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11:53 am - Mon, Nov 4, 2013
1 note

Virginia’s Libertarian Moment?

Unless just about every polling outfit in the country is wrong, Terry McAuliffe should cruise to victory in Tuesday’s election. If he does, says Tarina Keene, “he will owe his victory to the women of Virginia — women who want to own their own bodies. Who want to be able to make their own reproductive health-care decisions.”

Keene directs NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, so she has a vested interest in this argument: Making McAuliffe’s victory contingent on pro-choice support makes McAuliffe beholden to pro-choice activists. But the vested interest does not make the argument wrong. In fact, given the lopsided gender gap in the gubernatorial contest, it is hard to refute.

The McAuliffe camp has flogged Ken Cuccinelli relentlessly on social issues, particularly abortion — something the Republican candidate opposes in every case except when the mother’s life is at stake. And the flogging has hurt: In August, McAuliffe enjoyed a 12-point lead among women. By October, the spread had increased to 24.

Keene’s remark is interesting not only for its political implications, but also for its philosophical implications. Talk of owning your own body has strong libertarian overtones. Many libertarians start by embracing the concept of individual autonomy or “self-ownership” — a notion that goes back at least to John Locke (“every man has a Property in his own Person. This nobody has a right to, but himself”). Then they adopt policy positions that logically follow from it, such as legalizing drugs and opposing motorcycle-helmet laws. It’s your body, libertarians say, and nobody else can tell you what to do with it.

Granted, pro-choice groups do not apply this concept with any sort of consistency — witness NARAL’s support for Obamacare’s insistence that every individual buy an insurance policy, whether she wants one or not. But their inconsistency does not impeach the broader point that Cuccinelli’s stance on abortion has slammed into a wall of resistance from those who don’t want him imposing his personal views on them as governor.

♦  ♦  ♦

And it’s not just abortion. The Republican’s stance on homosexuality also has scared away potential supporters. Homosexuality “brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of [the] soul,” Cuccinelli said five years ago. The next year, he insisted “homosexual acts … should not be accommodated in government policy.” His views “haven’t changed,” he said earlier this year.

It’s true, as he also says, that many other Virginians share these “sincerely held beliefs.” Yet Cuccinelli has let those beliefs drive policy: Early in his term as attorney general he told state universities they had no authority to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and he has defended with Ahab-like mania a state sodomy law doomed by the Supreme Court a decade ago.

Among those who share Cuccinelli’s beliefs is Virginia’s current governor, Bob McDonnell — whose master’s thesis at Regent University amounted to a socially conservative catechism. Yet McDonnell convinced voters he would eschew social issues and focus on jobs. Once elected, he generally did. (He even countermanded Cuccinelli’s anti-anti-discrimination order.) Cuccinelli talks about jobs too — but the public can see his heart lies elsewhere.

So some who otherwise would have supported Cuccinelli have found refuge in Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian Party nominee. Sarvis has been polling well for a third-party candidate, scoring as much as 10 percent in some polls. If he clears that bar on Election Day, then the party will win automatic ballot access for state and local offices through 2021.

♦  ♦  ♦

A sizable proportion of Sarvis’ support has come from Republicans. Hence, there has been a last-minute effort to bring Republicans who lean libertarian back into the fold. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul recently went to bat for Cuccinelli, saying “a lot of the things” the candidate talks about “are free-market, limited-government, leave-me-alone government.” In The Washington Examiner, columnist Tim Carney has written that if he won, “Cuccinelli would arguably be the most libertarian governor in the United States.” The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis has seconded the motion, asking “Why Are Libertarians Helping Elect Crony Capitalist Terry McAuliffe in Virginia?”

They have a point: McAuliffe is no economic libertarian. On the other hand, he is not about to nationalize the railroads. His deviations from laissez-faire orthodoxy are driven by opportunism and indifference rather than doctrinal hostility. You can’t say the same about Cuccinelli’s views on social issues.

