Sunday, January 31, 2010

Citizen United vs. F. E. C.

Imagine someone told you that the government banned a movie during a presidential campaign because this movie talked about that candidate in a bad light. Imagine that the government decided it had the power to prevent a book from being published if it was a 500 page work of fiction and the last sentence said, "Vote for Joe Blow for President". Would you think that was acceptable? Or would you argue that both the movie and the book should be protected under the First Amendment?

Despite what you may have read or heard in the media, this was the heart of the case Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission. Citizens United is a conservative charity that had made a film called "Hillary: the Movie". Here is how the website for the movie describes it:

Hillary The Movie is complete! The movie you’ve been waiting for is here and exploding onto the scene! With nearly 40 in-depth interviews with experts, opinion makers, and many of the people who personally locked horns with the Clintons, this is the film you need!

The cast to end all casts includes: Dick Morris, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, Jeff Gerth, Buzz Patterson, Michael Barone, Billy Dale, Cyrus Nowrasteh, Tony Blankley, Dick Armey, Bay Buchanan, Joe Connor, Mark Levin, Frank Gaffney, Peter Paul, Gary Aldrich, Dan Burton, John Mica, Michael Medved, Kathleen Willey, Kate O’Beirne, Larry Kudlow and more!

If you want to hear about the Clinton scandals of the past and present, you have it here!

Hillary The Movie is the first and last word in what the Clintons want America to forget!

Obviously, this movie was not going to be flattering to Mrs. Clinton. Citizens United wanted to air commercials promoting the movie before the Democratic Primaries. However, under McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, because the group was promoting this film 30 days prior to a primary it was illegal. In other words, the government had the power to regulate what commercials were being aired prior to an election.

Citizens United fought this in court. As time and court hearings came and went, they picked up an unusual group of supporters. You would probably not be surprised to find that Citizens Untied is a conservative non-profit group, or that both the Heritage Foundation and the CATO Institute were supporting Citizens United in their fight. After all, conservatives stick together right? What may surprise you is that groups such as the ACLU, AFL-CIO, and the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press were also supporting Citizens United. The President's temper-tantrum during the State of the Union last week didn't make it sound like there was bipartisan support for this case, but there was.

Bradley Smith points out that, "The Court held that 2 U.S.C. Section 441a, which prohibits all corporate political spending, is unconstitutional." The court did not address political spending by foreign countries, or by businesses that are headquartered overseas. There are other sections of the law that covers that and those sections have not been affected by this ruling. What the court found particularly offensive is the broad power the FEC had taken on to ban books, tv spots, or movies that discuss political candidates prior to elections. Shouldn't every voter be concerned with this?

Our nation has a rich heritage of political discourse. Sometimes this is done on TV, sometimes in pamphlets, sometimes in newspapers. Sometimes they're funded by private individuals, sometimes non-profit groups, and sometimes companies. But all of this is protected free speech. This is the very speech our founders tried to protect. Robert Robb points out today that:

No one would argue, for example, that because a corporation is not an individual, the Fifth Amendment's protection against the taking of property without just compensation doesn't apply to it, or the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. How can corporations be entitled to some of the protections in the Bill of Rights but not others?

I've read a number of articles that have said in reality this decision is likely to have a very limited impact on political adds. Let's pretend it doesn't. Let's pretend American companies and unions suddenly throw lots of money into political adds in the next campaign. I say, "So what? " Anything that increases our political discourse should be a good thing. And protecting the Bill of Rights should be supported by all of us.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Repugnant Nature of the Minimum Wage

This post has grown out of an entry that I posted at Red State here. I received some interesting comments on it at Red State, so I thought I would rework it and open the post up here for discussion. I introduced this entry at Red State as part of the "Red State Book Notes" project.

