Joe’s Reading Log

February 1, 2006

Making a Boring Speech Less Boring

Filed under: National Politics — Joe Martin @ 7:07 pm

While I’m on the subject of the State of the Union, S. T. Karnick had some ideas for making the speech more entertaining:

Another nice effect, and one which would emphasize the President’s role
as both leader and team player, would be for him to have one of those
big, clear plastic boards behind him, on which he could tape photos and
write with a dry-erase marker, like a police captain talking to his
team as they chase down a serial killer. Viewers would be fascinated as
they watched the board fill up with words and pictures, and there would
be great suspense as we wondered whether that snapshot on the upper
right which is hanging precariously and even fluttering in the breeze
from the air conditioning was going to fall down, and whether the
President would leave up the phrase about health care expenditures or
erase it in order to write something about China. Now that’s theater!

Clapping Supremely

Filed under: National Politics — Joe Martin @ 7:05 pm

Four justices attended the State of the Union address last night: Justices Roberts, Thomas, Alito, and Breyer. It is an interesting thing to be a Supreme Court justice, the world’s most non-political job, at a State of the Union, one of the world’s most political events. Dana Milbank reports on when the Justices chose to Clap On or Clap Off:

At times, Alito followed the lead of the other three justices who
sat with him in the front row. When Bush said “We love our freedom, and
we will fight to keep it,” Thomas looked at Roberts, who looked at
Breyer, who gave an approving shrug; all four gentlemen stood and gave
unanimous applause.

At other times, Alito showed independence
from his senior colleagues. When Bush delivered the stock line “The
state of our union is strong,” Alito dissented while the other three
robed justices in the front row applauded. When Bush declared that
“liberty is the right and hope of all humanity,” Alito was the only
member of the judicial quartet to provide his concurring applause.

January 31, 2006

Healthcare: No Quick Fix

Filed under: Economics, National Politics — Joe Martin @ 1:24 pm

The problem with easy solutions is that they never are. Healthcare is a problem that has no easy solutions, despite what many politicians on both sides of the aisle will tell you. Take a look at The Fix-It Myth:

Here’s the paradox: A health care system that satisfies most of us
as individuals may hurt us as a society. Let me offer myself as an
example. All my doctors are in small practices. I like it that way. It
seems to make for closer personal connections. But I’m always stunned
by how many people they employ for nonmedical chores — appointments,
recordkeeping, insurance collections. A bigger practice, though more
impersonal, might be more efficient. Because insurance covers most of
my medical bills, though, I don’t have any stake in switching.

On
a grander scale, that’s our predicament. Americans generally want their
health care system to do three things: (1) provide needed care to all
people, regardless of income; (2) maintain our freedom to pick doctors
and their freedom to recommend the best care for us; and (3) control
costs. The trouble is that these laudable goals aren’t compatible. We
can have any two of them, but not all three. Everyone can get care with
complete choice — but costs will explode, because patients and doctors
have no reason to control them. We can control costs but only by
denying care or limiting choices.

Practicing Fiscal Conservatism

Filed under: National Politics — Joe Martin @ 1:18 pm

Growing up, I was upset about Congress’s spending. I was convinced that if we only had a Republican President and a Republican Congress we could really cut the fat out of the Federal budget. Well, not so much.

Pork Barrel Spending

January 26, 2006

How To Squash Dissent in Three Easy Steps

Filed under: Government, National Politics — Joe Martin @ 8:39 pm
  1. Convince people that political campaigns are hopeless corrupt
  2. Pass a “Campaign Finance Reform Act”
  3. Use the new law to stomp on anyone who threatens you

It’s not just provacative, it’s what really happened. Read the true story behind the McCain-Feingold Bipartisian Campaign Finance Reform Act.

January 24, 2006

Importing Prosperity

Filed under: Immigration, Prosperity — Joe Martin @ 2:42 pm

It turns out that illegal immigration is good for North Carolina. Radley Balko links to a report showing that North Carolina’s economy grew by $9.2 billion dollars as a result of Hispanics. The cost to the state as a result of immigration: only $61 million. I’d say we should be encouraging immigration, not discouraging it.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Filed under: Economics, Government, National Politics — Joe Martin @ 2:28 pm

Patrick provides a grim outlook on the future in Triumph of the Redistributionist Left.

