All Election, All Day – Part I

Earlier in this election season, I expressed reservations that Democrats would take control from the Republicans. The extensive reach for control over individual lives, as well as an obscene disregard for the Constitution, should be enough, but voters don’t appear swayed by that. I’m not surprised. Even when pulling the (R) or (D) lever isn’t a requirement in a voter’s mind, the pull of the incumbent is strong.

Yesterday morning, Howard Stern discussed how he plans to vote today. He initially suggested that he intends to vote a straight Democratic ticket because of Iraq and other Republican disasters. After only a moment, he caught himself and suggested that he might vote for a Republican. He reasoned that he shouldn’t punish his Republican representative if he’s done a good job. Unfortunately, he gave no objective criteria for defining “good job”. I suspect he couldn’t. And I suspect most voters couldn’t name any for their representatives, either. Yet, they possess an attachment to their incumbent.

The problem with that is obvious. If enough voters hold onto a subjective sense that Congress is corrupt but their representative is good, the entrenchment continues. Essentially, voters are stupid. Consider this essay from Cato Unbound (source):

The prevailing view even among the well-educated is that it is unseemly to question the competence of the average voter. Many elites go further by praising the insight of the average voter, no matter how silly his views seem.

As long as elites persist in unmerited deference to and flattery of the majority, containing the dangers of voter irrationality will be very hard. Someone has to tell the emperor when he is naked. He may not listen, but if no one speaks up, he will almost surely continue embarrassing himself and traumatizing spectators.

Again, voters are stupid. But I don’t say that in a judgmental manner aimed at the lesser informed, inferior voters who don’t think like I do. I’m a stupid voter. I’ve made mistakes in casting my vote before and I know I will again. But I will strive to make better, if not fewer, mistakes.

For example, last year I voted for Democrat Tim Kaine for governor of Virginia. As I blogged at the time, I ultimately based my decision on last year’s ramblings about same-sex marriage¹. Republican Jerry Kilgore was for an amendment. Gov. Kaine should’ve been against it. I knew he opposed same-sex marriage, but opposition and an amendment aren’t the same, regardless of how wrong each stance is. I expected him to respect Virginia’s Constitution. When he had the chance to do so after the General Assembly passed the amendment, he didn’t. He accepted a populist appeal to letting the majority decide which rights people may have, rather than acknowledging that our Constitution protects rights, not grants them. Gov. Kaine is a politician where I’d hoped for a statesman. I’m stupid for expecting better.

Going into today’s election, I’m still not sold on a mass change in voter opinion. I still think voters are more interested in emotional reasons for voting than evidence-based reasons². With gerrymandered districts to protect them, I expect Republicans to survive. I hope to be proven wrong, but I’m not basing any level of happiness on it.

¹ Contrary to this laughable essay about Sen. Rick Santorum’s alleged appeal to libertarians, basing my decision on same-sex marriage does not change me from a libertarian voter to a “single-issue gay-rights voter.” A politician’s stance on the same-sex marriage issue has as much to do with principles of government as his stance on any other issue. But I accept that if a politician can’t get this fundamental issue correct, and is willing to amend a Constitution with bigotry to get his way, that’s enough. So I am a single-issue voter. My issue is the sanctity of Constitutional protections of liberty.

² I’m pretty sure this entry ruins any chance I may have had at a political career.

My 1,000th Blog Entry

Former Representative Dick Armey responds to Dr. James Dobson’s charges I wrote about earlier this week.

When you boil it down, this debate centers on the role of two critical ideas: freedom and righteousness. In our private lives, living righteously is paramount. However, in our public lives — in our relationship with policymakers and our government — we should resist the belief that the power of government should be used to force righteous behavior in others. That’s the temptation facing religious conservatives.

Indeed, such efforts to impose righteousness are doomed to fail — society cannot truly become righteous simply because the government compels “righteous” behavior. God gave us free will, and true righteousness can only be found through a free exercise of personal choice. Although Dobson may not realize it, government-mandated righteousness is a pathway to tyranny.

That’s spot-on, the perfect take-down of the idiocy put forth by Dobson.

