A New Can Of Worms
16 August 2003
Irving Kristol Weighs In On Neo-con Influence

Irving Kristol considered by some to be the father of neo-conservatism gets at many truths in this Weekly Standard piece.

What's interesting to me is the opportunity neo-cons have to unite the Republican coalition -- i.e. the coalition that Reagan built. Yet somehow they are feared on both the left and right. Here's how Kristol describes the issue regarding the Republican coalition:

"The older, traditional elements in the Republican party have difficulty coming to terms with this new reality in foreign affairs, just as they cannot reconcile economic conservatism with social and cultural conservatism. But by one of those accidents historians ponder, our current president and his administration turn out to be quite at home in this new political environment, although it is clear they did not anticipate this role any more than their party as a whole did. As a result, neoconservatism began enjoying a second life, at a time when its obituaries were still being published. "

I very much identify with Kristol and those neo-cons from the 1970's. The biggest reason in President Reagan. But I think it also has to do with the tie that binds economic and social conservatives that is not readily apparent to many on the social right or the business community. Those of us with that Neo-con outlook are just as at home at the Chamber of Commerce as they are at the Christian Coalition because they recognize a relationship, for example, that Michael Novak described in Democracy and Capitalism. That our system of democratic institutions and free markets is the most moral political order ever devised. Why? Because no other system has provided so many so much in order to alleviate poverty and suffering.

Neo-cons are comfortable in circles where we discuss what is good, so they "get" the social conservatives. Yet, while they have a moral base, they understand the necessity of an efficient economic order. The ability to marry both sides of the house is not very common -- especially in Illinois.
Knife Ban at the Illinois State Fair

When you outlaw knives, only outlaws will have them.... Seriously, this is a bit too much for me. Vendors at the Illinois State Fair have been told by State Police that they will be arrested if they sell knives -- even though it is written in their vendor contracts that they are allowed to sell them.

Apparently an eight inch chef's knife is okay, but a knife that looks "mean" isn't according to one vendor. Another complains that by changing the rules in the middle of the game he is out $3,000. That's a lot of money for these mom and pop vendors.

I'll leave it to you to make the obvious gun control analogy.
15 August 2003
Big Government Conservatives

Fred Barnes writes today in the Wall Street Journal about President Bush's big government conservatism:

"... The case for Mr. Bush's conservatism is strong. Sure, some conservatives are upset because he has tolerated a surge in federal spending, downplayed swollen deficits, failed to use his veto, created a vast Department of Homeland Security, and fashioned an alliance of sorts with Teddy Kennedy on education and Medicare. But the real gripe is that Mr. Bush isn't their kind of conventional conservative. Rather, he's a big government conservative. This isn't a description he or other prominent conservatives willingly embrace. It makes them sound as if they aren't conservatives at all. But they are. They simply believe in using what would normally be seen as liberal means--activist government--for conservative ends. And they're willing to spend more and increase the size of government in the process."

I guess I'm apparently a big government conservative to, if it means bringing market discipline to government programs. Part of the reason why George W. Bush is so hated by the left is because he is willing to play on their field, but under a different set of rules.

By bringing the discipline of the market place to traditional big government "public goods" the President poses the biggest threat to left's ideology they have ever faced. If you want to do social security and medicare, fine we'll do it, but we will use the market and choice to bring competition into the system. As people see the bigger returns for their dollars, they will want even more choice and competition. Now where do you think that leave sthe middle man-- i.e. government?

That's what keeps Teddy Kennedy awake at night -- a private sector able to deliver better services more efficiently than government. Once people recognize that fact, they'll be little need to for government to do much of anything anymore.

14 August 2003
Blagojevich blasts casino layoffs

Today's SJ-R demonstrates a fundamental rule. People and businesses will work to avoid paying confiscatory taxes. Like individuals often do in high tax environments, the casinos have simply chosen not to work.

When you are taxed 70 cents on every extra dollar you earn, is it really worth it to work for that extra dollar?
13 August 2003
Hot Rod Gets Cute With Hispanic Caucus

This is what will get the Hot Rod in trouble:

"Blagojevich spokeswoman Cheryle Jackson denied del Valle's claim of payback and insisted the governor is not anti-Hispanic.

