I laugh in your general direction

I thought this might be the dumbest quote I could find regarding the Federal Marriage Amendment Marriage Protection Amendment:

“I don’t believe there’s any issue that’s more important than this one,” said Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican.

More important than terrorism, war, fiscal insanity, the sanctity of the Constitution (hey, wait a minute…), and immigration? Okay. But, as stupid as that quote is, and Louisiana voters should be crying in their grits this morning reading that, unfortunately, one Utah woman made a Herculean attempt to surpass Sen. Vitter. And succeeded:

“If we didn’t believe in miracles, we wouldn’t have spent our vacation money to come here,” said Sandra Rodrigues of Utah, who with her family has been standing outside the Russell Senate Office Building all week, shouting at senators and displaying signs urging “Stop Same Sex Marriage: It Endorses Masturbation.” “If same-sex marriage is endorsed,” she explained, “then you’re going to have children think it’s just another option to have pleasure.”

And I thought there was only one cure for masturbation. A Constitutional amendment will work, too? Who knew?

We can’t be this superficial

Enough with the fake hysteria over 06/06/2006. Nothing is going to happen. Forget that it requires specific manipulation of the date to get to the feared satanic nonsense. Forget that this date occurs every one hundred years. Considering the world hasn’t ended in any of the other occurrences, I’m willing to tell you more than 7 hours in advance that tomorrow, 06/07/06, will arrive.

If we really want to obsess about today’s date, please, for all that is sacred, honor what deserves to be honored, not some quasi-religious garbage.

Reverse engineering will be disastrous

Michael Kinsley is a smart man, which is why it’s so stunning to read drivel about empathy in his recent editorial on healthcare.

What is the most ridiculous thing about the American health care system? Is it that 45 million Americans don’t have health insurance? That is the most embarrassing thing, but it’s not beyond all rational explanation. It’s a failure of empathy. We — the majority of Americans who are lucky enough to be covered — apparently don’t care enough to do something about the minority who aren’t.

As a blanket statement, that’s bad enough. That’s liberal nonsense thrown out to lead to the inevitable conclusion that the government must provide healthcare. And if you disagree, you hate poor people. Or something stupid along that line, which the rest of the editorial virtually assumes without actually saying it.

But why? Only the most cold-hearted individual wants to see people without the means to purchase healthcare live a lower-quality life (or die) because of his situation. It’s reasonable to assume that government might not be the solution, though. Mr. Kinsley seems to understand that with this paragraph:

… There is a real moral dilemma here about what happens after you have defined and achieved the goal of decent care for everybody. In fact, this issue more than anything is what tripped up Hillary Clinton back in the early ’90s. Her health care reform plan purposely made it difficult — not impossible, but difficult — for people to go outside the system to get a higher standard of care. The reason is obvious: If a superior level of care is available, the care being guaranteed to everybody is inferior. In other words, you are rationing — denying people useful, if not vital, health care to save money. Worse, you are letting people buy their way out of the rationing if they can afford it — the way affluent young men were allowed to buy their way out of the Civil War draft.

Pretty much. We need only look at the state of public housing in most communities. This is a public good, supposedly, and the government can do it best, supposedly. So why have so many people chosen to not pursue expansion of public housing to include any and all people? Is it possible that those who can afford to buy their way out of that deal have shown exactly what they want? I see no vote for rationing, other than those votes coming from the policy wonks hell-bent on imposing a centrally-planned, socialist healthcare system. In other words, I can’t comprehend Mr. Kinsley following that paragraph with this one:

At the moment we don’t guarantee anyone any level of health care, so this moral dilemma can be saved for another day. And in the end, the answer will have to be that of course the standard of care the government promises everybody will not be based on the principle of “money is no object” and of course people will be allowed to do better for themselves if they wish. What sense would there be in telling people that they can spend their money on anything they want except their own health?

I don’t recall reading of a national healthcare initiative passing Congress, so I hope it’s too early to be saying “the answer” and “government promises” in the same sentence. And Mr. Kinsley’s right, there is no sense in telling people they can spend their money on anything they want except their own health. Yet, with a presumption of government-provided care, you’re telling me that I have to spend my money, through taxes, on everyone’s health. Smoking bans and trans fat hysteria and soda restrictions are bad enough. The health police will be a nightmare once the public coffers must pay for the consequences of an individual’s decision, for which he will never again be responsible. Bottom line: don’t start with the solution (government) and work back to the problem (non-universal coverage risk-protection). Work with methodology (principles) instead.