However, and this is key given how Mr. Armey has tried to reposition himself as a conservative with a libertarian streak, I’m not sold on Mr. Armey’s transformation. Two paragraphs from his rebuttal are cringe-worthy in the context of Mr. Armey’s plea for freedom and limited government.

The very real tragedy of the past 60 years is the ongoing expansion and intrusion of the federal government into the traditionally private sphere of American life. Activist judges are clearly responsible for much of the damage, but just as corrosive is the expansion of the federal bureaucracy into education, welfare, and health care and retirement. The result is that private, social decisions once left to individuals and communities are now under the control of Washington powerbrokers. Our cultural debate has become politicized.

Indeed, pandering and posturing on gay marriage is an insult to most voters. I’m the first person to argue that marriage is between a man and a woman. But here, Jim Dobson himself is prone to hyperbole, having claimed in one campaign speech that homosexuals and gay marriage “will destroy the earth.” We should leave such rhetoric to Al Gore, where it is better suited.

For someone painting himself as a statesman instead of a former politician, Mr. Armey hits talking points far too well. “Activist judges” are not clearly responsible for anything, other than correcting legislative failures. And if one is truly freedom-oriented, with limited government above imposed righteousness, it’s irrelevant that Mr. Armey believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. Religious marriage? No problem. Civil marriage, where religion should not be imposed as Mr. Armey argues? Not so much.

Skewer conservatives for every meddling, big government policy now prancing around as conservative policy. But there can be no exceptions. If he’s going to pull punches on a few sacred cows he happens to believe based on his religion and not his principles, Mr. Armey should get out of the way and let someone else do the necessary job. I nominate George Will.

Asleep at the wheel

Is this a sign of an exit strategy or a desire to continue avoiding accountability?

Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces.

And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen’s supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

The order comes in the form of an obscure provision that terminates his federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007. The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation.

I don’t have the answer, although this administration and Congress have convinced me that cynicism is probably the best first response. So, if I had to guess between the two, I’d say it’s the latter, inexcusable explanation.

That’s not what got me fired up, though. The timing of this is a coincidental indication for why we need change. Lawmakers presumably voted for the bill but had no idea that a “yea” vote meant ending this oversight of reconstruction in Iraq. I’m offended by much of what this Congress has passed knowingly, but what has it passed without knowing it? I’m not foolish enough to think we can enforce a requirement that lawmakers read every piece of legislation before voting on it. (Congressional book reports?) But we must hold them accountable when they don’t.

Our strategy Tuesday should not be to vote out the Republicans. We should vote them all out, Republicans and Democrats alike. There are a few exceptions, perhaps, but the damage of throwing out a few good ones seems minimal given the damage caused by the rest.

The Ethics of Vanity, Part II

This should raise ethical questions, but instead, it raises questions of market valuation:

Sadly, my hairline is receding, so my interest was easily piqued when I came across Intercytex (LSE: ICX), a small UK biotech which is developing a promising treatment for hair loss.

At 88p, Intercytex is valued at £49m, and I don’t think you can justify that valuation on hair loss alone. However, the company is also developing three skin treatments. All of them are based on cells taken from a baby’s foreskin. Intercytex uses about one foreskin a year and replicates cells from that original piece of skin.

The most advanced skin product is ICX-PRO which is for the treatment of chronic “hard to heal” wounds. PRO is a matrix containing cells which promote wound healing. It’s easier to use than current treatments as well as being cheaper and faster to manufacture.

The story isn’t about the treatment itself, or the science behind it, so there’s little information to allow for proper judgment. Similar to my earlier statement, the now foreskin-free boy is unlikely to receive compensation for his contribution lost foreskin. Yet, there is a potential commercial product built around its removal. Even if he did receive compensation, or at least his foreskin needed to be removed (unlikely), that does not sweep aside the ethical reality. Only the boy can make the decision of foreskin versus contributing to science and industry, even if profit is involved for himself.

