A New Can Of Worms
22 November 2003
Bush To Have Ballot Troubles In Illinois
The State Senate yesterday rejected giving President Bush a waiver to get on next year's ballot. The measure was laden with rules relaxing voter procedures as well as efforts to waive fines imposed on politicians for not filing reports with the election commission:
"Voting on Friday's bill was a politically delicate maneuver in the 59-member Senate, where a total of 14 members had fines that could have been forgiven under the change.
Sen. Miguel del Valle (D-Chicago), who voted yes on the bill, faces a $55,000 levy from the agency. Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton), who voted no, has a $37,500 unpaid election fine. Both have appealed those fines.
Six senators facing smaller fines -- Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago), Sen. James DeLeo (D-Chicago), Sen. Debbie Halvorson (D-Crete), Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago), Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) and Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago) -- voted to change the election board rules."
Senate Republicans rightly refused to roll over to get President Bush on the ballot.
21 November 2003
Ramesh Ponnuru has a real good rundown on the Medicare debate within conservative circles. Kevin Hassett the health care policy guru at AEI has a piece on the death of reimportation.
On the Medicare debate I'm opposed to the program currently envisioned. You can read why here, here and here (link requires subscription).
Intelligence In War
Military historian John Keegan's latest suggests intelligence is a secondary matter in war. We've been hearing for the past six months about a lack of intelligence in Iraq. Perhaps, as Keegan suggests, we are hearing too much...
Thanks to AL Daily for turning me on to this.
GOP lawmakers pay dearly to get Bush on ballot reads the Sun-times headlines:
"In a delicious political irony, House Republicans were forced to go to great lengths Thursday to ensure that President Bush's name gets on the Illinois ballot next year -- and Mayor Daley's early-retirement package hung in the balance.
The price the House GOP paid to benefit Bush meant voting to spare Democrat Secretary of State Jesse White steep election fines. Plus, they had to agree to Democratic demands to permit the same type of flawed paper ballots to be counted in Illinois that Republicans fought against in Florida to hand Bush the 2000 presidency."
Somehow, this will end up coming back to bite the GOP in the butt...It will be interesting to hear what Jeff Trigg has to say.
UPDATE: Trigg adds his two cents. He wants a t-shirt -- Geezzz, even the libertarians are developing an entitlement mentality...
20 November 2003
Arnold Kling directs us to this TCS letter on reimportation of prescription drugs signed by too many economists to count:
"We are deeply concerned about proposed legislation to remove pharmaceutical companies' ability to control the importation of their products. The goal of this legislation will be to reduce prices in the American market by imposing other nations' price controls on us. If this attempt succeeds, American consumers would get the short-term windfall of lower prices, but they would end up unnecessarily suffering and living shorter lives -- because promising new therapies would be delayed or not even developed. Even the threat of price controls reduces the incentive to develop new drugs.
The ideal solution would be for other wealthy nations to remove their price controls over pharmaceuticals. America is the last major market without these controls. Imposing price controls here would have a major impact on drug development worldwide, harming not only Americans but people all over the world. On the other hand, removing foreign price controls would bolster research incentives. In addition, most new drugs are developed by American firms, and price controls would harm those firms and their employees. "
Check it out.
Congratulations to David Hogberg on successfully completing his PhD.
Gay Rights, Drivers Licenses for Illegals
TheTribune has a strong rundown of activities during the veto session. It seems some Democrats fear taking some tough votes:
"The setback to gay-rights supporters represented the latest example of hotly debated legislation affecting social issues that have run into Senate roadblocks despite the new Democratic majority.
Backers of a bill that would grant driving privileges to illegal immigrants have become increasingly discouraged about their prospects of winning Senate approval in the fall. Meanwhile, an attempt to revive the Equal Rights Amendment also has become stalled in the Senate."
The same story also had this little gem:
Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago) also announced plans to push legislation aimed at redrawing the recently redrawn district boundaries for congressional seats to help Democrats erase the 10-9 advantage that Republicans hold in the state's congressional delegation.
That, he reasoned, could help tip the balance of power in the U.S. House, which Republicans now narrowly control.
But the move quickly was shot down by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), who was a key player in the negotiations that led to the current map, which was put in place to reflect the state's population after the 2000 Census.
