made increased international support for the security and reconstruction of Iraq the primary theme of his speeches on this issue. For the following reasons, however, Kerry's position is not likely to have any significant effect on U.S. policy toward Iraq:

1. The Kerry position does not now differ much from that of President Bush, in part because Bush has also recently asked for increased international support for the reconstruction of Iraq.

2. Increased international support is not likely. The United Nations and the governments of France and Germany are not likely to accept an increased responsibility for the reconstruction of Iraq that is subordinate to U.S. authority, in part because U.S. forces have yet to restore minimally satisfactory security.

3. Increased international support is not likely to be effective. The Iraqi insurgents have been as hostile to the United Nations and to non-U.S. foreign troops as to the U.S. civilian and military authorities. The insurgents bombed the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad early during the guerilla campaign and have killed or kidnapped Italian, Japanese and Spanish troops. All foreign civilian and military authorities are now regarded as occupiers.

4. The Kerry position has no political traction. For most Americans, like most Iraqis, one's attitude toward the war in Iraq is not much dependent on the breadth of the coalition supporting U.S. policy.

Moreover, Kerry's position on Iraq is probably a political loser. With no significant debate about the war in Iraq between the candidates of the major parties, those who have strongly opposed the war in Iraq are most likely to vote for Ralph Nader, and most of these votes would otherwise have been for almost any Democratic candidate.

July 27, 2004

If You Have To Vote for a President

Walter Block argues that the Libertarian Party is the only choice:

Fortunately, however, our choice is not limited to the Demopublicans, or the Repblicocrats. There is a third option: the Libertarian Party. On the issues, whether economic, social or foreign policy, the LP is, of course, pretty hard-core libertarian. Yes, there might be a legitimate quibble with this or that plank in the party platform, but caviling at them while supporting either of the major parties is like Ayn Rand refusing to vote for John Hospers, the first Libertarian Party presidential candidate, on the ground that he didn’t fully buy into "A is A," or some such.

No. The only problem is that Mr. Michael Badnarik will not be elected, even if every libertarian were to vote for him 100 times over (I’m not suggesting any law-breaking behavior, here, just making a point). The most likely prospect, were this to occur, is that his vote total would go from 1.50% to 1.51%, or something of this order. However, it really doesn’t matter much, from the point of view of the cause of liberty, which major party candidate staggers over the finish line in November. They are as tweedle-dum and tweedle-dumber.

But wouldn’t it be great if the LP vote total, in one vital senate or house race or another, were greater than the difference between that of the Democratic and Republican parties? That would make the smug self-righteous commentators sit up and take notice. Okay, okay, already, it wouldn’t; nothing would do that. The Libertarian Party has already attained this goal, and we are still not a household name. But, think of the joy in Mudville a repeat of this glorious occurrence would bring! And, dare we hope for it, if this phenomenon took place on the national, not merely the state level, well I betcha Murray would be up there somewhere, smiling.

July 22, 2004

Tall Poppies

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Cox & Forkum

July 19, 2004

What's Fair About a Draft?

Michael Kinsley on the draft:

During Vietnam, the columnist Nicholas von Hoffman wrote, "Draft old men's money, not young men's bodies." His point was that in America, when you want more of something -- even soldiers -- the way to get more is to pay more. A draft allows the government to pay less for soldiers than they would cost in the free market. It is, in essence, a tax on young people. Or a pay cut for those who would have volunteered anyway. What kind of triumph of fairness is that?

As for the contention that a draft would make it harder for a president to start a war, that one can be argued both ways. A draft would subject war-and-peace decisions to an important test of democracy: Do the decision makers themselves have skin in the game? On the other hand, a volunteer army puts war-and-peace decisions to the test of the market: Can people be induced voluntarily to fight it? A volunteer army could become a mercenary force operating at the president's whim. But a draft army, always at the ready, also encourages imperial whimsy.

It's true that democracy has almost disappeared from this country's decisions about going to war. Presidents of both parties assert, with little challenge and even less justification, near-unilateral war-power authority. Congress should reassert its war powers. That would do more for democracy than drafting the president's daughters.