This weeks reading for the "book notes" included the chapter “Minimum Wage Laws” from Economics in One Lesson. If I had titled the chapter, I would have called it “The Evil-and-in-all-Ways-Morally-Repugnant Minimum Wage Law”. In the interest of full disclosure, I have always thought minimum wage laws violated the very concept of a free society. If I run a small business and work out a contract with an employee to work for me for $5 an hour, why does the federal government believe it is entitled to step in and tell me I must actually pay that person $7.25 an hour? This is a private transaction between two people.

However, we are told that by having a minimum wage we guarantee people make a just and decent “living wage”. But do they? As Hazlitt points out in this book:

The first thing that happens, for example, when a law is passed that no one shall be paid less than $106 for a forty-hour week is that no one who is not worth $106 a week to an employer will be employed at all. You cannot make a man worth a given amount by making it illegal for anyone to offer him anything less. You merely deprive him of the right to earn the amount that his abilities and situation would permit him to earn, while you deprive the community even of the moderate services that he is capable of rendering.

This makes perfect sense if you think the process through and ignore the typical political rhetoric. Let’s say you own a small business. Applicant A shows up for a job interview. While the person is nice enough, you quickly determine their labor isn't worth the $7.25 an hour to you. You won’t hire this person. You will wait until someone comes along that you believe is worth the $7.25. The federal law has made Applicant A unemployable.

The argument is sometimes put forward that we need a minimum wage law, or need to increase it because the gap between the “have’s” and the “have nots” has gotten too big. First, there is never any evidence put forward with this argument. Secondly, as the above shows, a federal minimum wage law will only make any gap there is that much larger. Finally, this gap never takes into account the increased living conditions of today’s “poor” versus their counterparts from 50 years ago.

When I originally posted this, I got a comment that minimum wage laws prevent industry from exploiting people. This argument assumes that individuals can’t take care of themselves. The supporters of minimum wage laws assume that someone working $5.00 and hour won’t leave to earn $5.25 an hour. It also assumes that only the government can prevent an employer from taking advantage of an individual. Our world is now so interconnected it’s easy to find out what employers pay. If you are worth more, you’ll find a job that pays more.

Finally, if you accept the theory behind the minimum wage law, then you must also accept the power of the federal government to decided a "maximum wage law", or a point above which you cannot be paid. If the government can legally set a price below which you cannot pay someone, why can’t it set the price above which you cannot pay someone? Further, since minimum wages apply to almost every industry, a "maximum wage" would as well. The maximum wage law has gotten some traction when it is suggested that it apply to companies that have taken bailout money. That is just a short skip from all companies.

A minimum wage law is just another instance of the federal government interfering in what should be private transactions between two people. You can wrap it up in the pretty argument of a “living” wage, or in “helping the poor”, but at the end of the day, its just the government sticking its nose into our private lives when they shouldn’t be there. It’s a failed attempt to legislate prosperity.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"What Will Democrats Do Now?"

That seemed to be the question I heard the most yesterday. With the election of a Republican to the blue state of Massachusetts, what will the Democrats do? Here are my thoughts on what Tuesday's election means.

No Obamacare This Year

The Senate Republicans seem to be doing a very good job of standing in the breach. With a 41st vote, the Republicans can stall any legislation as long as they want. The only way to pass Obamacare is through reconciliation or by the House adopting the Senate bill. Speaker Pelosi doesn't have the votes in the House, and reconciliation will strip the bill to the point that Reid may not even recognize it. There may still be health care reform this year. However, I think it will be very different from what we have seen so far.

"Moderate" Democrats Will look for the door.