But what is most ridiculous [ed. note: isn’t it a failure of empathy?] about the current American health care system is that we have no idea, very often, whether even the most expensive treatments do any good. Business Week had a cover story last month touting what is called “evidence-based” medicine: that is, basing treatments on whether they work. You might say, “As opposed to what?” The article has some tendentious, newsmagazinish statistics about how most medical treatments (two-thirds? three-quarters?) are based on hunch or habit or a doctor’s finances or anything except solid evidence that they actually are good for patients.

Based on the primary pseudo-medical topic I write about, you know where I stand on this. Changing to government-provided healthcare will not change people’s attitude on this. (Disclaimer: children’s rights, and all that) If an individual must pay for what’s done to him, he’s more likely to question the treatment in search of alternatives. And if he doesn’t? It’s his money.

100% of people agree, if you fabricate agreement

The title alone is enough to ignore Sebastian Mallaby’s latest editorial, but a quick dissection of the text may go further at undermining the crazy assumption that taxes are good because they bring in much-needed revenue, no matter how unfair (or harmful) the tax may be. Consider:

It doesn’t matter if you are liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. There is no possible excuse for doing what Congress is poised to do this week: Abolish the estate tax.

The federal government faces a future of expanding deficits. Thanks to the baby bust and medical inflation, spending is projected to rise by nearly 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2030, a growth equivalent to the doubling of today’s Medicare program. What is the dumbest possible response to this? Take a source of revenue and abolish it outright.

What’s the dumbest possible assumption? Accept that spending, and the inevitable increases, are untouchable. Here’s an idea: spending is out-of-control? Stop spending so much. I can’t afford the BMW 645 I want, so I haven’t bought it. The concept isn’t difficult.

And since history is filled with examples of trust fund kids blowing their fortune and permanent elite status, here’s a little bonus fun:

The nation faces the prospect that inequality will damage meritocracy. When the distance between top and bottom widens, it becomes harder to traverse the gap; people of low birth are stuck at the bottom, and human talent is wasted. What is the dumbest possible response to this? Take the tax that limits what the super-rich pass on to their children and get rid of it. Send a message to hereditary elites: Go ahead, entrench yourselves!

Life isn’t fair. Get used to it.

I can’t help myself, so one more:

If the abolitionists succeed, some other tax will eventually be raised to make up for the lost revenue[ed. note: reduce spending?]. So which tax does Congress favor? The income tax, which discourages work? A consumption tax, which hits the poor hardest? The payroll tax, which is both anti-work and anti-poor? Really, which other tax out there is better?

The abolitionists don’t respond to this question because there is no convincing answer. Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman, has written that “we would be hard-pressed to find evidence that, compared with the alternatives, a reasonable estate tax significantly discourages work or innovation or savings.” In other words, killing the estate tax and raising some other tax instead would damage the economy. [ed. note: he’s cheating.] And that’s before you take into account the positive distortions introduced by the estate tax, such as more social mobility and higher charitable giving. Charitable bequests will fall by at least a fifth if the estate tax is repealed permanently.

Positive distortions. Offered with no further comment.

Wedge politics is the best we can do?

Part of me is beginning to root for this travesty:

President Bush will promote a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on Monday, the eve of a scheduled Senate vote on the cause that is dear to his conservative backers.

I haven’t changed my opposition to the proposed amendment. It would still be a stain on the Constitution. It would still require, which it would eventually receive, another amendment to repeal it. The process would be long, tedious, and divisive. It’s the antithesis of the American experiment in limited government.

But it could have positive benefits. In the eye of history, its supporters will be seen as the bigoted, anti-liberty meddlers they are. And the amendment, and its future repeal, would be a lesson for future generations in how to truly preserve the rights of all citizens. Of course, we still haven’t learned from the 18th and 21st Amendments.

Never mind. The proposed amendment must die a public death. Again.

Maybe we’re really Second World

Here’s a news item making waves today:

In its latest report, the WHO said that women who had female genital mutilation were 70 percent more likely to have potentially fatal hemorrhage after childbirth than those who did not undertake this procedure. “We have, for the first time, evidence that deliveries among women who have been subject to female genital mutilation are significantly more likely to be complicated and dangerous,” said Joy Phumaphi, WHO assistant director-general for family.

It’s a sad commentary on the target audience when the WHO has to demonstrate evidence that female genital mutilation is harmful to make its point that it should be stopped. Relying on the obvious logic against the practice as a human rights violation should be enough. Of course, if modern societies can’t comprehend that this next statement should be universal rather than gender-specific, consider me lacking in surprise.

“By medicalising it, we will be endorsing this practice, this violation of a child’s body and a basic human right of an individual and I think that’s the worst thing we can possibly do,” Joy Phumaphi argued. “It is even worse than turning a blind eye, because you are legitimizing violation of a basic human right and violence against an innocent victim.”

