February 2, 2006

Memo to New House Majority Leader John Boehner

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:02 pm

Congratulations on your victory.

Now that you’ve been elected Majority Leader by your colleagues, please read this post:

This Weekend’s Unanswered Questions (012806):

  • QUESTION 1: Whatever happened to the line-item veto?
  • QUESTION 2: Why aren’t we hearing about repealing the 1974 Budget Act?
  • QUESTION 3: ….. (go there to read the question) despite the fact that he didn’t win, I think it still needs to be pursued.


UPDATE: Wizbang calls this an “upset,” and so do many others in the press and the blogs. I don’t get it. First, I totally expected this based not on ESP (I wish), but on readily available info at The Wall Street Journal and other places that Blunt would not get a majority on the first ballot. Second, I’m personally not upset at all. :-)

UPDATE 2: Americans for Prosperity reacts, in part: “(Boehner) was also one of only eight principled House members to vote against last summer’s pork-filled highway bill, and he’s never stuck a pork project into a spending bill during his 15 years in Congress. That’s what we call leadership. Best of luck to Leader Boehner.”

Nat Hentoff on Why the Effort to Reimpose the Misnamed “Fairness Doctrine” Should Be Opposed

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:28 pm

From Hillsdale College’s January issue of Imprimis, Henthoff reminds us of some important history, which should stop anyone who assumes that politicians instinctively support free speech dead in their tracks:

And as evidence mounted that the Fairness Doctrine lessened, rather than increased, diversity of views, the Supreme Court in 1984, in a case called FCC v. League of Women Voters, concluded that in view of the abounding number of radio and television channels around the country (and, I would add, the growth of one-newspaper towns and cities), the scarcity doctrine (thus the Fairness Doctrine) didn’t hold up. In 1987, the FCC followed the high court and ringingly declared that “the intrusion by government into the content of programming occasioned by the enforcement of the [Fairness Doctrine] unnecessarily restricts the journalistic freedom of broadcasters [and] actually inhibits the presentation of controversial issues of public importance to the detriment of the public and in degradation of the editorial prerogative of broadcast journalists.”

I was by then in radio and television part-time in New York, and I thought at last that this free-speech battle was over. But in that same year, 1987, a bill to revive the Fairness Doctrine passed the House by a 3 to 1 margin and the Senate by nearly 2 to 1. President Reagan, to my great appreciation, though I was not an admirer of his then (I have changed to a considerable extent), vetoed the bill. Mr. Reagan, a former broadcaster (Death Valley Days), called it “antagonistic to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

Make no mistake: Too many politicians would like nothing better than to control the discussion, especially during political campaigns.

Then Hentoff discusses the new threats from those on the left (bolds are mine):

On May 9, 2005, in the magazine In These Times, University of Michigan communications professor Susan Douglas made the case for reviving the Fairness Doctrine — and listen carefully to her language: “Ongoing media consolidation, and the censorship and pro-right blather that go with it, are sustained by the silencing of oppositional voices Americans are no longer required to hear. But who should do the requiring? According to Professor Douglas, the government should, of course. Another question is: Which voices are being silenced, and by whom? The professor neglected to say. Not hers, obviously.

Last year, a book widely praised in certain circles, Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy — at least the title tells you where the authors, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, are coming from — argued:

    It is precisely the proliferation of new media that has fostered a strongly right-wing journalistic presence in talk radio and on cable…. The Federal Communications Commission surely can justify restoring the simple requirement that news include a fair representation of views on controversial subjects and in important electoral races.

There are still some libertarians on the American left who believe that the First Amendment means what it says, but these others who are calling for this revival of government involvement in broadcast content — and this could well extend to the Internet, as it does today in China. Take sides against Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wrote in 1929 in United States v. Schwimmer: if there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.

