Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Repeal the 17th
by Louis

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures. ...
I'm putting my ignorance on display here, but I must admit that the first time I heard about the repeal of the 17thAmendment was from Alan Keyes during his recent run for the senate from my home state, Illinois.

What reminded me of this was a comment left by Intermodal on AlCzverik's site.

The basic argument for the repeal of the 17th is that it is too radical a departure from the role of the Senate as envisioned by the founders. The House of Representatives and the Senate were designed to be two very different parts of the federal legislature: the House of Representatives was meant to be the People's representatives to the federal government, the Senate was intended to be State government's representatives to the federal government.

The 17th Amendment dramatically changes that setup. The Senate has essentially become an über-House, with slightly quirkier rules. The argument can certainly, and has, been made that this has negatively affected government in America, leading to bigger government and an erosion of state's rights.

Right-Winger Zell Miller argues that direct election of senators gives unwarranted power to DC special interests. Also, libertarian Harry Browne is concerned that direct election of senators weakens states' positions in dealing with the federal government.

So, after admittedly brief contemplation, I'm throwing my (meaningless) support behind this idea.

Here's another radical idea worth consideration: Triple the size of the House.

Monday, January 17, 2005

How I Support Gonzales
by Louis

I must admit that I had misgivings originally as to whether to support Alberto Gonzales nomination. There were two items in his past which gave me pause: his clemency memos to then-Governor Bush, in his role as General Counsel, and the advice he provided the President in regards to the treatment of US prisoners, in his role as White House Counsel.

In the late 1990's, Gonzales was General Counsel to the Governor of Texas. One of the responsibilities of the office that Gonzales occupied was to advise the Governor as to whether he should recommend a reprieve for those people who had been given the death sentence. There have been concerns raised about the quality and usefulness of the memos that Gonzales prepared. Simply put, the memos tended to not provide the Governor the full story of a case and were "almost always" delivered on the day of the scheduled execution.

For the last four years, Gonzales has served Bush as White House Counsel. During his tenure in this office, there were several notorious torture memos produced under Gonzales’ stewardship and with his approval. Amongst other things, these memos declared that in the War on Terror, the Geneva Conventions were “quaint” and “obsolete.”

One might wonder how I can approve such an apparently anti-human rights candidate for Attorney General. Reading further into Gonzales’ resume is what convinced me.

Before being tapped by Bush to be his General Counsel, Gonzales served as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. A defining moment of his tenure was the instance of an abortion case involving an underage girl.

By Texas law a minor cannot receive an abortion without either parental consent or a special waiver for such consent issued by a judge. To be granted such a waiver, a minor girl must prove that she is suitably educated about her decision. A girl requested a waiver for an abortion from a judge at trial, he denied it. The girl appealed to the Texas Supreme Court and the majority issued a ruling that under Texas law she was entitled to judicial waiver. Gonzales not only voted with the unpopular majority but issued a concurring opinion accusing the minority of judicial activism. This was a very impressive example of the kind of judicial mentality that I like to see in judges.

The quality of Gonzales work seems to be inversely proportional to his proximity to Bush. When Gonzales is independent of Bush, as he was during his time on the Texas Supreme Court, he can make his greatest contributions to public policy. When he is serving purely at the pleasure and discretion of the President, he tends to let his loyalty get in the way of what he must know is right.

In supporting Gonzales’ confirmation, I am hoping that as Attorney General he will use his new distance to protect the interests of all Americans and not exclusively those of his boss.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

New Galaxies Discovered
by Louis

[F]ourteen billion years after the Big Bang started it all, there is still life in the old cosmos.

Astronomers announced yesterday that they had discovered three dozen baby galaxies in what passes for nearby space in the universe - two billion to four billion light-years distant. The galaxies, which are blossoming with new stars at a prodigious rate, resemble the infant Milky Way 10 billion years ago, the astronomers said.
The vastness of space and time never fails to astonish me. Surely, in the eyes of any god, especially in comparison to the rest of the universe, we're all so very small and close together.