Discretionary spending is dwarfed by mandatory spending – spending that cannot be changed without changing the laws. Shifting demographics combined with an inability to change those laws virtually ensures that, through programs such as Social Security and Medicare, America’s workers will be forced to redistribute a larger and larger portion of their income to other Americans in the coming decades.

Certain trends have been favoring the left for the past several decades. In the early 1960s, transfer payments (entitlements and welfare) constituted less than a third of the federal government’s budget. Now they constitute almost 60 percent of the budget, or about $1.4 trillion per year. Measured according to this, the US government’s main function now is redistribution: taking money from one segment of the population and giving it to another segment. In a few decades, transfer payments are expected to make up more than 75 percent of federal government spending.

Currently the federal government consumes about 20 percent of the GDP, which is another way of saying that about 20 percent of Americans’ income, on average, is paid in taxes to the federal government. According to the Government Accountability Office, that is on course to rise to 30 percent by 2040.

By 2040, 30 percent of the national income will be confiscated by the Federal government. 70 percent of that massive amount will then be given to whomever the government feels is most needy — or has the most votes. It’s not a pretty future for my future children.

January 23, 2006

Spying or Media Oversight?

Filed under: National Politics — Joe Martin @ 5:16 pm

Austin Bay (one of the best mil-bloggers there is) provides some perspective on the New York Times’ story revealing the NSA wiretap program. It’s tempting to believe that the program is a danger to civil liberties and that the Times is performing a public service by revealing the existence of the program. However, historical perspective can often provide a second angle to the story. So it is with Austin Bay’s recent post. He recounts an experience he had while attending Columbia’s School of Journalism in 1980:

But back to the wartime scenario. Dan Junior jumped it. He was
publishing tomorrow. The people needed the truth. The three naysayers?
We were lackeys, pro-government clowns, militarists. But we naysayers
got our chance. The interesting reporter from Connecticutt (he happened
to be black) said he wouldn’t run the story because he didn’t know the
story’s full implications. (Yes indeed– not only was he ethical and
judicious, he was highly intuitive.)

Mr Isaacs had been
watching my eyes and I think he knew that his “hypotethical? had
historical roots. “Mr. Bay, why would you not run it??

My
response: “Because I’m not going to spy for Nazi Germany and Imperial
Japan. Your story is the atomic bomb project, and running the story
blows it.?

Read the whole thing, it’s worth it.

January 20, 2006

Handling Iran

Filed under: Foreign Policy — Joe Martin @ 9:10 pm

It won’t be long before Iran has nuclear weapons. Handling a nuclear Iran is a big, complex question. The bloggers at Winds of Change are not afraid of tackling big, complex questions. Unfortunately for us, their answers are not very optimistic or encouraging. I’d highly advise reading The Case for Invading Iran and Our Darkening Sky: Iran and the War.

This isn’t an issue that will go away any time soon. Sticking our collective heads in the sand would be the worst possible option at this point.

UPDATE: The Armed Liberal provided a third perspective at Winds of Change entitled “Just A Second — It’s Not That Dark Yet”. It’s another worthy read.

Slavery Is Prosperity

Filed under: Madison Politics, Nanny State — Joe Martin @ 6:41 pm

The Capital Times has a rather sad article this morning about the effects of Madison’s smoking ban on the owners of local bars and taverns. It’s not good. Many owners are seeing sales that are more than $70,000 lower than last year. Staff have been laid off and one owner lamented: “Basically, I’m back to where I was seven years ago when I bought the place.”

Most of the bar and tavern business is migrating to nearby Fitchburg and Monona. In a telling turn of events, bar owners are considering lobbying for a state-wide smoking ban. The Madison ban appears to be here to stay. The only way to save their business would be to stop their customers from going anywhere else to smoke. When a man’s profitability and livelihood depend on restricting another man’s decisions something has gone horribly wrong. That something is the damnable superiority and moral preening that many Madisonians overflow with. (And yes, “damnable” is perfectly acceptible in this context.)

Repealing the smoking ban would be the right thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, I like a smoke-free atmosphere as much as any of Madison’s moral crusaders. But I hardly think my desire to avoid cigarette smoke justifies putting multiple businesses into bankruptcy and costing many employees their jobs. I abhor anyone who has the smug selfishness to think that their preferences matter more than someone else’s job.

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