Those rallying for the return of the Fairness Doctrine believe that politically incorrect speech must be “balanced” by law — which is to say, by government. Thereby they fondly envision the curbing of the speech of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, Laura Ingraham, Bill O’Reilly and others who they say are “eroding” American democracy. And arguing this, it is as if they think that the speech of the authors of Off Center, or of Al Franken, Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, political scientists Barbra Streisand and Whoopi Goldberg, and the bankrollers of MoveOn.Org are not heard enough today!

Obligingly, a Congressman has come forth with a bill to bring back the Fairness Doctrine in order to protect, he says, “diversity of views.” He is Maurice Hinchey of New York, and his bill is called the Media Ownership Reform Act of 2005. In addition to “preventing excessive concentration of ownership of the nation’s media outlets,” it includes the restoration of “fairness in broadcasting” to foster and promote localism, diversity, and competition in the media. His press secretary tells me that the penalties this time could be as before: broadcasters losing their licenses.

What could be wrong with such noble motives as “fairness” and “diversity of views?” But I see, as William O. Douglas did, that the camel is hungrily and happily back inside the tent of free speech.

If you’re a blogger, would you like to be forced to allow any clown who wants it “equal time?”

The Museum of Broadcast Communications web site has written up a thorough history of the Fairness Doctrine. Hopefully it will stay in the museum where it belongs.

Column of the Day: Karlgaard Hits Another One Out of the Park

Filed under: Economy,Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:23 am

I love the Forbes columnist’s optimism (link requires subscription; bolds are mine), and his rebuttals to not only a lot of “conventional wisdom, but also fringe types like the Peak Oilers:

I graduated from college in 1976. That was 30 years ago, the same 30-year gap experienced by Marty McFly in the movie Back To the Future. Let’s fire up Doc Brown’s DeLorean time-traveler and return to 1976.

But would we really want to go? We’d be reminded that the prevailing view of the world in 1976 was:
• The planet was severely overpopulated and would soon run out of natural resources.
• The age of entrepreneurship was dead and was being replaced by the conglomerated efficiencies of large companies.
• Capitalism was morally repugnant because it wasted resources and oppressed the poor.

The zeitgeist of 1976 had taken root in 1968, a year of turmoil and doubt. Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich fueled our doubts with a bestseller called The Population Bomb. Ehrlich predicted catastrophe: Famine would break out, followed by global wars, etc. Implied in Ehrlich’s writing was that humans were consumers, not producers, of resources. If Ehrlich was right–and most of us gullible college students thought he was–then the only moral path available for us was to not procreate.

Suppose you believed Ehrlich. Suppose your 1976 sense of moral certitude overrode your natural instinct to want children. Suppose it wasn’t until the late 1980s that you woke up and realized Ehrlich was a boob, that he had gotten it all wrong. Whoops, better get busy trying to make babies, right? But what if all those years later one’s sperm count or egg motility was no longer up to the task? What if your fertility window had opened and shut while you were under the spell of quacks like Ehrlich?

Well, too bad for you.

….. This column’s chief goal is to supply you with a worldview–a mental operating system–that will be as good 30 years from now as it is today. If this column causes you to see opportunity beyond the defeatist smog, then I’ll have done my job.

Three eternal truths sit at the core of our mental operating system. The first: Natural resources will never run out. Etch this into your brain–man discovers or creates resources faster than he uses them up. Whale blubber started to run out in the early 1800s. The Paul Ehrlichs of the time were in a panic. Then in 1859 Edwin Drake drilled the world’s first oil well in Titusville, Pa.