The utilitarian argument surrounding how many people he might help is irrelevant, but Western culture doesn’t care about irrelevancy. But what does the company squeeze into its utilitarian worldview? Of the two products the article does not mention, ICX-SKN and ICX-RHY, ICX-RHY is for facial rejuvenation. Consider:

ICX-RHY is a novel facial rejuvenation product designed to enhance the skin’s collagen support matrix, thus enabling the appearance of facial wrinkles and folds to be improved. It aims to provide a more youthful appearance, helping to combat the cosmetic effects of aging.

ICX-RHY comprises allogeneic, collagen-secreting human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs) presented in a sterile suspension. It is injected intradermally into the affected area using local anaesthesia. A straightforward and minimally invasive procedure – each injection will deliver a minute volume of ICX-RHY. The benefit is expected to become apparent once injected HDFs have begun to lay down new collagen within the dermis. This effect is expected to be sustained, providing long-term enhancement of the facial appearance. It is anticipated that repeat administrations will be given as required.

I’m well-read in the offensive reasons people circumcise their children, but I’m perpetually stunned by the offensive reasons people will use the suffering of another to help themselves. It’s okay for a child to lose his foreskin so that older, vain people can look a little younger? It’s okay to inject a product derived from the healthy-but-amputated anatomy of an infant? And the selling point is that the facial injection is minimally invasive? I hope to always be stunned by such asinine disregard for logic.

Not surprising is this: If you search for the word foreskin on the Intercytex website, your result will tell you that there are no results. I wonder why.

I lost my job today

Not really, but if I had, I wouldn’t want these people looking out for me:

At Wal-Mart these days, snowy weather is no longer an excuse for lateness. It had better be a natural disaster like a hurricane or blizzard. And being 10 minutes or more tardy for work three times will earn you a demerit. Too many of those could get you fired.

“After a year of adopting antifamily policy after antifamily policy, Wal-Mart adds further insult to injury by adopting a new restrictive attendance policy that treats hard-working associates like children while penalizing them if, God forbid, they face a child or friend with a medical emergency,” said Chris Kofinis, a spokesman at

The group is set to hold its first-ever national conference call with Wal-Mart employees and civil rights leaders Thursday to discuss the latest move as well as other recent labor changes.

Civil rights leaders? What am I missing? But is Wal-Mart treating employees like children any more than labor unions treat employees like children? Under labor union thinking, employees are not capable of negotiating their own wages. Employees are not capable of resisting so-called oppressive rules. Employees are not capable of providing for their own healthcare needs. Employees are not capable of providing for their own retirement. Just like government, labor unions are no more interested in the rights (used loosely here) of workers than the lack of care they allege Wal-Mart fosters. This is little more than a ploy to be the employment central planner they believe Wal-Mart is.

But is Wal-Mart in complete control?

Mike Turner, who resigned three weeks ago as assistant manager of a Wal-Mart store in Crosby, Tex., said he was briefed about the changes by his bosses earlier this fall. He said that under the old policy, managers would approve excuses on a case-by-case basis, but the 800 number eliminates such “human interaction.”

“I believe in being fair,” he said, noting he personally approved plenty of situations that made a worker late like flooding or a car breaking down. “What can you tell a good associate that you are going to discipline because of a system that goes against human interaction?” he asked.

It’s easy enough to focus on “a system that goes against human interaction.” Instead, focus on “resigned three weeks ago.” That’s the true right of the worker. If something is unfair – whether wages, benefits, or leave policy – employment is not slavery. But it is up to the employee to demand and earn what she wants as it is for the employer to provide what’s fair demanded by the market. It only takes one party to institute a bad policy, but it takes two to perpetuate it.

Focus on the Family Misdirection

James Dobson has an impenetrable defense against recent criticisms by former Representative Dick Armey. I haven’t followed the battle closely, other than to read a few statements by Mr. Armey, so I’m not informed enough to challenge any of the direct criticisms. I suspect I could probably flesh out a rough response and be close. Happily, though, Dobson’s response doesn’t require any such knowledge. Who isn’t persuaded by this?

Armey has also implied that I am among those who favor “big government,” which is equally absurd. Anyone who knows anything about me or the organization I head, Focus on the Family, is aware that we support limited federal government consistent with the intent of the Founding Fathers.