There are two types of Democrats in the party today: Progressives and Democrats. Progressives are the true liberals of the party like Reid, Clinton, and Pelosi. "Moderate Democrats" or Democrats are the more main stream or even "blue dog" element of the party. The progressives have been telling the moderates for months now that they must pass health care reform or they won't get reelected in November. President Obama has told Democrats he will personally campaign from coast to coast for them after they pass health care. Today, moderate Democrats are looking at Massachusetts and thinking that Obama campaigned for Coakley and she lost. She lost in Massachusetts and she lost the independent voter by 3:1. They remember New Jersey and Virginia where Obama campaigned and the Democrat lost in both cases. In both cases independents voted for Republicans by a 2:1 margin. Career politicians see as job #1 getting reelected. President Obama doesn't have the shirt tails to give them the cover they need in November. Already Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) says health care reform has as much chance of passing as pigs flying out has butt. Democrats weren't talking like this before Tuesday. I think some Democrats will simply announce they aren't seeking reelection, others will start distancing themselves from Reid and Pelosi and may start voting against things like health care reform or cap and trade.

The Politicans will Begin to Listen

During the last twelve months, a number of Republicans and Democrats have participated in Tea Parties across the country. They have gone to their representatives office to complain. They have sent emails, letters, and phone calls telling the congressman or senator how to vote and what the voters thought. These people have been ignored. Many Democrats in Congress and the Senate simply believed the voters couldn't, or wouldn't, really do anything. Now Nelson has been run out of a restaurant for the first time in his political career by angry voters. A solidly blue state has elected a semi-conservative Republican who campaigned on fighting a Democratic President on his signature issue. I promise you a number of politicians are looking for ways to seem more responsive to voters. That's always a good thing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Massachusetts (Open Post) -- UPATED III

By now it's hard not to know what is going on in Massachusetts. Today is the special election to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy. I think in any other year, no one would be following this election. However, Scott Brown stands a good chance to shock the nation today and upset the system to become a Republican elected in bluest of blue Massachusetts. Scott Brown has campaigned as a down to earth politician. One of his tactics has been to drive a pickup truck to his different campaign events. His biggest issue has been health-care reform. Brown has said that if elected he will be the 41st vote against the current health care legislation.

The Democrat in the race, Martha Coakley has made a number of blunders, with many of them coming in the last couple of weeks. Among the blunders, she has stated there are no terrorists left in Afghanistan, has misspelled "Massachusetts" in campaign adds, and said she had no knowledge of a reporter who was pushed down by one of her security people (photo's of the event show otherwise). Perhaps worse for her chances with Boston voters, she said on a radio interview that former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Shilling was a Yankee's fan.

This race will end in one of three ways:

  1. An outright win by Coakley. This will make for interesting news for about 24 hours, will give Sen. Reid the 60 votes he needs to hold onto in the Senate, and is the traditional wisdom in this election.
  2. An outright win by Brown. Will be a political earthquake felt throughout the United States. It could change the very nature of the political debate for the next 9 months until November.
  3. A close win by Brown. The ugliest of all options. This will bring out challenge and recount after recount. We will also probably see a legal challenge to determine if Ted Kennedy's temporary replacement in the Senate can remain seated until the election is decided.

I am leaving this post open throughout the day. As I hear news I think is important I will update this post. Feel free to comment and check back often.

**Update One**

I just saw this at Fox News:

Congressional Democrats are meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, but the acrimony is starting to reveal itself as Democrats speak more and more in terms of who mismanaged the debate.

It may mean nothing, but if Democrats are already looking for someone to blame if Brown wins, that means they are very nervous about their own internal polling numbers.

**Update Two**

On Michael Medved's show this afternoon he interviewed one of the author's of the new book Game Change. Mark Halperin stated that in his private conversations with staff in the White House, they don't like their chances in today's race. Again, this doesn't affect the actual race, but it does point to poor internal poll numbers at the White House for Coakley.

**Update Three**

I just saw this posted by the Associated Press. They have already called the election for Scott Brown. Here is the first paragraph:

BOSTON – In an epic upset in liberal Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown rode a wave of voter anger to defeat Democrat Martha Coakley in a U.S. Senate election Tuesday that left President Barack Obama's health care overhaul in doubt and marred the end of his first year in office.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Favorite Books From Last Year.

