August 29, 2004

August 28, 2004

Political veteran for censorship

Jacob Sullum notes George W. Bush and John Kerry have at least one thing in common:

Observers dismayed by the bitter partisanship of this presidential campaign should be happy now that George W. Bush and John Kerry finally agree on something: It turns out they both believe in using the government to silence their critics.

Kerry has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) demanding the removal of TV ads that question his Vietnam record. He argues that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT), the group sponsoring the ads, is illegally coordinating its activities with the Bush campaign. The Democrats have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation of the group.

Oddly, since Kerry's supporters say SBVT is nothing but a front group for the Republicans, they also demand that Bush "denounce the smear." In response, the president has called for the elimination of all ads sponsored by independent political groups that, like SBVT, are tax-exempt under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Bush pronounced himself amazed that such groups, known as 527s, are still allowed to have their say. "I, frankly, thought we'd gotten rid of that when I signed the McCain-Feingold bill," he told reporters the other day, referring to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which was aimed at preventing freedom of speech from interfering with democracy. "I don't think we ought to have 527s. . . . I think they're bad for the system."

August 26, 2004

Why those swift boaters want Kerry to sink

Article by John O'Sullivan:

If the Bush campaign could be convicted of secretly "coordinating" with the swift boaters on evidence like that, the Kerry campaign might end up being held responsible for the vastly larger $60 million ad campaigns organized by independent organizations against Bush -- and for the publication and distribution of the New York Times itself! After all, the timing of its Bush conspiracy theory -- just the day after the Kerry campaign unveiled that very conspiracy -- was distinctly fishy.

August 24, 2004

Time To Clear the Board
U.S. troop realignment: a good start


Charles V. Peña, director of defense policy studies at Cato, argues that reducing U.S. troop deployments in Europe and Asia is a good start:

The Cold War is over and Europe no longer faces the threat of Soviet tanks rolling across the Fulda Gap. And the combined economies of the European countries are healthy and strong enough for Europeans to pay for their own security requirements. In 2003, the EU's GDP was $11.6 trillion and U.S. GDP was $10.9 trillion, but America spent 3.5 percent of its GDP on defense compared to only 1.5 percent for the Europeans.

The North Korean threat to South Korea remains real but, like the Europeans, the South Koreans can afford to pay for their own defense. According to the CIA, "North Korea, one of the world's most centrally planned and isolated economies, faces desperate economic conditions." North Korea's GDP in 2003 was $22.9 billion with defense spending of $5.2 billion (22.7 percent of GDP). By comparison, South Korea's GDP was $855.3 billion (more that 37 times that of the North) with $14.5 billion for defense (almost three times the North and only 1.7 percent of GDP). So South Korea has both the economic advantage and capacity to to defend itself.

(...)

It's worth remembering that the globally deployed U.S. military was not an effective defense or deterrent against 19 suicide hijackers on September 11. The hard truth is that most of the war on terrorism - fought in 60 or more countries around the globe, many of them friends and allies of the United States - will be waged through unprecedented international intelligence and law enforcement cooperation.

August 20, 2004

Alan Keyes in Illinois: Part II

Thomas Sowell on the Illinois race between Alan Keyes and Barack Obama:

Keyes is a dynamic speaker whose confrontational style and strong rhetoric have turned off some people, even as they have inspired others. Barack Obama has cultivated a much smoother, moderate-sounding style. But his track record shows him to be at least as far to the left as Alan Keyes is to the right.

An environmentalist movement group has given Obama its highest rating for his votes their way as a state legislator in Illinois. Obama has supported tax increases in Illinois and opposed tax cuts nationally. He supports partial-birth abortion, which is anathema to conservatives like Keyes, and which gives pause even to some liberals who support abortion in general.

If Barack Obama's strongest suit is his rhetoric and his image, his greatest vulnerability is his actual voting record and his speeches against the war in Iraq. Neither gets featured in Obama's campaign material. He is a stealth candidate.

It will take money and lots of it to bring out the facts about Barack Obama's track record, and the media will undoubtedly criticize a "negative" campaign being waged against him. But the mainstream media can hardly be expected to bring the facts to the public's attention, since journalists are ideologically much closer to Obama than to Keyes.

At stake is not only a much-needed U.S. Senate seat but the future ability of the Republican Party to attract and keep black candidates and voters. That is unlikely to happen if black candidates simply get sent out on suicide missions.

August 18, 2004

Price Gouging Saves Lives

David Brown explains:

If we expect customers to be able to get what they need in an emergency, when demand zooms vendors must be allowed and encouraged to increase their prices. Supplies are then more likely to be sustained, and the people who most urgently need a particular good will more likely be able to get it. That is especially important during an emergency. Price gouging saves lives.

(...)

Nobody knows the local circumstances and needs of buyers and sellers better than individual buyers and sellers themselves. When allowed to respond to real demand and real supply, prices and profits communicate the information and incentives that people require to meet their needs economically given all the relevant circumstances. There is no substitute for the market. And we should not be surprised that command-and-control intervention in the market cannot duplicate what economic actors accomplish on their own if allowed to act in accordance with their own self-interest and knowledge of their own case.

(...)

"Price gouging" is nothing more than charging what the market will bear. If that's immoral, then all market adjustment to changing circumstances is "immoral," and markets per se are immoral. But that is not the case. And I don't think a store owner who makes money by satisfying the urgent needs of his customers is immoral either. It is called making a living. And, in the wake of Hurricane Charley, surviving.

August 11, 2004

The Soul of John Kerry

Joseph Sobran on John Kerry:

Recently a group of Catholic Democrats in Congress objected to any move by the hierarchy to discipline pro-abortion politicians. Considering their own party discipline, this was rich: the Democrats tolerate no real disagreement on abortion, and won’t allow anti-abortion speakers at their own convention.

Indeed, a chief difference between the Catholic Church in America and the Democratic Party is that the Church puts up with a lot of dissent. And having weighed the consequences, Kerry will sooner defy his Church than his party. He gives the impression of a man who sold his soul so long ago that he has no idea where to go to get it back.

That seeming soullessness may even be a political drawback. He’s already notorious for straddling issues and reversing positions. Is there anything left he won’t compromise?

We live in the age of the plastic conscience, and we are used to seeing people "reinvent" themselves in middle age. The idea of maintaining a consistent character over a lifetime is passé. Why go on being the same old person when you can hire consultants and focus groups to show you the way to a whole new self?

Someone has observed that gaining the whole world while losing your soul is a net loss. He obviously wasn’t thinking like a politician.

August 04, 2004

How to Maximise Your Expenses: Advice to new Members of the European Parliament

From The Social Affairs Unit:

Dear Colleague,

Welcome to Brussels! Less than half of those eligible to vote in the June 10th elections to the European Parliament may actually have done so - despite the fact of compulsory voting in three EU countries. So not exactly a great victory for European democracy. Nevertheless, you have achieved a great personal victory. Never mind that yours was just a name on a party list and ninety nine per cent of voters will never remember it. The fact is that you have been given the opportunity to play a part in completing the great European Project and to live in a style commensurate with the high importance of your work.

In this connection, it is worth explaining a vital and central aspect of the life of a European parliamentarian: the system for paying expenses. It is important this is clearly grasped not just in your own interests but in those of the other MEPs - with whom cordial relations must be established if your parliamentary career is to blossom. European politics are not like the adversarial politics of Westminster. Forming relations with Parliamentary colleagues with common interests is what being an MEP is all about, and there is no doubt we have a shared interest in preserving the present system of MEPs’ expenses.

Hence this explanatory note. The first thing to understand about the system for payment of Members’ expenses is that it will most certainly differ from any system that you may have known in the past; expectations will have to be revised accordingly. This is because in other walks of life ‘expenses’ refers to the reimbursement of sums spent in the course of one’s work. In the case of the European Parliament, however the situation is quite different: ‘expenses’ refers to a remarkable stream of non-taxable income, well, actually to four remarkable streams of tax-free income. Payments may consequently have little relationship with what has been spent. MEPs have fought courageously to preserve this system against a barrage of misplaced criticism; it is part of our heritage and it is incumbent upon new members to defend it.

August 02, 2004

The Fraud at Fleetcenter

Pat Buchanan on the Democrats and Iraq:

"We will win this war," Edwards said. Kerry has said he would be willing to send additional U.S. troops.

But what if Kerry and Edwards win in November and it becomes clear that for America to win in Iraq will require more than the 140,000 troops already there? Will Kerry, who would then be leading a nation that already believes this war was a mistake, and a party that believes it was an unnecessary and unwise - if not unjust and immoral - war, be able to unite their party and the country behind the commitment of thousands more of America's young?

Would Howard Dean and Teddy Kennedy, both of whom opposed the war, back a Kerry war policy? Would the black leaders of the party like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Charlie Rangel, who want the troops home now, support sending more troops to fight to win this war? Would President Carter support more U.S. ground forces?

(...)

A year ago, U.S. Gen. John Abizaid estimated there were 5,000 insurgents. Since then, U.S. forces have killed and captured thousands. Yet official estimates of enemy strength are now at 20,000, and the incidence of attacks on U.S. troops and our Iraqi allies is continuously rising.

"How many U.S. troops," asks Bacevich, "do we actually need to pacify Iraq, a landmass the size of California, with long, open borders and an increasingly alienated population of 25 million? A quarter of a million soldiers - almost twice the number currently deployed - would not be too many."

While he admonishes America's generals not to replicate the moral failure of Vietnam - refusing to tell civilian superiors what was needed to win - Bacevich suggests it is also a time for truth for the White House: "Either the Bush administration needs to get serious about winning the war that it so recklessly sought in Iraq, or it needs to cut its losses."

Kerry and Edwards, too, need to tell us how much blood and treasure they are willing to expend on a democratic Iraq, how many more troops will be needed and for how long, and what are the chances of victory. And we need to be told before November.

We need to be given a cold, hard, honest assessment of what we hope to gain there, and what it will cost this nation, so we can decide whether or not we wish to pay that price. We need an honest election. Last week's fraud at the FleetCenter failed the test.