True, Cuccinelli does take the libertarian position on economic questions, property rights and the role of the federal leviathan.

Unlike many other Republicans, he also opposes corporate welfare ladled out under the pretext of economic development. All most excellent. (Not so excellent: Cuccinelli’s hard-right stance on immigration — which contradicts the libertarian idea that people, like goods, should be able to cross borders freely.)

To Cuccinelli’s conservative defenders, his economic libertarianism ought to suffice. Ed Crane, former president of the libertarian Cato Institute, heads a PAC spending $300,000 on Sarvis’ behalf. According to Carney, “Crane’s only critique of Cuccinelli” was that the Republican “ ‘is a socially intolerant, hard-right conservative with little respect for civil liberties.’ ”

“Only”? To conservatives, economic freedom is paramount, the rest no big deal. But to libertarians, personal and civil liberties are no less vital: Big government has no place in either the boardroom or the bedroom.

If Cuccinelli shared that view, then he would have a better chance of participating in the gubernatorial inauguration Jan. 8 — rather than merely watching it.


11:18 am - Wed, Oct 16, 2013
3 notes

'Speaker of the House' from Les Boehnerables

Today’s column:


Welcome, M’sieur, sit yourself down

And meet the worst House Speaker in town

As for the D’s – all of them crooks,

Piling up sleaze and cooking the books. …

Seldom do you see honest men like me –

A gent of good intent who’s content to be

Speaker of the House, lacking any charm,

Haven’t got the sand to try to twist an arm

Hostage to the right, captive of the left

Floundering, despairing, utterly bereft

Glad to do my friends a favor

But they won’t reciprocate,

The public hasn’t been this mad

At the GOP since Watergate!

Speaker of the House, keeper of the zoo

Ready to capitulate a point or two

All I do is whine, sit around and wait

Till the party rebels ascertain my fate.

Everybody loves a leader,

Long as he’s an alpha male –

I do as Obama pleases

Jesus! What a sorry little tale.

Boehner & Chorus:

Speaker of the House, steering things awry,

Never wants a microphone to pass him by

Terror to the poor, toady to the great

Incompetent who wishes he were head of state

Everybody’s boon companion,

He just wants to get along

But lock up your valises

Jesus! Where did everything go wrong?


Enter Ted Cruz, lay down your load

I’ll lick your boots and clean your commode.

Haggling’s no fun, conferring’s a curse

It all ends the same – we lighten your purse.

Here your pocket’s picked, here your wallet’s pried

And no deal is complete till John Boehner’s cried.

Dumb beyond compare, dumb beyond belief,

How we run the country is a tale of grief

Innards from a toad, blood from squishing ticks,

Legislative sausage is a grisly mix.

Constituents are sometimes welcome,

Other times we’re occupied

Flinging baseless charges

At the bozos on the other side!

Tax you for the debt, plus your old Corvette

(If you’re late we’ll send the IRS to make you sweat!)

Here a little slice, there a little cut,

Still we keep all federal operations shut.

When it comes to spending money,

We’re all connoisseurs and pros;

How the debt increases – what a pile of feces!

Jesus! It’s amazing how it grows.


I used to think my rep was not a bum

But God almighty, have you seen what he has done?

Speaker of the House? Isn’t worth my vote

Incompetent – a figurehead – a scheming stoat!

Cunning little brain, reg’lar Henry Clay,

Couldn’t spawn a plan if he had all damn day.

What a cruel trick of history

Landed us with such a louse –

God knows how we’ve managed

Given all his damage to the House!

Boehner & Chorus:

Leader of the House!


Leader? Not by half!

Boehner & Chorus:

Competent philosopher –


Don’t make us laugh!

Boehner & Chorus:

Servant to the wife,

Butler to the man –


Useless pile of garbage with a spray-on tan!

Boehner & Chorus:

Everybody bless the Speaker!

Never gripe or groan or grouse!


I really am a real great guy –


Why don’t you go stick that in your eye?