I am borrowing / copying / stealing this post from Rebecca at My Adventures in History. A few days ago, she wrote a post entitled My Top Ten History Books of 2009. The post discussed some of her favorite history books that she read in 2009. After reading her post, I decided it might be fun to do the same thing here. So, here are my favorite political / current events / history books that I read in 2009 (in no real order).

  1. A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media by Bernard Goldberg. I read this book early in 2009, and wrote a review of it here. The main message of this book was that the media did a very poor job of looking into (then candidate) Barack Obama's history. The media has lost, and will continue to lose, credibility because of it. This book sounds like an attack on Barack Obama, but it was really a critique of the media.

  2. Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. I reviewed this book here. It's a very good book and will have you rethinking the Woodrow Wilson administration, the 1960's, and our government today.

  3. American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph Ellis. I reviewed this one back in February. It falls into the "history" category, but it is a quick read. Mr. Ellis does a very good job of showing both the author of the Declaration of Independence and the man of contradictions we know him to be. I highly recommend it.

  4. Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark Levin. The best work of Conservative thought I have ever read, and possibly the best one ever written. If you are Conservative or Libertarian, this is a must read. If you are liberal and want a concise explanation of what Conservative's think, this is your "enemy playbook".

  5. The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World by W. Cleon Skousen. I couldn't mention the books I read last year and not mention this one. When I reviewed it in May, I never thought it would generate the debate it did on this site. I have reports that tell me what pages on this site people look at. The review on this book is read every single day.

In case you aren't interested in any of these books, I also have two "honorable mentions" from last year. Both of these books are well worth the read, and neither made it onto this site for a review.

  1. A Man of Letters by Thomas Sowell. This was a great read. It is Mr. Sowell's attempt to retrace portions of his life through his correspondence. There are only a few people that I will read anything they write. Mr. Sowell is one of them. Anytime I find an article by him, I stop what I am doing to read it. This book really made me think. You won't be disappointed with it.

  2. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!by Jane Austen and Seth Gramme-Smith. Really, what classic wouldn't be made at least a little better if you added zombies? This contains Austen's original masterpiece, with a little zombie goodness sprinkled in for fun. You'll laugh! You'll Cry! It's better than Cats! At least until Cats and Zombies opens on Broadway.

I hope you try at least one of these books over the next year. If you do, let me know what you thought of it. Did you read any books this past year that should be reviewed on here? Let me know. Regardless of the political perspective of the author, if I like the book, and think my readers will like it, I'll review it and post it here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Should Harry Reid Step Down?

This weekend, a quote surfaced from Harry Reid describing Barack Obama. The quote was from 2008 and, as Fox News reports,Harry Reid is quoted as "...describing Barack Obama as 'light-skinned' with 'no Negro dialect' unless he wants one." In the last few days Republicans have called on Reid to step down as Senate Majority Leader. Senator Reid spent the weekend calling black leaders to get support for staying in his leadership position. The White House says the President is not offended by Reid's comments.

I personally think Reid's comments crossed a line. I don't think I would feel comfortable using the word "Negro" to describe a person, or a person's actions, in today's world. I think as an elected official, Reid needs to be a little more careful with his words than a private citizen. I also wonder if Reid's comments, as Senate Majority Leader, are suppose to represent the Democratic National Committee, and Senate Democrats. We know there is at least one previous member of the Klan who is a Senate Democrat (Byrd, D-WV).

Many have drawn a comparison to Trent Lott's comments in 2002. Lott was Senate Majority Leader as well, but Lott was also Republican from the south. Lott stepped down from the Senate Majority Leaders position when Democrats took offense at his comments at Sen. Strom Thurmond's birthday party. Reid was particularly clear when he said that Lott had no alternative but to step down from the leadership position.

A few months back Joe Wilson was accused of being racists because he accused the President of lying. President Obama said Don Imus should be fired for his comments about a particular girl's basketball team. Democrats demand repercussions for these comments, but there should be no repercussions for the Senate Majority Leader just because he is a Democrat?