"We have no plans to revisit the issue of congressional reapportionment," said Steve Brown, Madigan's spokesman. "The speaker respects that the plan that's on the books now was fashioned by the Illinois congressional delegation."
Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, the state Republican Party chairwoman, said there was no place for such political brinkmanship in the Illinois legislature.
"Are we going to get to the point where everything will become so partisan that nothing moves anywhere, be it in Illinois, be it in Texas, be it in 50 other states and in Congress?" she asked. "That really doesn't benefit the public at all."
These reason why Madigan doesn't want to open this can of worms is because of federal money. You lose Hastert, and the spigot begins to close. As far Topinka's comments go, I think she is wrong. We don't want things getting done. If that means hyper-partisanships so be it, because bi-partisan usually means the taxpayer is the one getting screwed.
19 November 2003
From Eric Zorn's Notebook:
"Now that the door has cracked open for gay marriage, there's no logical reason in the world that people can't marry their dogs.
I heard that argument this morning while punching around the radio dial.
That and the old 'polygamy is next!' cry and predictions that men will no doubt soon be able to marry their widowed mothers.
It's all alarmist nonsense.
What the slippery slopists seem to ignore is that every day, in thousands of ways, the law answers the question, 'where do you draw the line?'
And there's not always a magnificent principle behind where the law draws those lines.
For instance: Why can a person vote at age 18 but not at age 17 years, 11 months and 30 days?
Because that's where we draw the line.
How will we be able to say that an adult may marry a person of the same sex but can't marry a dog or a child or a sibling or a parent or two people at once?
Because that's where we'll draw the line."
Well, didn't the law prohibit same sex marriages? Didn't the law say that sodomy was illegal? Weren't those lines drawn, erased and then redrawn?
The slippery slope argument doesn't really apply here, either. A slipperly slope argument would carry gay marriage to a logical extreme i.e. from gun registration to gun confiscation.
The argument that opponents of same sex marriages are making here is one of logic... well perhaps not the ones on the radio...but anyway.... Here is how it goes....
Andrew Sullivan quite eloquently, in my humble opinion, says that 'gay marriages' are a matter of civil rights. He argues, and pardon my sloppiness, that the state gives privileges to those in heterosexual relationships known as marriage in terms of legal rights, tax benefits and other supports. If one segment of the population doesn't have the same access to those rights and privileges then they are being discriminated against.
You can take out 'gay marriages' and replace with any other sub group claiming victimization -- say NAMBLA, or polygamists, run long term public affairs campaigns to claim victim status and normalize the outlier behavior and then voila... a new civil rights movement.
Another source of confusion is this statement, "Because that's where we'll draw the line." Well, based on what? Zorn goes on to say criticize the President's line regarding the sacredness of marriage. Apparently, Zorn believes that as a civic matter marriage should be untethered to its roots in religion. But, if that's case, why not all of common law? After all, it too is tethered to religous origins... Surely, Zorn understands that these "lines" aren't drawn arbitrarily.
The reason a 17 year 11 month 20 day year old cannot vote and an 18 year old person can has its roots in rights of passage to adulthood. It's not an arbitrary line. That rite of passage has eroded over time to a largely symbolic statutory nicety to help us organize a functioning democracy, yet it still has roots stretching back through time. A magnificent principle? No, but it is a cultural artefact of a magnificant principle that holds that upon achieving maturity human beings receive the blessings and burdens of greater responsibility for themselves and those in their lives. That notion that when you reach adulthood at 18 means you now get to vote connects us has human beings with our past as well as our future.
Marriage between a man and a woman does the same. Arbitrarily re-defining it to suit the fad of the day or as a reaction to our continued difficulties with adjusting to the modern world is probably not the answer.
18 November 2003
On Gay Marriage
The Massachusetts Supreme Court rules yesterday that gay marriage was okay. Sam Shulman in Commentary, however, offers us a rather timely -- and I think effective -- defense of traditional marriage that I don't think a lot of proponents have brought up. :
"Insofar as I care for my homosexual friend as a friend, I am required to say to him that, if a lifelong monogamous relationship is what you want, I wish you that felicity, just as I hope you would wish me the same. But insofar as our lives as citizens are concerned, or even as human beings, your monogamy and the durability of your relationship are, to be blunt about it, matters of complete indifference. They are of as little concern to our collective life as if you were to smoke cigars or build model railroads in your basement or hang-glide, and of less concern to society than the safety of your property when you leave your house or your right not to be overcharged by the phone company.