Everybody wave goodbye to the Speaker of the  House!


9:00 am - Wed, Sep 25, 2013
2 notes

GOP Plants Its Flag on the Wrong Hill

To grasp just how big a belly-flop the congressional Defund-Obamacare Caucus has taken into the lake of lunacy, consider this: Karl Rove thinks they are being unrealistic.

Karl Rove.

Rove is the man who — you might recall — was arguing, late into Election Night, that Mitt Romney had the presidency in the bag. Rumor has it Rove still sneaks down into his basement now and then to re-check the numbers.

But on the folly of tea party efforts to defund Obamacare, Rove has not the slightest doubt. As he noted recently, in order to prevail the defunders first would have to convince some Democrat or Democrats in the Senate majority to join their quixotic quest. That won’t happen. Supposing for argument’s sake that it did, the president would simply veto the measure. Overturning the veto would require turning many more Democrats: 54 in the House and 21 in the Senate. “No sentient being,” Rove says, “believes that will happen.”

And yet the defunders press on — even after Sen. Ted Cruz admitted the votes weren’t there, even after defunding’s principal cheerleader, Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, all but admitted it is just a P.R. stunt. Last week the defunders staged something close to a palace coup when they steamrollered House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, who had been trying to talk some tactical sense into them. The House leadership had proposed a plan that would have required the Senate to vote on defunding Obamacare yet still allow it to pass a spending measure. Outraged, the defunders started sharpening their pitchforks and lighting their torches. Boehner backed down.

With the federal bank account empty, this sets the stage for a government shutdown — and not just a halfhearted, kinda-sorta shutdown like the one that took place in 1995, when a number of appropriations measures already had passed. The shutdown looming now would bring just about all federal activity to a full stop. Everyone knows how the story would then play out: Public fury would rain down upon the GOP like an acid monsoon, and flayed Republicans would quickly accede to the president’s demands. Just like they did the last time.

This doesn’t mean Democrats have virtue and honor on their side — just the votes. As Oscar Wilde said, “It would take a heart of stone not to laugh out loud” at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s complaint that “bipartisanship is a thing of the past.” Reid would not recognize bipartisanship if it wore a blinking neon sign. Democratic intransigence is central to this showdown, too. You can’t have a stalemate if one side is willing to give. And as The New York Times has noted, “The health law is not negotiable for President Obama and the Democrats.”

The president also insists he will not negotiate on raising the debt ceiling — another fiscal debate that will follow the appropriations fight in short order. Obama’s defenders insist congressional conservatives have taken the debt ceiling hostage, and with it the country’s credit rating and fragile economic recovery. They implore Obama to stand firm. But if the hostage analogy is right, then their advice is wrong — at least according to every Hollywood climax since the invention of film.

You know the scene: The hero is about to prevail when the wicked villain sticks a gun in the ear of an innocent child. “Drop your weapon,” the villain snarls, “or I blow her head off!” With blazing eyes the hero slowly lowers his gun to the ground and shoves it away with his foot.

That’s how the scene is supposed to play, anyhow. In this instance, though, the presumptive hero — Obama — doesn’t stand down. Instead, he’s willing to let conservatives shoot the innocent bystander in the head, just so he can shoot them in the foot. Not very noble.

All analogies are inexact, and this one breaks down partly because Republicans are actually asking not for something wicked but for something good: spending reductions. Last week the Congressional Budget Office reported (as if it needed further reporting) that the nation’s long-term fiscal trajectory is unsustainable. Without real and deep cuts to entitlements that should have started a couple decades ago, the national debt will ruin the country.

That’s the hill upon which Republicans should plant their flag. Obamacare might be execrable, but it also is untouchable so long as we have a president named Obama. Moreover, compared to the three gargantuan entitlements its outlays are almost trivial. Obamacare will cost $1.8 trillion over 10 years — no small sum. But by 2023 Medicare alone will cost $1 trillion every year. Adding Medicaid and Social Security will bring the annual tab to $3 trillion. Add interest on the debt, and by 2025 those programs will consume every last federal dollar.