A reader named Patrick made a comment on this site that I have heard used a number of times now. The argument goes: because Republicans used political tricks and closed door negotiations, we shouldn't be outraged when Democrats do it on health care. Those using this argument want to know why we didn't hold Republicans to this standard. I believe it was wrong of the Republicans and I would question supporters of Harry Reid today, "Why was it wrong for Lott to say something offensive, but not Reid? Why did the President think Imus should be fired, but Reid should retain his comfy position in the Senate?"

If Reid were to step down, he would still be a sitting Senator. The Democrats would have the same number of votes. Reid could still run for reelection this year. However, if Reid steps down, it might jeopardize the President's agenda because a new Majority Leader might not be as liberal, even though he would still be a Democrat. Does that mean that the President's feelings on race, and the Democratic Parties, have a price? Eric Holder has said we are cowards on race. Who was he referring too?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Did Obama Lie, or is he Cowardly?(UPDATED) has a video posted on it's website today. The video shows candidate Barack Obama promising to show congressional health care debates on C-SPAN so that the voters can see exactly what deals are made and who is trying to protect the voters. The clip has him promising this eight times.

The Democrats have now passed a "health care" bill in both the House and the Senate. Traditionally, these bills would go to a conference committee made up of Republicans and Democrats from both the House and the Senate. This committee would iron out the differences in the bill, and present a revised bill to the House and Senate to vote on and send to President Obama.

Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are considering skipping this step, and conferencing behind closed doors with the White House on a "final bill". This would lock out Republicans and many Democrats. C-SPAN remembered President Obama's campaign promise, and wants to hold him to it. They have asked to broadcast the negotiations to the voters. So far the Democrats are claiming that they don't need to broadcast the negotiations because, "There has never been a more open process for any legislation in anyone who’s served here’s experience," (so says Pelosi).

During the Bush Administration, we were told daily that President Bush lied about any number of things. Where are those on the left who were constantly attacking Bush? President Obama appears to have lied now. Where are the calls from the left for an open and honest negotiation? Where are the snappy "Obama lied" chants? How do we know the politicians in Washington are looking out for the voters?

I have some liberal and left leaning readers. I also have readers who consider themselves moderate. How does this make you feel? Are you okay with the President making one promise on the campaign and ignoring that promise now that he is President? Where is the promised new day of transparency?


CBS News is running a news story saying that both Nancy Pelosi and President Obama support negotiations on this bill occurring behind closed doors. CBS ran this story as, "Obama reneges on health care transparancy". CBS also cited this as the President, "...breaking an explicit campaign promise."

Monday, January 04, 2010

Do Unto Others...

I was catching up on my reading tonight and came across this in a recent issue of National Review:

Muntazer al-Zaidi is the Iraqi journalist who earned his place in the headlines by being rude to George W. Bush and chucking shoes at him. He did almost a year in prison for this, and ever since he's been trying to start a charity on behalf of "victims of the U.S. occupation in Iraq." Paris was the obvious place in which to bolster his militant reputation by holding a press conference. A kerfuffle followed when someone present stood up and in Iraqi Arabic defended U.S. policy, accused al-Zaidi of aiding and abetting dictatorship, and gave him a taste of his own medicine by throwing a shoe at him. It was al-Zaidi's turn to duck, and he didn't like it one bit, complaining that "the occupier and his lackeys" would stop at nothing to get him. Hustled out, the avenging shoe thrower took the precaution of giving his name only as "Khayat," but he had already proved that one Iraqi at least is able to spot the difference between freedom and tyranny, and is not afraid to say so.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Quick Notes: Happy New Year

I just wanted to update everyone on the status of Political Friends. I spent the weekend in Nashville with family. We had a great time, and took in a Predators vs. Ducks hockey game. We made it back today, and the whole family is trying to catch up from the trip.

Look for new posts this week, and look for updated comments. Til then, Happy New Year everyone, and here's to having a great 2010!