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July 20, 2006 9:49AM

If We Bomb Them, They’ll Like Us?

One hesitates to make it all Bill Kristol, all the time around here, but if he keeps offering up fodder of this quality, our hand is going to be forced.

Click here to watch Kristol defend his idea to start a war with Iran by deploying the logic that

the Iranian people dislike their regime. I think they would be — the right use of targeted military force — but especially if political pressure before we use military force — could cause them to reconsider whether they really want to have this regime in power. There are even moderates — they are not wonderful people — but people in the government itself who are probably nervous about Ahmadinejad’s recklessness.

Right, so once the bombs start dropping on Iran's nuclear facilities — some of which are buried deep beneath civilian population centers — the people of Iran will — under bombardment — overthrow the regime for us!

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July 20, 2006 9:43AM

Reality Sets In on Capitol Hill … Finally

A number of Republicans on Capitol Hill have come forward in recent days with a new "spin" on events in Iraq, reports the Washington Post:

Faced with almost daily reports of sectarian carnage in Iraq, congressional Republicans are shifting their message on the war from speaking optimistically of progress to acknowledging the difficulty of the mission and pointing up mistakes in planning and execution.

Rep. Christopher Shays (Conn.) is using his House Government Reform subcommittee on national security to vent criticism of the White House's war strategy and new estimates of the monetary cost of the war. Rep. Gil Gutknecht (Minn.), once a strong supporter of the war, returned from Iraq this week declaring that conditions in Baghdad were far worse "than we'd been led to believe" and urging that troop withdrawals begin immediately.

The Post's Jonathan Weisman and Anushka Asthana write, "Republican lawmakers acknowledge that it is no longer tenable to say the news media are ignoring the good news in Iraq and painting an unfair picture of the war."

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July 20, 2006 9:18AM

Healthy Interstate Commerce

The judge who threw out Maryland’s Wal‐​Mart law (which would have required large employers to dedicate at least 8 percent of its Maryland employee compensation to health care benefits) apparently did so on interstate commerce grounds:

In yesterday’s decision, Judge J. Frederick Motz of Federal District Court ruled that the Maryland law, which was overwhelmingly passed by the Democrat‐​controlled state legislature in January, was pre‐​empted by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or Erisa.


The act sets out a national standard for company benefit plans, replacing what would otherwise be a patchwork of state regulations.


The law “violates Erisa’s fundamental purpose of permitting multistate employers to maintain nationwide health and welfare plans, providing uniform nationwide benefits and permitting uniform national administration,” he wrote in the decision.

Maybe that same judge should throw out state health insurance mandates. They have the effect of making it impossible for private health insurance companies to engage in interstate commerce. Once upon a time, the right to engage in interstate commerce free of state regulation was something in the Constitution — it did not merely depend on Erisa.

July 20, 2006 9:11AM

Wal‐​Mart Wins

Yesterday, a federal district court threw out a Maryland law requiring Wal‐​Mart to dedicate at least 8 percent of its employee compensation in that state to health care for its Maryland workers. The law was backed chiefly by the AFL-CIO, which has been attempting to get similar laws passed in 33 other states. Those efforts are now likely dead.


This will, no doubt, come as a disappointment to the National Education Association (NEA), which has had an anti‐​Wal‐​Mart campaign since last summer. “Huh,” you say? “What does Wal‐​Mart have to do with public education?” Well, all those NEA officials have to occupy themselves somehow during slow nights at the casino, or while riding around Hawaii in limousines.

July 19, 2006 5:48PM

No Consensus

The Wall Street Journal reports that “as gas prices again approach $3 a gallon, consumers are buying new vehicles that are faster and heavier than ever,” much to the annoyance of the EPA. Sometimes, no matter how much we hector and even tax and regulate them, the masses just persist in doing what they want to do in defiance of elite opinion. The story reminded me of several other stories that I wrote up recently at the Guardian blog:

A weekend article in the FT comes with this teaser: “A generation ago, Shin Dong‐​jin was trying to stop South Korean women from having babies. Now his planned parenthood foundation has the opposite problem–there aren’t enough babies being born. He must persuade the country to go forth and multiply.”


Apparently Shin Dong‐​jin is just the only person in South Korea who knows, at any given time, how many children people should have. But people make their own decisions.


The FT piece reminded me of some other recent articles about how stubborn people just won’t do what the planners want. A front‐​page headline in the Washington Post read: “Despite planners’ visions, outer suburbs lead in new hiring.” I was particularly struck by the lead:

As a consensus builds that the Washington region needs to concentrate job growth, there are signs that the exact opposite is happening.

Over the past five years, the number of new jobs in the region’s outer suburbs exceeded those created in the District and inner suburbs such as Fairfax and Montgomery counties … contradicting planners’ “smart growth” visions of communities where people live, work and play without having to drive long distances.

Maybe if tens — hundreds — of thousands of people aren’t abiding by the “consensus,” there is no consensus: there is just a bunch of government‐​funded planners attending conferences and deciding where people ought to live. It’s like, “Our community doesn’t want Wal‐​Mart.” Hey, if the community really doesn’t Wal‐​Mart, then a Wal‐​Mart store will fail. What that sentence means is: “Some organised interests in our community don’t want Wal‐​Mart here because we know our neighbours will shop there (and so will we).”

Similarly, another Post story reported that the Ford motor company has dropped a pledge to build 250,000 gas‐​electric hybrid cars per year by the end of the decade. Environmentalists accused the company of backpedalling: it seems not many people want to buy hybrid cars — even though the planners want them to.


Again and again, individuals insist on making their own decisions rather than conforming to planners’ visions and purported consensuses.

July 19, 2006 5:41PM

Ivory Tower Blueprint, Take Two

On Monday, the U.S. Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education released the second draft of what will ultimately become a final report, most likely sometime in September. Unfortunately, all the authors seemed to do between draft one and draft two is tone down some of their criticisms of colleges and universities—apparently, ivory tower denizens are a sensitive lot—while keeping in most of their bigger‐​government proposals, such as creating a “national strategy” for higher education and, of course, spending a lot more taxpayer cash.


Without question, there are going to have to be major changes between draft two and draft three to make the commission’s final report even the least bit palatable. Unfortunately, based on what we’ve seen so far, the best we can probably hope for is the same rat poison, with just a little bit more sugar sprinkled on top.

July 19, 2006 4:53PM

More on Military Tribunals and the Hamdan Ruling

For those interested in the Hamdan ruling and its impact on the law, check out my online debate (pdf) with John Baker, who teaches law at Louisiana State University. The Federalist Society just posted this debate on its website and it is framed in its popular “Five Questions” format, which means I throw five questions at Prof. Baker and vice versa. We then make claims and counterclaims about whether the question is actually relevant. True, this exchange does get pretty legalistic, but that sometimes happens when you’re asked legal questions about judicial rulings.