For a moment, at least...
by Louis

...the White House and Mainstream Media (as if there was a serious distinction) were honest with the American people.
Q. Yes, I wanted to come back to the agenda of the meeting with Putin, if I may, for a second. The meeting will happen two days before the new vote in Ukraine. Do you expect that to be a major subject in the discussion? Also the President yesterday mentioned --
SCOTT McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, the meeting with Putin? That will be --
Q. Yes.
MR. McCLELLAN: That won't be until February. When the vote -- the vote on Ukraine will be --
Q. All right, sorry, I don't know what I'm talking about.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- this week. That's okay, I don't either, so -- (Laughter.)
Q. That is a moment of frankness in the briefing room. (Laughter.)


Drug Imports Opposed by Federal Government
by Louis

Admittedly, I'm not an expert on international trade or pharmaceuticals, but it seems to be a basic principle of supply and demand that allowing Americans to expand their market for purchasing drugs will lower the cost to us. The US government disagrees.
Regulating the purchase of prescription medicines from abroad would wipe away most savings and diminish investment in new drugs, said a report from an administration task force studying the feasibility of legalized drug imports.

[...]

Proponents of drug imports, including some Republican lawmakers, said the report's conclusions were not surprising because many task force members have been staunchly opposed to importation. "It sounds like PhRMA could have written the report," Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (news, bio, voting record), R-Mo., said, referring to the drug industry trade group.

Whatever happened to free trade? Is the GOP committed to ignoring every principle of theirs that I admire?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I Need An Advance Copy...
by Louis

USA Today cobbled together hints we already have about Harry Potter and the Half-Bloog Prince. Something even I hadn't known:
Q: Has J.K. Rowling released any portions of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince?

A: On Halloween, the JKRowling.com "Do Not Disturb" door opened to reveal three chapter titles: Chapter 2: "Spinners End"; Chapter 6: "Draco's Detour"; Chapter 14: "Felix Felicis."

BlogCritics has a roundup of Harry Potter news and a review of the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban DVD.

Uncomfortable Thoughts
by Louis

In his latest, Rich Lowry uses the recent Kansas murder/kidnapping to examine "our culture's tortured reasoning on anything related to unborn life." He makes a few deft points. Key passage:
During the coverage of the crime, the status of the Bobbie Jo Stinnett's unborn girl steadily changed. All at once on AOL News during the weekend, there were headlines tracking events in the case: "Woman Slain, Fetus Stolen"; "Woman Arrested, Baby Returned in Bizarre Murder"; "Infant in Good Health." Note how a "fetus" -- something for which American law and culture has very little respect -- was somehow instantly transformed into a "baby" and "infant" -- for which we have the highest respect. By what strange alchemy does that happen?

An AP story effected this magic transition all in one sentence: "Authorities said Montgomery, 36, confessed to strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett of Skidmore, Mo., on Thursday, cutting out the fetus and taking the baby back to Kansas." At one point, when Montgomery was still at large, an Amber Alert went out about the Stinnett girl, putting news organizations in the strange position of reporting such an alert for what many of them were still calling a "fetus."

Given that fetuses are routinely destroyed in America (and legally can be destroyed up to the point of delivery), it was odd to see such an uproar about the welfare of one. Indeed, it is tempting to say that from a pure legal point of view, Lisa Montgomery simply killed the wrong victim, taking the life of the mom instead of the fetus.
I feel myself drifting further to the right on abortion every day.

Kos Looks at the Long-Term
by Louis

Faced with Bush's still anemic public approval ratings, Kos is sounding both more angry (apparently such a thing is possible) and more hopeful today, more than a month after the election.
Of course, there's a silver lining to all of this. A Kerry presidency would've been an unmitigated disaster, with a hostile congress, budget woes, the mess in Iraq, etc. Not a good time to be in charge. Those Supreme Court seats would've been nice (whoever we would've been able to push through a hostile Senate), but we've got an opportunity for long-term gain.

The left is already working to build it's own version of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy -- the $300 million annual machine that developes the conservative message (think tanks), disseminates it to the public (Fox News, Rush), and trains their leaders in how to wield it.

