Friday, April 22, 2011

William Rusher, In Memoriam

     One of the co-founders of the American conservative movement, William A. Rusher, passed away this week at the age of 87. Rusher was a political advisor, debater, publisher, columnist, author and founder of a number of conservative organizations.

     Rusher served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He became an attorney while active in New York politics and was appointed associate counsel of the United States Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, a position that suited his anti-Communist views.

     William F. Buckley hired Rusher as publisher of the National Review. Serving as the link between the magazine and conservative and Republican politics, he emphasized the need for National Review to be the leader of the conservative movement. Rusher strove for unity within the movement, i.e. of both fiscal and social conservatives. 

     In the 1960s, Rusher helped found Young Americans for Freedom, the New York State Conservative Party and the American Conservative Union, the oldest conservative lobbying organization in the U.S. He played a major role in the drafting of conservative Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for President. Goldwater’s nomination by the Republican Party marked the first nomination of a modern conservative for president by a major American political party.

     Meanwhile, Rusher became a political advisor of Ronald Reagan. He encouraged Reagan’s campaigns for the Republican nomination for president in 1968 and 1976. Rusher’s efforts paid off at long last in 1980 with the nomination and election of Reagan as President. He regarded the Reagan Presidency the greatest success of the conservative movement.

     Rusher was a highly skilled debater on radio and television and popular syndicated columnist. He skewered the left thoroughly, exposing the fallacy of its arguments without conceding any good intentions on the part of liberals for their support of bad policies. 

     William Rusher has left the conservative movement a great legacy. May Rusher’s example of intellectual integrity and confidence inspire us to continue to promote conservative principles of good government.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Pennsylvania House Approves Tort Reform

     The Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved a reform of the Commonwealth's tort law in regard to joint and several liability.  Joint and several liability means that if one defendant cannot pay money to satisfy a judgment against him, the other defendants must.

     Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that lacks proportional liability, meaning that a defendant who is only 1% liable can end up paying 100% of the judgment.  The unfair lack of proportionality encourages the naming of deep pockets,i.e. businesses that are only tangentially related to the cause of action, but have more money than the primary defendant who is 99% liable.  The Keystone State's lack of proportional joint and several liability is regarded as an anti-business policy that harms its economic competitiveness.

     The bill approved by the majority Republican House introduces a degree of proportionality by protecting defendants less than 20% liable from being required to pay the full amount of the judgment.  The majority-Republican Senate is expected to approve the measure and Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, is expected to sign it into law.

Update: Pennsylvania Senate and House Pass the Castle Doctrine Bill

     The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has joined the state Senate in passing a bill that extends the Castle Doctrine beyond a person's home.  I have posted about this proposal several times since last year.  The measure, which would allow a person to defend himself with with a deadly weapon anywhere he has a legal right to be (e.g. in a car, at work, etc.) without first being obligated to retreat, was overwhelmingly approved last year by the then-Democratic House and Republican Senate, but vetoed by former Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat.  Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, is expected to sign the Castle Doctrine bill into law.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Foreign Updates: Portugal, the European Monetary Union, Ivory Coast

     As expected, Portugal has asked for a financial bailout from the European Union. The Portuguese are joining the Greeks and Irish in being bailed out by the European Monetary Union from debts, thereby putting more pressure on the E.U. Portugal, Greece and Ireland all use the Euro as their monetary unit. The E.U. is under pressure because of the bailouts of these smaller economies, but the ongoing crisis could impact the much larger economy of Spain, which could, in turn, trigger the collapse of the euro, even if its survives all the bailouts.

     The recent rise of the Euro relative to the dollar is more of a sign of a weaker dollar than a stronger Euro.

     The opposition forces, with the help of the French, have captured the former president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, who had refused to concede election defeat four months ago in the former French West African colony. A Muslim won the election over the Christian Gbagbo, but not one who is an Islamist. Ivory Coast, which had been a stable, relatively developed and prosperous state thanks to its leading global rank in exporting cocoa, has been beset by an intermittent civil war over its north-south/Muslim-Christian divide. Both sides have been accused of atrocities in the conflict. It is hoped that the Republic of Ivory Coast will soon enjoy peace, order, justice, healing, freedom and representative democracy.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Legacy of the Congressional Lame Duck Session: Military Trials and the 2011 Budget Deal

     Now that the deal has been reached on the 2011 federal budget, which I analyze in my last post, it is possible to consider more fully the legacy of the 2010 Lame Duck Session of Congress. 