On defunding Obamacare, conservative Republicans are trying to deny mathematical reality. But on the far graver question of the national debt, the whole country is.


2:50 pm - Fri, Aug 9, 2013
32 notes
True story.


3:57 pm - Wed, Jul 10, 2013
6 notes

GOP Can’t Make Up Its Mind About Mandates

For health insurance, no — but for immigration? Different story:

When the White House announced last week that it was delaying Obamacare’s employer insurance mandate by a year, Republicans pounced. For the past four years they have argued the mandate is a disaster waiting to happen, and last week they took the delay as proof they had been right all along.

“The president’s health care law is already raising costs and costing jobs,” said House Speaker John Boehner. Sen. Orrin Hatch denounced “this job-killing requirement on employers.” Virginia’s Eric Cantor warned that “the added costs and regulations to businesses across our nation mean less jobs and less economic growth,” so nothing less than full repeal would suffice.

Critics have been making the same points since before the law was passed. In their Jan. 2011 report calling Obamacare “A Budget-Busting, Job-Killing Health-Care Law,” House Republicans cited a 2009 study by the National Federation of Independent Business to warn that “an employer mandate alone could lead to the elimination of 1.6 million jobs … with 66 percent of those coming from small businesses.”

And since the law took effect, Republicans have gleefully drawn attention to one of its unintended consequences. Because the employer mandate applies only to full-time workers, many companies are shifting to part-time help. So “Americans are seeing their hours cut and their paychecks reduced as a result of the employer mandate,” said Indiana Rep Todd Young earlier this month.

Clearly, Republicans hate imposing federal mandates on job-creating American businesses, right?

Wrong. In fact, many insist on a federal employer mandate with just as much passion — as soon as the subject turns to immigration, the subject of a closed-door meeting among House Republicans today.

The immigration bill passed by the Senate would require nearly all U.S. employers to check job applicants against an electronic eligibility verification system known as E-Verify. The use of E-Verify is one of the hard triggers Republicans insist must be pulled before unlawful resident aliens can apply for provisional status. Late last month the House Judiciary Committee approved, along partisan lines, a similar proposal. Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte says the measure “balances the need of the American people regarding immigration enforcement with the need of the business community regarding a fair and workable … verification system.”

Tell that to employers like Davis Boris. Boris runs a catering business; his payroll of 25 workers more than triples during busy periods, which means a lot of paperwork even if everything goes right. Yet there’s a good chance that under E-Verify everything wouldn’t. A Homeland Security report predicts a national E-Verify system would create a bureaucratic nightmare so bad “almost 770,000 genuinely legal workers would lose their jobs.” Many more would have to jump through numerous bureaucratic hoops to demonstrate they are who they claim to be. Business such as his, Boris told The New York Times, “don’t have the resources to be catching up with bureaucratic snafus.”

What’s more, this employer mandate is, equally, an individual mandate. The employer has to verify that you have the government’s permission to work. But if any questions come up, the burden of proof falls on you.

Conservatives might respond that once the kinks are worked out, E-Verify will not prove terribly arduous. Setting aside this argument’s touching faith in federal efficiency, it raises other questions: Does that mean their objection to Obamacare’s insurance mandate is strictly utilitarian? Would they accept it gladly if it cost a little less? Do they believe the government can impose as many mandates as it chooses, so long as none of them is too onerous by itself?

Of course not. Republican orthodoxy holds that government should not endlessly dictate the terms by which private enterprise goes about its business, even when those dictates ostensibly serve “the common good.” It doesn’t matter how many people might benefit from a mandate forcing Cathy’s Cupcakes to provide health insurance; whether to provide it should be up to Cathy. Business decisions are best left to those who have the most knowledge and the most right to make them: business owners.