July 18, 2004

Ten Reasons to Fire George W. Bush
And nine reasons why Kerry won't be much better


Article by Jesse Walker:

10. He's making me root for John Kerry. I haven't voted for a major party's presidential candidate since 1988, and I have no plans to revert to the habit this year. The Democrats have nominated a senator who - just sticking to the points listed above - voted for the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, McCain-Feingold, and the TSA; who endorses the assault on "indecency"; who thinks the government should be spending even more than it is now. I didn't have room in my top ten for the terrible No Child Left Behind Act, which further centralized control of the country's public schools - but for the record, Kerry voted for that one too. It's far from clear that he'd be any less protectionist than Bush is, and he's also got problems that Bush doesn't have, like his support for stricter gun controls. True, Kerry doesn't owe anything to the religious right, and you can't blame him for the torture at Abu Ghraib. Other than that, he's not much of an improvement.

Yet I find myself hoping the guy wins. Not because I'm sure he'll be better than the current executive, but because the incumbent so richly deserves to be punished at the polls. Making me root for a sanctimonious statist blowhard like Kerry isn't the worst thing Bush has done to the country. But it's the offense that I take most personally.

July 16, 2004

A contest between big spenders
 
Jeff Jacoby argues that the coming election presents a depressing choice for fiscal conservatives:  
In the Republicans' corner is George W. Bush, who presides over the most bloated federal budget in US history.  Bush's profligacy has left in tatters the traditional GOP claim to fiscal rectitude.  He has uncomplainingly signed into law every pork-stuffed appropriations bill sent to him by Congress.  He has flooded the government's books with red ink.  And he has embraced new schemes for draining the Treasury, including the largest expansion of the welfare state in decades -- the prescription-drug entitlement, which will cost, over the next decade, more than half a trillion dollars.
 
(...)
 
The Democratic standard-bearer has committed himself to dozens of costly campaign promises -- everything from expanded Amtrak service in rural areas to a new program for preventing childhood obesity to $50 billion in additional aid to the states.  According to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, Kerry's budget proposals would add a breath-catching $226 billion to the federal budget in the first year of his presidency.  Over a four-year term, they would cost more than $621 billion -- a tab that would have to be paid either with steep new taxes, or by taking the government even more deeply into debt.    
 
The 2004 presidential race pits a big-spending Republican Tweedledee against a big-spending Democratic Tweedledum.  What's a fiscally responsible voter to do?

July 08, 2004

We Shall Not See His Like Again

Pat Buchanan on Ronald Reagan:

In the crushing defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964, Reagan’s speech of blazing defiance vaulted him into the leadership of the conservative movement. And after Watergate and the loss of Vietnam, with the Soviet Empire rampant and America held hostage, the country, unready for Ronald Reagan or conservatism in 1964, took a chance in 1980. And when she did, America won the lottery.

(...)

In the 1960s, it was a handicap in a presidential campaign to be a conservative. Republicans shied away from the label that a hostile media had equated with extremism. With Reagan, it was an honor. He was never embarrassed or ashamed at being a man of the Right. He was as proud of it as we were to have such a leader.

Every year he would speak at the Conservative Political Action Committee. In every State of the Union he demanded that a line be inserted calling for an amendment to the Constitution to protect the life of the unborn. He believed God had spared him and that the time left to him was to be spent doing God’s work here on earth.

Where other politicians avoided battles over philosophy and principle, Reagan relished that conflict. Nominated in 1980, he demanded a "no pale pastels" platform - then ran on it.

He had a wonderful sense of humor and loved stories. Seconds before going out to face the press in primetime news conferences that 80 million Americans and the whole world would watch, he was still telling jokes. He was devoid of ego and of the boastfulness so common in this capital. "There is no limit to how far a man can go," read a plaque in his office, "so long as he is willing to let someone else get the credit."

Yet he was proud of what he had accomplished. His friend and barber Milt Pitts told that me that when last he saw Ronald Reagan, the ex-president mused that he had come to Washington do to five things: cut taxes, rebuild America’s military might, unleash the American economy from the burden of government, lead America and the West to face the challenge of the Soviet Empire - and balance the budget. "Four out of five ain’t bad!" he told Milt.