Friday, May 09, 2003

A good reason to support eliminating the tax on dividends, as explained this evening on The Newshour by David Brooks, is that it would help return investment back to where it used to be, all about the dividends, instead of riding stock market prices.

You'd think that AARP would support a measure that would make investing more attractive for retirees, but you'd be wrong, because AARP is an insurance company dressed up as a campaigner for senior citizens. Dividends have traditionally been a source of retirement income, and making them tax free would seem to be even better. But it hasn't been sold that way. It's all been presented as a stimulus measure, to create jobs, and it hasn't gotten much traction.

Byron York updates us on the situation regarding Bush's nominees to Appeals Court judgeships. There is talk about a nuclear option, seeking a parliamentary ruling that the Senate Rule 22, which authorizes filibusters, does not apply to the Executive Calendar, which covers judicial nominations.

I say go for it. There is no reason for the Senate to waste time and hold up its business by feuding over nominees. I would allow the Judiciary Committee to make recommendations, but not to prevent a floor vote. I would not allow filibusters.

It's improper to hold up the courts' work because of politics in the Senate. We've had great judges and really bad judges, but no president except FDR has been able to really mess up the judiciary.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

More proof for my thesis that those who deman tolerance today, won't necessarily grant it to others with whom they disagree.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

The Bill Bennett story reminds me why I'm opposed to decriminalizing so-called "victimless" crimes and going back to prohibition. These behaviors are thought to be victimless because "nobody gets hurt." That's only true if you assume that we don't have any obligations to each other, which seems to be the siren call of libertarianism.

But society is all about obligations. There is a website dedicated to bringing about the extinction of the human race, by urging people not to reproduce. (Go for it, guys!) We're supposed to be productive and support those we bring into the world and those who brought us into the world when they grow too old to support themselves. We're supposed to produce sufficient surplus to pay taxes, and put aside something to sustain us when we can't work anymore. We're supposed to raise future citizens who are inculcated with the same sense of responsibility as we were.

If I knew that we could have legal recreational drugs without having to wonder who on the highways is high, or whether my doctor, surgeon, accountant, pilot is under the influence, I might feel less opposed to them. But I've seen too many disasters of battered women, traffic deaths, etc. There just isn't any way to assure that anything we do can be truly victimless. All we can hope for is that we can make up some of the damage so as to be forgiven our failures. What did we think "no man is an island" was all about"?

I don't really believe that we can ever assume that our acts or failures to act are without an effect on anyone else. When we waste our lives or become dependent on others, or blow $8 million that could have been put to some productive use, I think we hurt ourselves, our families and our society and ultimately mankind. Of course, that principle can't be applied too strictly. We have to forgive and acknowledge that we all have failures. Nevertheless, "a man's reach should exceed his grasp" (Robert Browning). That's what made America great. When we overdose on liberty and forget its corollary, duty, we set our whole society on a downward path.

I've thought for a long time that it is unconstitutional for the Senate to delegate its advice and consent powers to a committee or subcommittee which then refuses to give the nominee a floor vote everybody knows he/she would win. By the same logic it is unconstitutional for the Senate rules to create a supermajority of 60 votes to defeat a filibuster of a nominee. It now appears that some people agree with me.

This piece by Robert Pollock reports on the efforts of Ahmed Chalabi to rebuild (or build) an Iraqi modern economy. Chalabi has been a banker, and his goals seem quite savvy. It's too early to designate a George Washington for Iraq, but Chalabi must surely be in the running.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Hugh Hewitt's program took a dramatic turn this afternoon. It started out as a review of the debate of the Democrat candidates on Saturday, but toward the end of the second hour, a caller named Jacob made a remark about how dim a bulb George W. Bush is. As Hewitt challenged him with the response of the crew of the Lincoln last week, he made a remark about how people in the armed forces are notably non-intellectual. Hewitt dropped everything, and had the guy stay on the air to respond to his listeners who called in to talk to him.

It was galvanizing. Caller after caller came on and listed their academic attainments together with their service in the military. Jacob stood his ground, indicating that he had a degree from Northridge and is a novellist, and maintained that Bush supporters lack critical thinking skills. Of course, pretty much all of his evidence had to do with Bush's awkwardness in speaking off the cuff.

It reminded me of a piece in the Weekly Standard from 2000 which pointed out that Bush's degree in management is a rare thing in a president, whereas writers like Jacob who judge people based on their verbal skills don't seem able to recognize that there is any other kind of intelligence. Kind of odd for people who defend quotas in higher education and criicize the SAT, half of which is based on verbal skills.

It also reminded me of how strange it seemed to me when I perused the list of signatories to the "Not In Our Name" website against Bush last year. An awful lot of them were artists, poets, writers, etc. with a high number who apparently thought it meant something to describe themselves as "citizens of the world," or "member of humanity." I was so impressed. Not one had admitted to being a smug self-righteous twit, as one might have expected from the nature of the list.

One person called in to agree with Jacob who seemed delighted that someone else thought Bush to be a moron. Of course, it didn't matter in the least that there are a large number of military types who are well read, and loaded with critical thinking skills, his critical thinking skills didn't extend to thinking that such a thing might be possible.

Tim Blair has a helpful hint for students doing research papers on the internet.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Dick Gephardt (scroll down) tells about his father being "a proud member of the Teamsters."
But his brother, it seems, remembers their father's relationship with his union a little bit differently. In 1999, Donald L. Gephardt told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that their dad "felt like a victim of the system." He added, "I don't recall him talking much about the union, about how great it was."
Don't worry, Dick. This won't affect my vote one bit.