'This is not retribution or payback,' she said. 'The governor is fine with these bills and is fine with them passing into law. The fact remains the governor had to review over 700 bills, and some he was more enthusiastic about than others. You have to pick your spots.'
The last time a governor neither signed nor vetoed a bill sent to him by the Legislature was in July 1939, when Democratic Gov. Henry Horner had become ill, White spokesman Dave Druker said."

If you are going to pay back the Hispanic Caucus that's fine. But spare us the Clintonian spin that, "You have to pick your spots." Glib comments like that will time after time after time will be rebutted with uncomfortable facts.

12 August 2003
The Liberal Spirit in America

Via AL Daily Peter Berkowitz explores the liberal divide in America. His piece dissects the tensions between competing visions of liberalism:

Yet there is more to the defense of freedom than progress in equality, as John Stuart Mill stressed in On Liberty (1859) and in Considerations on Representative Government (1861). Because moving ahead requires holding some things still, because freedoms won must be preserved, and because its improvement as well as its preservation depends upon citizens with particular skills, knowledge, and qualities of mind and character, a free society always requires a party of order as well as a party of progress. Hence, conservatives, who take a special interest in freedom’s limits and its material and moral preconditions, are properly seen as belonging to the liberal tradition and in fact play an essential role in maintaining the liberal state. Generally speaking, where the right in American politics today differs with the left is not about the primacy of personal freedom but about the primacy of competing policies; that is, the care for which goods — those related to order or those related to progress — freedom most urgently requires.

And the difference over competing policies stems from a more fundamental disagreement between left and right about the primacy of the factors that menace freedom. Progressive liberals see inequality as the chief menace to freedom and government as an essential part of the solution. For libertarian liberals, who like progressives think that freedom yields progress and like conservatives stress that freedom depends on limits, it is government that is the chief menace to freedom, and the restraint of government is freedom’s essential safeguard. And for conservative liberals, both of the traditional and neoconservative variety, it is the excess of freedom and equality that poses the biggest threat to freedom, and government is seen as both friend and foe in the battle to limit freedom and equality on behalf of freedom and equality.

The moral of his story is, that the more freedom we get the more we want. The more freedom we get the weaker the moral and philosophical traditions liberalism is based on become. Berkowitz's suggests we need to turn our attention to the difficult task of attempting to understand the foundations that liberalism was built upon. "Improving by conserving the liberal spirit is easier said than done," begins his last paragraph. "But the doing first requires the saying, and to say something useful, the challenge must be accurately understood."

Understanding the tensions inherent in liberalism is an important part of comprehending this nation's intellectual history. I, however, wonder how the continuing impact of thinkers such as Nietzche and Heidegger have moved the progressive elements of liberalism off the deep end in the post WWII era. The tension that Berkowitz addresses in many instances has become openly hostile to religion, free speech and democratic principles on the part of the left in many instances. Is that a case of us getting too much of what we want in terms of autonomy? Or, is it a matter of something else?

I am ill equipped to challenge someone of Berkowitz's stature and intelligence but I do wonder if competitors to liberalism from the continent of Europe, such as relativisim and nihilism, have captured liberalism and become the predominant intellectual moorings of the left. I see little interest in the thinking of left the toward conserving anything about liberalsim.

One look at many of the Iraq war protestors would confirm that many have little regard for freedom or value much of anything beyond their own narcissistic selves.

I see the arbitrary personal preferences of various interests superseding anything remotely connected to justice or logic. I see alleged civil rights defenders ready to denounce anyone as racist who questions the efficacy of continuing affirmative action, yet raise little to no objections to overtly anti-religious zealotry on the part of their allies. I see a contempt for democratic institutions by our judges and those who lose at the ballot box that run to the federal or civil courts to remedy themselves from democratic processes -- often at the expense of the greater good determined by any rational means.