     As I mentioned in my post in January of this year, Conservative Analysis of the Congressional Lame Duck Session, the then-minority Republicans won a concession from the majority Democrats and the President that a continuing resolution be approved for the 2011 federal budget, which left open the door for the Republicans, once they gained the majority in January, to approve a final budget that would include domestic spending cuts the liberal Democrats and President were unwilling to make.  As a result, the deal reached last night accomplishes the conservative GOP goal.

     Another conservative legacy of the Lame Duck Session was the Congressional defunding of civilian trials for the September 11 terrorist attack conspirators currently being held at a prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  The Obama Administration had intended to try these war criminals in civilian courts.  The Administration has now reversed itself, as it has in other policies in the War on Terrorism, and will now keep Guantanamo Bay's prison camp open and try the terrorists there.

Conservative Commentary on the 2011 Federal Budget Deal

     Conservatives won a significant victory in the deal struck between Congressional leaders and the President for the 2011 budget for the United States federal government.  Led by the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, conservative Republicans won $38 billion of spending cuts.

     The deal was necessary because the liberal Democratic Congress had failed to pass a budget last year.  It had passed continuing resolutions, which maintained funding levels at the current rate.  When Republicans gained the majority in January, they approved short-term continuing resolutions with $10 billion of spending cuts.  The uncertainty because of the constant need for continuing resolutions was economically harmful and made weary legislators eager for a bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year (through the end of September).  Without a budget, the authority for the federal government to make expenditures would have ended, thereby causing a government shutdown, as I explained in my last post.

     The deal mostly cuts domestic spending.  Although it does not end federal funding of Planned Parentood, the largest provider of abortions in the U.S., it ends the funding of abortions in the District of Columbia.  It also provides vouchers for students to attend private schools in the District.  Although it does not defund Barak Obama's federalization of health insurance, it prohibits the hiring of the requisite Internal Revenue Agents.  There will be votes in the Senate, however, on defunding Planned Parenthood and the federalization of health insurance. 

     Nevertheless, the deal represented a lopsided victory for conservatives, as the Republicans had initially proposed $32 billion in spending cuts and the liberal Democrats none.  The figure of $38 billion in annual savings represents the largest post-World War II cut in American history.  These spending cuts and the compromises on the policy riders are especially amazing considering that Republicans control only one half of Congress, while the Democrats have not only the other half, but also the Executive Branch.

     Moreover, the spending cuts in this budget deal represent an acknowledgment of the need for austerity, without raising taxes.  In other words, conservatives, bolstered by the Republican victories in the 2010 Congressional elections, are winning the policy debate.  Conservatives will now have the momentum going into the next two debates, both of which are coming soon, on raising the federal debt limit and on the 2012 budget.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Only Presidents, Not Congress, Have Shut Down the Government

     Government shutdowns occur when government no longer has any legal authority to spend. When United States President George H.W. Bush vetoed the deficit-spending bills of the liberal Democratic-controlled Congress, Democrats and their allies in the liberal media blamed him for the brief government shutdown that ensued.

     But when Bush’s successor, Bill Clinton, vetoed the spending reductions of the Republican-controlled Congress, the Democrats and the liberal media blamed the Congress instead of the President. Their only consistency was in blaming the Republicans for shutting down the government as a result of the fiscal dispute. 

     Constitutionally, in disputes between the Executive and Legislative Branches of the federal government, only a president can shut down the government because only he has the power to veto spending bills or an increase in the debt ceiling approved by Congress.

     The only way Congress could ever be responsible for a government shut-down is if it were to fail to pass a bill authorizing spending, which would be unprecedented. Such a contingency would only be possible in two ways: either the House fails to approve a fiscal bill to prevent the shutdown or the Senate disagrees with the House bill.

     After the Republicans won the majority in Congress in the 1994 elections, they proposed spending reductions in order to balance the budget. At the time, Clinton had raised taxes, dramatically cut the military and intelligence budget and yet increased the deficit (which, as I have noted previously, liberals in politics and the media referred to as his “deficit reduction plan”). Clinton projected $200 billion deficits indefinitely and was non-committal on how long it would take to balance the budget. In the meantime, he was well on his way to adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the federal debt, an increase that was not undone by the later temporary annual budget surpluses that have obscured his earlier spendthrift ways.