The war isn't going well, and Bush will be hard pressed to rescue anything positive from that quagmire. The budget is a mess, and budget cuts will cause great resentment while savings get eaten up by his Iraq misadventures. The GOP's right wing is screaming for payback with an agenda that doesn't sell on Main Street. GOP moderates may be emboldened by Giuliani's and Schwarzenegger's popularity to reassert themselves.[Emphasis and link are mine]

2006 will be a very interesting election. It should either prove or disprove alot of people's theories on 2008.

Be Still My Beating Heart
by Louis

The first thing I saw when I woke up this morning: July Date Set for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Fantastic joy at the moment. I'm so glad the wait hasn't been as long as it was between books 4 and 5.

Monday, December 20, 2004

I still pledge allegiance to Google
by Louis

...through thick and thin.

Poor Ukrainians...
by Louis

I can't imagine having to go through a presidential campagin twice in the same year.

Frankenstein
by Louis

Via Instapundit, progress towards creating artificial life.
The soft cell walls are made of fat molecules taken from egg white. The cell contents are an extract of the common gut bug E. coli, stripped of all its genetic material.

This essence of life contains ready-made much of the biological machinery needed to make proteins; the researchers also added an enzyme from a virus to allow the vesicle to translate DNA code.

When they added genes, the cell fluid started to make proteins, just like a normal cell would.

Texas Strippers
by Louis

San Antonio has ordered all their strippers to start carrying permits while they dance. Aside from the constitutional problems with targeting this industry, its interesting to note that they have this problem in Texas, political capital of Moral Values America, has this problem while Massachusetts, capital of leftist moral decay and gay marriage, does not.

Bush is Anti-Christmas
by Louis

Via It Affects You, something I missed tuning in late to Bush's morning press conference.
"Good morning and happy holidays to you all."
I can easily imagine O'Reilly's response: "As further proof that this nation has been hijacked by secular extremists, the President this morning declined to acknowledge America's purely Judeo-Christian roots."

2008
by Louis

MyDD has numbers about Hillary against various republican possiblities in 4 years. Surprisingly good, as long as she's going up against a right-winger and not a moderate.

Most telling:
"Regardless of whether you would vote for Hillary Clinton or not, do you think she is qualified to be president of the United States?"

Is Is Not Unsure
59% 34% 7%

FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll. Dec. 14-15, 2004.
N=900 registered voters nationwide. MoE ± 3.
Personally, I predict that the GOP wingers are going to overestimate how far right the country is willing to go. This will open up the republican primaries to some very nice moderates long the lines of Chuck Hagel and John McCain (McCain will be 72 in 2008, btw). At the moment, I don't think Hillary is the best choice for the Democrats. But that might change. My personal preference is Joe Biden.

SSA Rejects Straight Marriages
by Louis

Drudge apparently posted a link to this.
NEW PALTZ, NEW YORK -- The Social Security Administration is rejecting marriage documents issued for heterosexual couples in four communities that performed weddings for gay couples.

The agency is rejecting all marriage certificates issued in New Paltz, N.Y., after Feb. 27, when the town's mayor began marrying gay couples, according to town officials.

Certificates issued during the brief periods when Asbury Park, N.J., Multnomah County, Ore., and Sandoval County, N.M., recognized gay marriages are also being rejected.

The agency did not comment Sunday. Its Web site says it accepts civil-union documents from Vermont and marriage licenses for gay couples in Massachusetts.

The Web site said the legality of marriage documents in the four localities is "still unresolved at the state level."
As a proponent of gay marriage, this is a tad scary to hear. The fault seems to lie with the Social Security Administration, though. Does the issuing of a few dubious licenses really justify the rejection of all?

The Daily Lion: A Manifesto
by Louis

Welcome to the personal political/cultural blog of yours truly. I am Louis Ward, a student of politics and American society. The purpose of this blog is to document my own eternal education about the world while simultaneously providing a soapbox for me to pronounce my own beliefs and thoughts on the subject. There are many things that I care/am curious about; my plan is to write on them here these next few months and years. It’s my hope that you tune in occasionally for the show.