By the same reasoning, it doesn’t matter how many people might benefit from a mandate telling Cathy whom she can hire; if she would prefer Juan over John, that ought to be her business and nobody else’s. And yet the 2012 GOP platform declared that Republicans “insist upon (immigration) enforcement at the workplace through verification systems. … Use of the E-Verify system … must be made mandatory nationwide.” Why? Because “Americans need jobs.”

Well, yes. They do. They also need health insurance. But someone’s needing something does not give government legitimate grounds to make somebody else provide it.


2:34 pm - Fri, Jun 21, 2013

The GOP’s Immigration Problem

Will Wilkinson:

The energetic ideological base of the Republican Party is a nationalist, identity-politics movement for relatively well-to-do older white Americans known as the “tea party”. The tea party is interested in bald eagles, American flags, the founding fathers, Jesus Christ, fighter jets, empty libertarian rhetoric, and other markers of “authentic” American identity and supremacy. That America is “a nation of immigrants” is a stock piece of American identity politics, but the immigrants that made America America were, well, not Mexican, and spoke English, or at least Pennsylvania Dutch. Sorry Mexicans! Even if each element of immigration reform, taken in isolation, is agreed to be a good idea by a solid majority of Republican voters, Republican politicians must nevertheless avoid too-enthusiastically supporting this package of good ideas, lest they fail to project sufficient appreciation for the importance of keeping America American and putting Americans first…

[T]he demands of tea-party political correctness places the GOP in a perverse and harrowing collective action problem. Given the demographic composition of the American electorate and its outlook, the GOP courts collective political annihilation by further alienating non-white voters. Yet it remains individually rational for most Republican politicians to partake in precisely the sort of posturing identity politics that most alienates immigration-friendly voters.


1:00 pm - Tue, Jun 18, 2013
1 note

Today in “Too Stupid for Words” …


12:25 pm - Thu, Jun 13, 2013
1,044 notes


Our thoughts are with Rep. Steve King (R-IA) in this difficult hour. Having your office visited by college kids holding menacing an umbrella looks utterly terrifying.

Photo via @maricelaguilar

If only the NSA had a program to monitor the communications of potential future enemy combatants, tragic events like this could be avoided…


11:16 am

Politics in Virginia: Never-ending, never dull.


12:48 pm - Wed, Jun 12, 2013
3 notes

The only way to stop those terrorists who want to take away our freedoms is to beat them to it! </sarcasm>


11:12 am - Sat, Jun 8, 2013
8 notes


3:23 pm - Thu, Jun 6, 2013
4 notes

Lindsey’s Latest Loopiness

The last time we heard from GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham (yesterday!) he was wondering if the First Amendment applies to blooggers. Now says he is not troubled by the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of American citizens’ phone records, including his, because he hasn’t been talking to any terrorists:

“I’m a Verizon customer, I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government’s going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States,” Graham said on Fox News.

Fox host Steve Doocy said he’s also a Verizon customer and therefore has been tracked by the NSA.

“I don’t think you’re talking to terrorists, I know you’re not, I know I’m not, so we don’t have anything to worry about,” Graham said. “I’m glad the activity’s going on but it is limited to tracking people who are suspected to be terrorists and who they may be talking to.”

So, four points.

First, Graham’s last statement is false. Verizon is handing over data about millions of customers. Millions. They aren’t all talking to terrorists.

Second, his argument seems to be that if you’re innocent, it’s okay for the government to spy on you. Since he also clearly think’s it’s okay for the government to spy on the guilty, then he wants the government to spy on everyone, all the time. Brilliant.

Third, Graham probably hasn’t been stealing from the petty-cash drawer, either. But I bet if I grabbed his wallet and started looking through it, he wouldn’t like that one bit. The innocent don’t forgo privacy rights by virtue of being innocent.

And fourth, maybe Graham really doesn’t mind the government invading HIS privacy. That still does not grant him the right to let it invade YOUR privacy — or mine.