     The Republicans in Congress adopted the strategy of passing spending cuts in order to present Clinton with the choice of vetoing the bill or shutting down the government, just as the Democrats had done with their deficit-spending proposals under his predecessor. The GOP strategy was not to shut down the government, but to force Clinton into the spending reductions. The liberal Democrats falsely portrayed the Republican strategy as intending to shut down the government. To liberal Democrats, government is the greatest force for good in the world and shutting it down, even temporarily in order to reduce the deficit, is a catastrophe. They employed the usual scare tactics that government spenders do by focusing on the most sensational aspects of the government shutdown while portraying the Republicans as “mean” for not wanting to spend more than the government took in while passing off the bill to future generations. For a time, the liberal scare tactics seemed to be working.

     Then, despite the way it is still portrayed in the liberal media, public opinion began to turn against Clinton and the liberal Democrats as the American people began to regard the shutdown as the result of a lack of presidential leadership. In other words, they were increasingly recognizing Clinton’s veto as the cause of the government shutdown. The Republicans blinked first and compromised, although it was far short of their goals. Later, however, they built on their momentum and succeeded in forcing significant domestic spending cuts while increasing spending for the military and lowering some taxes. The reduction in the capital gains tax was particularly stimulative of the economic growth of the late 1990s that was the main cause of the later budget surpluses, not Clinton’s earlier tax increase which had slowed growth. 

     I raise the point that it is only the President or the Senate who can trigger a government shutdown in the current fiscal dispute. There is a possibility of a veto by President Barak Obama of any spending cuts approved by the Republican House of Representatives and agreed to by the Democratic Senate. This time, however, there could be a congressional failure to act if the Senate does not agree to the House’s spending cuts before there were any possibility of a presidential veto. Then, it would be the Senate’s fault for shutting down the government.

     The consistent point is that regardless of the political party or motivation, only the President or the Senate can by their actions legally trigger the federal government to shut down for a lack of spending authority, as long as the representatives of the people do act.

     At this time, the House wants to act, but is trying to approve a bill it knows the Senate and President would accept. If a compromise cannot be reached soon, the House will likely approve the spending cuts it wants and force the Senate or President to choose between reducing the deficit or shutting down the government. Conservatives must explain that the blame would lie with the liberal Democrats in the White House or Senate for failing to pass a fiscal bill, regardless of whether one agrees with the proposed Republican spending cuts or not. But given the fiscal crisis, conservatives ought to promote the cuts as the only fiscally, economically and morally responsible action.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Conservative Refutation of Isolationists on the Libyan Civil War, Part I

     In my first post on the Libyan Civil War, Conservative Commentary on the Libyan Crisis, I made the case that the Libyan Civil War was of international interest. In addition to the need to rescue foreign citizens from Libya, I cited the problem of refugees, political instability, the necessity to avoid moral complicity in crimes against humanity and the disruption of trade as concerns of the United States and its allies. In raising these points, I was mainly making the case of U.S. interest in the Libya, not the prudence of intervening beyond the imposition of economic sanctions and the freezing of assets.

     The case for military intervention, however, was made particularly by my observation of the increasing fear that if Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who had retained some of his chemical weapons, had held onto power, he would return to terrorism against the U.S. and its Western allies.

     The U.S. has global interests and Americans have a global presence. It also has the technical ability to intervene effectively, which imposes a moral duty on it to act to protect human lives. The U.S. military needs not serve as the “policeman of the world,” as isolationists on both the left and the right claim it would be if it intervenes, as they do every time. In fact, it does not serve as the policeman of much of the world, which is peaceful. Indeed, the American military does not even serve as the policeman of the United States! But U.S. interests and capabilities often compel it to act, sometimes non-militarily, sometimes militarily.

     To isolationists, only one motive at a time is possible for any U.S. action. Thus, for example, if an intervention has a humanitarian aspect, they focus on that aspect alone and argue that the U.S. ought not to intervene militarily for humanitarian reasons. If an action benefits an ally, isolationists argue that it our alliance is “entangling” us in a war for our ally’s benefit, as if it is necessarily not in our interests. The motive of acting on additional interests is ignored.

     In fact, whenever the U.S. acts in one way or another on behalf of its interests, isolationists oppose such intervention because they argue that it is not taken on behalf of a “vital interest,” which they insist is the standard for justifying intervention. Isolationists never have to explain what they mean by the term “vital interest,” which is not a term found in the U.S. Constitution they claim to follow strictly.