The onus is on Armey to find a single spoken or written word that will document his claim that I am among the tax-and-spend liberals, but none exists. He can search, but he will find none. To the contrary, I served in 1986 as co-chairman of President Ronald Reagan’s Committee for Tax Reform, calling for serious reductions in federal taxation.

I hope no one falls for this, although I know many will. Dobson is clearly bending the definition of “big government” to fit his needs. Perhaps he is against tax-and-spend policies. It doesn’t matter. Anyone with a pulse understands that Mr. Armey used “big government” to imply anyone who supports unnecessary, and often times unconstitutional, intrusion into the daily lives of Americans. Sometimes that involves economic policies, but it is a lie to pretend that a push for government intrusion into social life is somehow support for limited federal government consistent with the intent of the Founding Fathers.

More fun with language:

Armey has also claimed that I opposed a trade bill that would have granted Most Favored Nation status for China, stating that I was motivated, “not by a moral compass but by the desire to increase my ‘membership and revenue.'”

What an insult! I have never taken a dime of salary from Focus on the Family in 29 years, and the organization itself has never compromised its values to enhance contributions. As for my opposition to this bill, China is a totalitarian country which was (and still is) restricting religious freedom and imprisoning many of its people who are simply practicing their faith. I had seen actual videos of prisoners being executed and then gruesomely dismembered.

Surely Dobson understands that the revenue of his organization and his own personal income are distinct items, and the Mr. Armey specifically referred to the former. This is important, as Dobson no doubt understands, because he could use increased revenue to throw his organization behind his definitely-limited-and-not-big government ideals to lobby for political action. This is a simple concept that Dobson surely understands. How conservatives respond to such ridiculous statements will be instructive.

Why not give them the company?

More signs of dinosaurs protecting their territory using the power of government.

A music industry group is asking XM Satellite Holdings Inc. and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. to pay at least 10 percent of their revenues for the right to play songs over their networks.

Unlike land-based radio stations, which pay royalties only to songwriters and music publishers, federal law requires satellite radio, digital cable and Internet companies that broadcast music to pay the artists and record companies.

The two subscription satellite radio companies have been paying about 6.5 to 7 percent, analysts estimate, although the figures are not publicly disclosed. That agreement expires at the end of this year, and the Copyright Royalty Board, an arm of the Library of Congress, will determine the rates the companies pay for the next six years.

Why is there a federal law for satellite radio, digital cable, and Internet companies? Maybe there’s a valid reason for such a difference, but I can’t think of one that appeals to common sense. And why are rates decided by the government, rather than negotiated in the marketplace? It would make more sense to find the true market value of those rights than to have the government decide what they should be. Letting the market decide would allow companies to create new distribution and pricing models that might prove more beneficial to the music industry.

Besides could the market work faster than this?

The Copyright Royalty Board will hold hearings before it decides on new rates, a process that many say could take 18 months. Until then, XM and Sirius will continue to pay the current rates. If an increase is approved, they will be required to pay the difference retroactively.

Without regulation forcing capitalism out of the equation, no such structure would survive the pressures of competition.

Some things are worth paying for

I rarely post items Instapundit-style, with a link and a Heh. Such aggregation of links can be useful, but my interest drifts quickly because the information is out there for me to find almost as quickly. Instead, I want insight or commentary. I like for people to offer me a perspective to ponder, which is another reason I like reading things I disagree with. But this post at Cato @ Liberty is worth mentioning, even though I can only add my own Read the whole thing.

The Fraser Institute of Vancouver, B.C., has released its 16th annual “Waiting Your Turn” report on waiting times for health care in Canada’s state-run Medicare system. The average wait for surgical and therapeutic services increased slightly over the 2005 average to less than one day shy of their all-time high of 17.9 weeks in 2004. Throwing more money at the system doesn’t seem to make a difference; the Frazer Institute has documented that waiting times often increase with increased spending on Canada’s Medicare program.

National healthcare or insurance is not the answer, no matter how many pleas we hear about the expense of our system or how many people don’t have adequate health insurance. The Cato post doesn’t offer a solution, but it demonstrates why our problem is a better problem than countries now dealing with the drawbacks of socialized medicine.