So to start off pronouncing my beliefs…

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple."
-- Oscar Wilde


When I proclaim, to people’s general disbelief, that I am not a "liberal," the expected and logical next question is usually, "Then what are you?" A fair enough question, I suppose. Though, I must say that I dislike having to label myself as anything at all, not least of which because people tend to not like sharing a label with me. However, it is a reality of the world we live in that people like simple words and phrases so that they can understand something, even if the words cannot begin to explain the complexity of the subject; so I am taking this time to explain my political leanings as simply yet accurately as possible.

If I call myself a "conservative," as I have on numerous occasions, I find a most unwelcoming family. I have been told repeatedly with much emphasis that I simply cannot be a conservative American if I am not also a Christian. I think Jesus was a great guy, but I'm not converting simply to claim rights to a title, especially if it doesn't exactly fit me anyway. Taking "conservative" in its modern American context, I do have conservative tendencies, however. I am a secular traditionalist with mid-western views on family matters and romantic relationships. (I am for gay marriage because I see it as beneficial to both gays and society if their relationships and families are recognized. I see no contradiction in being both pro-family and pro-equal rights, others do.) I also think that government should be allowed to observe that a majority of Americans are Christians, as long as it does not do so in an exclusive way. But, even besides gay marriage, I have differences with modern conservative thought. For example: I am opposed to ethnic/religious profiling when it comes to security. I do not believe the ACLU is anti-Christ. And, I, having seen/experienced the hate speech that tends to fill it’s void, think that "political correctness" is more often than not a good thing, as long as its not being enforced by government.

If I am not conservative, then I must be liberal, no? Apparently not. As a liberal, I should theoretically support racist affirmative action and well meaning socialism. This is not the case. Make no mistake; I am for the liberal values of free speech, feminism, and environmental protection. But these issues a liberal does not make. For one thing, I am opposed to both the artificial constraints of the right and the social engineering of the left; society should be allowed to follow its own natural course, with no interference. For another, I am an ardent capitalist and believe that for a people to be free, their markets must be so.

Ignoring "communist," "socialist," and "Marxist" for obvious reasons, I find myself called, by those who have bothered to read this far, a libertarian. I can certainly see where someone would get this impression. An issue close to my heart is ending forever the immoral Drug War. I’m for privatizing Social Security. I am for the enforcement of the Second Amendment. I believe current laws violate the privacy of our citizens.

I would be tempted to accept this far from shameful tag if not for one thing: islamofascism. I am no right-wing chicken little, but I know a threat and evil when I see one, and islamofascism is both evil and a threat. I take a rather aggressive stance on foreign policy, though not nearly as unilateral and anti-world as President Bush. I supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only wish they had been executed better and with more planning, and would be receptive to more righteous war -- a very non-libertarian stance.

I was, for a period, tempted to take the name of "neoconservative," but my domestic sensibilities are too strong to just offer a huge "meh" in place of them. I, for one, mean it when I say "give me liberty or give me death." Government is a huge threat to individual sovereignty regardless of terrorism.

I'm fond of "classical liberal," in the tradition of the enlightenment, but 18th century foreign policy isn’t something I would like to brag about having.

So, obviously, the current political landscape in America does not provide a party for which I can vote all my principles. Therefore, while not exactly being a “centrist,” or particularly undecided, I am somewhat independent of party-based politics. But I have managed to find a philosophy to call home: neolibertarianism.

I thought up the word “neolibertarian” independently, but a Google search reveals that other beat me to the punch. However, the search also reveals that a consensus hasn’t been found on a conclusive definition. This, for the time being, allows me to use it as I wish.

For my purposes, being a neolibertarian means that one tends to favor small government, federalism, and individual privacy in terms of domestic policy, American activism, liberalization, and moral leadership on the global stage, and free-market capitalism and personal ownership in regards to economic matters.

Perhaps I can convince someone, somewhere, that my way of thinking is the best. Probably not. But this will still be a worthwhile experience.