     A closer examination of the term would be illuminating. “Vital interest” implies that there are interests less than vital, but isolationists never distinguish between the two. They always dismiss any interests as not being “vital interests” because they regard them as insignificant or illegitimate (e.g. they regard any economic interest, like stopping a thief, as illegitimate, while contradicting themselves by complaining about the economic cost of war). They declare a priori the lack of any “vital interests” that would justify action in defense of Americans or its interests or allies. Thus, isolationists conveniently do not have to make judgments about whether or not the U.S. has any interests, and, if so, whether they are truly vital.

     Isolationists thereby fail to explain what criteria would make an interest vital. Does “vital” refer to the United States itself or to the lives of individual Americans? The responsibility of the U.S. is to protect not only the Union itself, but the American people. See my post, An Attack on Americans Anywhere Is an Attack on Us from September of 2009. If “vital” refers to the existence of the U.S., as opposed to the lives of individual Americans, then the September 11 Attacks did not threaten U.S. vital interests. Nearly three thousand people were killed in the attacks, but they argue that there was no direct threat to the viability of the Union. It was not an invasion, as the attackers were dead and al-Qaeda lacked even the potential for an invasion, they argue. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan did not commit the attacks, only certain members of al-Qaeda were allegedly responsible for the attacks whom could have been prosecuted or sued instead, and so on go their arguments.

     Does “vital” mean an immediate interest, or the potential of one? If it means only the potential interest, then even the Pearl Harbor attack was not of “vital” U.S. interest, as the States were not yet under invasion. Remember, isolationists opposed even U.S. involvement in the Second World War.

     Isolationists are always able to come up with an argument that there is no threat to U.S. “vital interest,” other than a theoretical invasion by foreigners, which is conveniently unlikely. Even then, they would likely minimize the threat. Indeed, isolationists never seem capable of recognizing any truly “vital” threats, while conveniently blaming the U.S. for causing the threats in the first place, as if to argue that it would not need to act if only it would withdraw from the world. They even cite Pearl Harbor and September 11 as proof of their theory. The term “vital interest,” therefore, and their insistence on it as a standard for intervention, is only an excuse for isolationists to oppose any action taken in defense of Americans and American interests or allies.

     In short, the only “vital” threat isolationists see to the U.S. is the U.S. itself. Any foreign malevolence against Americans is blamed by them on American intervention, which they regard as the source of the problems in the world, in order to validate their theory. Isolationists fail to recognize the evil intent of an enemy whose ideology requires it to conquer as the source of the problems in the world. 

     Moreover, isolationists fail to see that the world does not want the U.S. to withdraw. It wants the U.S. to use its economic, technological or military resources to act for good.

     In Part II, I shall explore recent examples of U.S. intervention and compare them to the Libyan Civil War.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Two-Year Blog Visit Report

     I am pleased to report that in the two years since Statcounter has tracked my blog, there have been well over 2,800 visits, not counting my own and only counting hits from individuals at least one hour apart as separate visits.  Thank you for your patronage!

     Here are the latest statistics.  Visits to my blog have come from 85 foreign states, as well as Hong Kong and the Palestinian Territories.  My blog has been visited from all 50 American states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.  In addition to those who landed on or viewed my blog homepage, visitors have landed on over 170 posts and viewed over 30 more.  

     The most visitors have come from Malaysia, Algeria, Canada, United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Australia and Russia.  The most visited post is The Rise and Fall of Islamic Civilization, which has been viewed over 600 times.  The next most visited, with over 200 visits, is The Economy, Deficit and Debt and George W. Bush's Inaguration; followed by Radicals in the Obama Administration; Obama Did Not Inherit the Economy from Bush; Follow-up on the Fall of Islamic Civilization; Misleading Media Phrases; Lepanto, by G.K. Chesterton; Commentary on the Roman Influence on America Exhibit at the National Constitution Center; A Comparison of the Federal Response to the Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian Earthquake and Herb Denenberg, In Memoriam, all of which were visited 50-100 times.

     Since I have also been tracking visits to my blog recorded by Blogger in November, I have noticed far more visits that are not tracked by Statcounter, although the latter picked up some that the former did not.  Nevertheless, Statcounter's statistics, which are much more specific than Blogger's, suggest a level of readership of my blog that is much appreciated.

     Again, thank you for your patronage.  Please visit my blog once or twice a week.  As always, your questions, comments or suggestions are always welcome.