Some in modern society will find that the truth can be scary when finally confronted.

Joe Isuzu will present my award

I’m honored to learn that today, June 2nd, Kripsy Kreme is sponsoring Rolling Doughnut Day 2006! It’s amazing to think that a major company like Krispy Kreme would notice the work I’ve been doing here. This wonderful accolade shows the company’s ability to recognize genius. I’m truly flattered. Since I’m so awesome, instead of the cash prize they offered, I’ve asked the company to give a free doughnut to each of my readers today. So, if you go into a Krispy Kreme store today, they’ll give you a free doughnut&#185. Just tell them the I&#178 sent you.

&#185 Krispy Kreme really will give you a free doughnut today.
&#178 Kip from A Stitch in Haste sent me the information. I’d love to claim the accolades I made up, but Kip actually deserves them. If you’re not reading his blog, you’re missing out on the best best blog around. Thanks, Kip.

Does Mike Folmer know Esther Dietz?

Arguing for the alternative to Ms. Noonan’s argument for a third party, Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mike Folmer suggests fixinig the current incarnation of the Republican Party. While I don’t believe for a moment that would have long-lasting changes, as evidenced by the current version of the Republican Party’s rapid veering from its so-called core principles, the idea of reforming from the inside is understandable. If it meant a repudiation of the current (mis-)understanding of conservatism, it might even be admirable. Consider:

My personal experiences working the campaign trail this past spring made it apparent to me that the political upheaval was due to a coalescing of two fundamental perspectives held by the rank-and-file: Government needed to be reformed; and the state Republican Party needed to be reformed, too.

Conservatives had long been chafing at the fact that an ostensibly conservative Legislature had linked arms with Mr. Rendell to raise income taxes, push up state spending to record levels, and expand both corporate- and social-welfare spending without any apparent means of accountability–while a comprehensive property tax reform package continued to stall in the Legislature.

These people at the grassroots no longer viewed the state Legislature as a servant of the people but as an exclusive club for political insiders. They fumed as the legislators voted to increase their own pensions by 50%, in addition to excessive daily allowances just to show up for work, and at the practice of allowing members to take expensive junkets to resort locations.

Mr. Folmer has the story correct. He’s working the campaign trail, he’s talking to people, he’s listening to what they tell him. It’s all good, and could prove to be quite the turnaround, however long or short the improvement might be. And I almost believed it. Unfortunately, with one late paragraph, Mr. Folmer jumped the rail and showed he’s more interested in wielding power than reforming the state government to conservative, limited-government ideals.

It is also my conviction that while the leadership of the Republican Party is still trying to figure out how it will deal with the fallout from May 16, it is imperative that the GOP come together in time for the Nov. 7 election. There are critical races to win–most notably Rick Santorum’s fight to beat back state treasurer Bob Casey Jr. and keep his U.S. Senate seat, and Lynn Swann’s campaign to upend Ed Rendell and become Pennsylvania’s first black governor.

First, a true reformer would highlight why Lynn Swann would be a great governor, as opposed to mentioning that he’d be the state’s first black governor. That said, anyone remotely interested in Republican principles would distance himself from Sen. Santorum, who is anything but a limited-government conservative. An endorsement for Sen. Santorum is an endorsement for anti-Constitutional social regulation. It’s support for reducing eliminating liberty in all areas where liberty doesn’t adhere to narrow, single-definition values. That is not conservatism. That’s statism. That’s anything but a traditional Republican value. Encouraging its continuation reveals that partisanship trumps legitimate reform.

I’ll stick with libertarianism.

Even a small magnitude would be good

I’ve made it a minor hobby to ridicule Peggy Noonan’s partisanship, but I find every reason to praise today’s column, in which she discusses America’s apparent readiness for a viable third political party. In an ideal world, we’d only need one libertarian party, but we don’t live in such a world. As such, spreading power among as many groups as possible seems to be the best alternative. A governing party without a majority in Congress would be wonderful, precisely for the reason Ms. Noonan states today:

Are there some dramatic differences? Yes. But both parties act as if they see them not as important questions (gay marriage, for instance) but as wedge issues. Which is, actually, abusive of people on both sides of the question. If it’s a serious issue, face it. Don’t play with it.

That paragraph isn’t perfect, but I like its conclusion. There are legitimate issues facing our nation. Rather than be mature, responsible citizens, we continue to elect the same hack politicians because they offer us prizes at the end of the tax rainbow. It’s misguided and destructive. I doubt that a viable third party (libertarian, please) would solve that, but I can’t find an overwhelming reason to believe it would be anything but an improvement.