With all that said, I also see the left as a shrinking element in our society. The Bush-haters in the Democrat Party aside, traditional liberalism is on the ascendent both here and around the world. That could, I guess, be the source of the left's vitriol -- a reactionary form of their progressivism, thus leading me to ruminate over their apparent dive off the deep end. But then again, the fact that my side is winning -- while comforting -- isn't the purpose of Berkowitz's article. Calling on us to take fresh look at the foundations of liberty was, which few, I think, can quibble with.

O'Hare Blast from the Daily Herald

PolicyGuy John La Plante links to a Daily Herald piece on O'Hare expansion that should give ammunition to its critics:

"A consulting firm hired by suburbs that oppose O'Hare expansion says that the cost of the project will be $16 billion; the city of Chicago says the true cost will be closer to $6 billion. The differences come from the way that the suburbs and the city label different projects. The suburbs count some projects as part of the expansion (and thus, presumably, optional), while the city says the same projects would have to be done with or without the expansion going forward."
The Health Care Trap

The Wall Street Journal (Link requires subscription) gives us a glimpse of what nationalized health care would like in the US by telling the story of a 20 yr. Afghan vet dealing with VA to receive his benefits:

"That will place added burdens on a system that has been swamped for years. The average wait to get a medical appointment with the VA is seven months, according to a recent survey by the American Legion. There's a backlog of 280,000 veterans awaiting a disability rating, which determines how much they should receive in benefits; 108,000 veterans are waiting to hear back on appeals of rating decisions.

One reason for the backlog: a 1996 Congressional decision that expanded benefit eligibility to all veterans. Previously, the VA had been open only to indigent veterans and those wounded or injured during service. Since the change, the number of veterans seeking VA medical services has doubled to 6.8 million, while VA spending has risen 56%."

Now, imagine that system for all of us. Because that is the direction in which we are heading as our politicians attempt to give us free health care and free drugs...Entitlements are expanded with no way to pay for them as people take advantage of the benefits without considering costs. Then when you really need it, the health care won't be there. Cost saving measures imposed by the bureaucracy will ration what you receive. Don't believe me, then read the next paragraph:

"VA Secretary Anthony Principi says he "decided something was terribly wrong" last summer. He ordered the agency to stop enrolling higher-income veterans without disabilities, and to place its priority on those with service-related injuries. The freeze is expected to lock out about 525,000 veterans by the end of 2005. The Bush administration's 2004 proposed budget also calls for new premiums and higher fees. For certain categories of higher-income veterans, for example, the budget calls for increasing drug-prescription copayments to $15, from $7. The move is expected to dissuade about 1.3 million veterans from enrolling for VA services next year."

In 1996 Congress expanded the program to allow all veterans in the VA program. Six years later, rationing of care begins by a) bureaucrats deciding who gets treatment based on factors other than your health. What if you don't have a service related injury? What if its cancer just a year or two after retiring after 20 years and 2 major conflicts? Sorry Charlie, you should have gotten yourself shot.

This Is Just Cruel

11 August 2003
But The Fish Died Happy...
I'm Shocked...Shocked...

Alfred Ronan's employees are finding themselves before a Federal Grand Jury:

"Ronan, who now lives in River Forest, has become the man to see in Springfield for companies and government agencies, including the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and several western suburbs, that want legislation passed or killed. His list of clients, one of the longest in the state, includes Argosy Gaming, which owns casinos in Joliet and Alton; the Wine & Spirits Distributors of Illinois Association, and the Town of Cicero.

Ronan gained notoriety in 1993 when he blatantly handed out envelopes containing as much as $300 to legislators he had summoned off the Illinois House floor."

Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall at the Federal building in Chicago...
10 August 2003
EconoPundit Steve Antler (his links don't work either) has an interesting sermon today on social justice:

"Here's the idea. We can't avoid wanting more than we can afford, because that's part of our biological makeup. This means we can't avoid wanting more social justice than we can afford, because social justice is a good and we always want more goods than we can afford. "

He draws this idea from Darwin's theory that a species will seek to reproduce beyond its environment's capacity to support it. Antler uses weak and sickly zebras being culled from the herd by lions as his metaphor.

It's well worth tracking down.

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