1:18 pm - Wed, Jun 5, 2013


10:26 am - Thu, May 30, 2013
27 notes
The professional wrestler known as Kane is considering whether to challenge Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander. Glenn Jacobs says he has no plans to run, but does not rule out the possibility. 
The Daily Caller reports that

Jacobs says he’s always been interested in politics, but it wasn’t until around 2004 that he began reading economists of the libertarian “Austrian school” such as Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard. He calls Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson “one of the best books anyone can read,” and also cites von Mises’ Human Action and Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State as personal favorites. And after listening to Jacobs talk for a while, it becomes apparent that, somewhere along the way, this leather mask-wearing pro-wrestler, who is famous for performing something called a “chokeslam” on his opponents, became a full-blown libertarian nerd.

The professional wrestler known as Kane is considering whether to challenge Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander. Glenn Jacobs says he has no plans to run, but does not rule out the possibility.

The Daily Caller reports that

Jacobs says he’s always been interested in politics, but it wasn’t until around 2004 that he began reading economists of the libertarian “Austrian school” such as Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard. He calls Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson “one of the best books anyone can read,” and also cites von Mises’ Human Action and Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State as personal favorites. And after listening to Jacobs talk for a while, it becomes apparent that, somewhere along the way, this leather mask-wearing pro-wrestler, who is famous for performing something called a “chokeslam” on his opponents, became a full-blown libertarian nerd.


4:20 pm - Wed, May 29, 2013
1 note

Dear GOP: It’s not Latinos — It’s You

Well-known conservative insider Phyllis Schlafly says the GOP should write off Latinos because “there’s not any evidence at all that these Hispanics coming in from Mexico will vote Republican.”

But as Shikha Dalmia explained in Reason magazine not long ago:

Hispanics are hardly unique in their voting behavior. With the exception of Cubans and Vietnamese, no minority—rich or poor, on or off the dole—has much love for the GOP. 

Consider Indian Americans: More than 85 percent voted for Barack Obama, and 65 percent generally vote Democratic. This despite the fact that, like Jews (another anti-Republican minority), Indian Americans are wealthier and less likely to receive government support than the overall population. What’s more, Indian Americans should be natural allies of limited-government politicians, given how much government dysfunction they’ve witnessed back home.

So how do Republicans manage to alienate nearly every minority? By applying limited-government principles very selectively. During the last 50 years the GOP has opposed welfare handouts, racial preferences, and multiculturalism. Yet the Party of Lincoln has looked the other way when the government has oppressed minorities through racial profiling, discriminatory sentencing laws, and, above all, immigration policy.

America’s immigration laws are an exercise in social engineering that should offend any sincere believer in limited government. They strictly limit the number of foreigners allowed from any one country, largely to prevent America from being overrun by Hispanics and Asians. 

The result: Highly skilled foreigners from India and China have to wait up to two decades to convert their temporary work visas (H1-Bs) to green cards or permanent residency. During this time, they can’t change jobs, and their spouses can’t work. But they have it good compared to low-skilled Hispanics.

Latin American immigrants can’t even get permits to legally enter the U.S. for work. Uncle Sam is extremely tight-fisted with visas for unskilled non-agricultural foreigners. Even if they manage to obtain visas they have no way of applying for green cards because, unlike H1-B workers, the law offers them no avenues to do so. Unless they have close relatives in America, the only way holders of H2-A or H2-B visas can live here permanently is illegally. 

Rather than demanding stricter enforcement of these irrational rules, Republicans could have made common cause with the Hispanics and Asians who are victimized by it. Instead of urging the Obama administration to add to its record-breaking deportation numbers, they could have led the charge against the visa raj that shackles immigrants and the businesses that hire them. Instead of pushing border drones and electric fences, they could have made more compassionate immigration laws a civil rights crusade.

Democrats may resort to bribery, handouts, and fear mongering when wooing immigrants to their side. But Republicans could go a long way simply by staying true to their limited-government principles.


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