That is not because you are gay. It is because, in choosing to conduct your life as you have every right to do, you have stepped out of the area of shared social concern—in the same sense as has anyone, of whatever sexuality, who chooses not to marry. There are millions of lonely people, of whom it is safe to say that the majority are in heterosexual marriages. But marriage, though it may help meet the needs of the lonely, does not exist because it is an answer to those needs; it is an arrangement that has to do with empowering women to avoid even greater unhappiness, and with sustaining the future history of the species.
Marriage, to say it for the last time, is what connects us with our nature and with our animal origins, with how all of us, heterosexual and homosexual alike, came to be. It exists not because of custom, or because of a conspiracy (whether patriarchal or matriarchal), but because, through marriage, the world exists. Marriage is how we are connected backward in time, through the generations, to our Creator (or, if you insist, to the primal soup), and forward to the future beyond the scope of our own lifespan. It is, to say the least, bigger than two hearts beating as one."
It is a very difficult argument to refute. He first explains that the benefits that homosexuals do not define marriage -- things such as love, tax breaks and other social benefits. Instead, the issue revolves around women's sexuality and procreation. Marriage is the means by which women naturally control those things and it also suggests that gay marriage, in fact, threatens that natural empowerment of women -- that giving rights to other forms of coupling i.e. homosexual, polygamy, etc. -- weakens the pull of marriage and thus a woman's power to control her reproductive destiny.
How Do we Write New Legal Rules for Asymmetrical Warfare?
As the war terrorism moves forward, what we do with "enemy combatants" on US soil will be one of the trickier issues we will have. In today's Chicago Tribune we have a story about whether or not Jose Padilla has any rights:
"Although Padilla was arrested in the U.S., (U.S. Attorney) Clement said he still qualifies for the enemy combatant designation because the war on terrorism is a new kind of borderless conflict.
'Al Qaeda made the United States the battlefield, and there's every indication that Al Qaeda wants to make it the battlefield again,' Clement said.
But Stanford University law professor Jenny Martinez, one of three lawyers arguing Padilla's case, said definition of a battlefield was overly broad.
'The government's position has no limits,' Martinez said. 'The government can pick up any person and, as long as the president turns in a piece of paper, that person has no rights.'
Martinez, an international and constitutional law specialist, said other democracies combating terrorism have crafted legislation defining who can be detained on terrorism charges and guaranteeing those accused the right to counsel and to a judicial review of the charges against them.
Of the three judges, Parker and Judge Rosemary Pooler, both appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton, indicated from their questions and comments that the government had overstepped its authority in detaining Padilla."
Jenny Martinez confronts us with a very interesting question. How does a freedom loving society reconcile the limits of what government can do with an unlimited war? In other words, where does the Constitution fit on the conflict spectrum?
Everything from a school yard brawl to nuclear war fits on a conflict spectrum. In between these extremes fit various crimes, low-intensity conflicts, regional and major wars etc. While the Constitution has fairly clear lines (albeit eroded by activists judges this last 40 years) the lines dividing the conflict spectrum are fuzzy by definition. To address this, the legal community is going to have to figure out how to reconcile these fairly neat lines with the fuzzy lines, by figuring out how the Constitution overlays the spectrum... If this conflicts intensifies within the U.S. borders, this will become the predominant issue facing the courts -- not the interesting outlier it is today.
What's a Near Revolt
Blagojevich Faces Near-revolt reads the headline in the Trib.
Read the article... It's a little on the hyperbole side of things. There's no revolt -- some distrust, but no revolt.
17 November 2003
Good Sense Alert
Over at AtlanticBlog William Sjostrom suggests that the Army's bureaucracy needs to develop some intestinal fortitude:
"Rumsfeld knows there is a war on. It would help if he would remind some parts of the Pentagon who seem to think it is a tea party."
He cites Mona Charen's article comparing Mona Charen with Lt. Col. Allen West (USA). West is under heat to retire after scaring a Iraqi during an interrogation.
Culturally, I wonder if the US Army is up to the task of fighting and asymmtretical war such as the War on Terrorism.