The second eternal truth: Success is not a zero-sum game, though most academic economists, pundits and politicians act as if it were–maybe because they vie for glory in zero-sum professions. (There can be only 1 U.S. President and 100 senators, for example.) The third eternal truth: The Golden Rule is more than a spiritual truth, it is a business truth. You get ahead in business by serving others. Sure, you can try to cheat or cut corners–and you may succeed. But the odds overwhelmingly favor the company that serves its customers with great products and services at a fair price. This is even truer today, in the age of Internet price transparency and activist consumers.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ Links (020206)

Free Links:

  • NoLuv4Google — Students for a Free Tibet has set up a web site designed to help people who want to wean themselves from Google use do so, and to encourage people to totally avoid using Google on February 14. Though I generally question the effectiveness of boycotts, the one-day-only idea seems feasible, and if adoption is widespread, it WILL get noticed, and perhaps even measured. On an ongoing basis, I think that enough individual users making their own decisions to reduce Google usage can achieve results. People have to decide for themselves whether what Internet Wall of Shame member Google is doing is consistent with their own belief system. Those who don’t think it is and wish to act will also find the NoLuv site helpful. I have blogrolled a couple of alternative search engines on the right, in hopes that they will be useful in at least some areas and put a dent in my own very heavy Google usage.
  • RConversation has another multilink post on Google and Internet censorship, and, more importantly, points to a new Microsoft blogging policy. It attempts to maximize access to Internet content for those using a state-controlled search engine who are located outside that given country, and promises to notify any users when state actions have been taken against their blogs or web sites. If the changes work, they represent marginal improvements that at least beat nothing.
  • Daniel Clay’s last letter to his family — The Marine whose parents were in the State of the Union audience on Tuesday, as all deployed Marines apparently do, wrote a letter to his family to be delivered in case he died. He told his family “Do not cry!” Good thing he didn’t tell me.
  • Everyone, flee to higher groundCCnet’s January 25 report, Item 7 (near the bottom page) chronicles how Nature Magazine handled two different reports on the effect of melting ice caps. One predicts that water levels will rise .05 meters, or 5 centimters (you read that right) by 2100 — about 2 inches. Another predicts a rise of 31 centimters, or about a foot. Which one do you think Nature devoted more attention to? At least they’re not buying into the 16-foot rise argument.
  • Where in the world is the ACLU on this? — The City of Chicago wants roughly 12,000 businesses to install indoor and outdoor camera systems costing $5,000 to $20,000 per installation, and to pay ongoing monitoring fees. Hizzoner Richard M. Daley is serious, and therefore apparently just as serious about causing a citywide recession. And Daley may not be done; after all, London has over 200,000 cameras. I also wonder: If the camera-watchers see anyone talking with an Al Qaeda operative, will they allowed to say anything?
  • United exits bankruptcyafter 1,150 days. With the corporation-related bankruptcy law changes that kicked in last October, we may never see a company this size successfully exit again. The new law has a heavy slant towards liquidation if the creditors hold out for it. This travel-industry veteran thinks United will fail again within a few years. It’s hard to disagree; the airline’s relationship with its employees is awful, which is ironic given how long the company was employee-owned.
  • Worst Headline of Yesterday: “Identity Theft Under Control, Says Report” — “Only” 8.9 million cases last year (down from 10.1 million in 2003), with $56.2 billion in identity-fraud losses (up from $53.2 billion in 2003). Some “control.” The BBB press release for the report has even more; the data is good, but the conclusions are shaky. For example, the BBB also tries to claim that online fraud is not a big problem. That specious argument was disposed of last year. If the thief obtains the needed personal information “offline,” as occurs over 90% of the time, and then goes online to open accounts or to shop, it’s still considered an “offline” ID theft. Baloney: The ease of carrying out transactions online once info is stolen is the problem. The BBB-Javelin press release goes way over the top: “Growth of Identity Fraud Is Contained and Consumers Have More Control Than They Think.” Uh-huh.
  • “Daddy, what’s a telegram?” — A message sent by telegraph, and an item was quietly sent off to the ash heap of communications history last Friday (HT Outside the Beltway). They should have auctioned off the right to the be last person to send one.

Positivity: Unborn Child with In-Utero Stent Is Born, and Doing Well

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:02 am

What an amazing medical breakthrough — Thanks to a never-done operation, Grace Vanderwerken is alive: