December 22, 2006
This time of year, when peace, joy, and goodwill to all are the order of the day, politics is one of the last things most of us want to think about. Here are a few recent items that just cannot pass without some commentary:
As readers of this blog know, immigration reform is a high-priority issue for me, for personal as well as political reasons, and I take pains to disassociate myself from immigrant-bashing. Unfortunately, Rep. Virgil Goode has created a controversy by writing a letter to constituents about the immigration problem in which he cited the desire of incoming Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) to use the Koran when he takes the oath next month. Even after taking heat, Goode won't back down; see AP News. Today's News Leader editorial calls Goode's position "Neanderthal nativism." I wouldn't go that far, but I do think Goode is way off base. The point of using Holy Scriptures in court or other oath-taking ceremonies is to accentuate the sincerity and solemnity of the oath, and obviously a person's own religion is the most appropriate standard for that. I think this incident ranks behind "macaca" on the gaffe scale, but I fear that Rep. Goode, like outgoing Sen. Allen, simply doesn't understand how such words make it more difficult to fashion a broad consensus on national immigration policy, without which the problem will never be solved. Sigh...
As the Democrats prepare to take over Congress, the old issue of health insurance will no doubt arise once again. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has already hinted that he wants his state to follow the lead of Massachusetts in adopting mandatory health insurance, about which I complained April 4; scroll down to second item. In yesterday's Washington Post, John Graham made the case against mandatory health insurance using a very amusing analogy to a high-class restaurant in which most of the customers are deadbeats, forcing a minority to pick up the tab. Read the whole thing. Anyone with half a brain* and a devotion to the principles of individual freedom knows that the only long-term solution to the health care mess is to radically scale back implicit government subsidies to that sector, to remove the unintentional distortions. Go ahead, call me an extremist.
[* CLARIFICATION: Just in case anyone took offense by that, a person with a full brain but who is more inclined toward socialism would disagree with such a free-market policy prescription, obviously. The emphasis is on the word and.]
The Washington Post had another background article on farm subsidies and the success of lobbyists for Big Agriculture to thwart reforms, one of the biggest disappointments from the recent era of a Republican majority. If the Democrats want to maintain control of Congress after the 2008 elections, they could pick up a lot of centrist votes by cleaning up that mess. I doubt they are up to the task of taking on something that ambitious.
I was sorry to learn that local blogger Chris Green, an exuberant France-bashing, Hillary-bashing gun nut and gung ho former Marine, is taking a sabbatical. Hey, we can't be deadly earnest all the time! So, who is going pick up the slack in giving hell to Hillary? Well, my baseball buddy Phil Faranda's brother Tom Faranda, for one. That is one scary-looking doctored photograph! (Phil is on hiatus, as well.)
UPDATE: In normal times, the idea of a Republican president approving an increase in the minimum wage would be too far-fetched to believe. But these are the Orwellian days of "compassionate conservativism" in which core principles are routinely negotiated or even cast aside by the political "wizards" in the Bush White House. Yesterday's Washington Post reported that Bush endorsed the Democrats' call to raise the minimum wage by $2.10, to $7.25 an hour, over a period of two years, in exchange for enacting a set of targeted tax cuts and regulatory exemptions for small businesses. Is that a genuine token of bipartisan cooperation, or is it a "poison pill" intended to sabotage the ostensible compromise, calculating that the Democrats would refuse the bargain? One thing's for sure, it will make the Federal tax code more complicated, requiring more bureaucrats and accountants to figure everything out. Bush's proposal is a perfect example of an unnecessarily self-contradictory combination of government policies, in which one popular but inefficacious policy measure necessitates the adoption of an offsetting (and usually bad) policy measure. It's like putting one foot on the gas, and one foot on the brake.
Further investigations into Samuel "Sandy" Berger have revealed that the former Clinton NSC official hid some of the documents purloined from the National Archives beneath a trailer at a construction site in Washington. He destroyed some of those documents, presumably to cover up the failure of the Clinton administration to deal with Al Qaeda in a timely fashion. See Washington Post. Obviously, taking those documents out of the Archives was not an innocent oversight, as he first claimed. (Did anyone believe him?) Where's the outrage? As Michael Oliver writes, "What could be a bigger crime than destroying our ability to discern our own history as a nation, particularly that leading up to the events of 9-11?"
FURTHER UPDATE: The report by the Inspector General's report on Mr. Berger is available via Pajamas Media; link thanks to Glenn Reynolds. It's fascinating to read about the various perspectives on when Berger first came under suspicion from the Archives staff, and yet it's all a bit tedious, with an absurd number of black-out words. Much of the report concerns the "Millenium Alert After Action Review" (MAAAR), the Clinton administration's self-assessment of measures taken to thwart a terrorist attack that many people feared would happen on Jan. 1, 2000.