Two Socially Liberal Republicans Accomplishing Goals Despite Washington Gridlock

The Republicans could (and probably will) do a lot worse than to follow the lead of this odd couple profiled by Time:

The Hollywood brute and the Wall Street mogul may look like the oddest couple since Twins, but there’s a reason Schwarzenegger calls Bloomberg his soul mate. They’re both self-confident, self-made men who rose to stardom from middle-class obscurity — Bloomberg in Medford, Mass., Schwarzenegger in Thal, Austria — through Tiger Woods-level determination and Donald Trump-level salesmanship. They’re both socially liberal Republicans who have flourished in Democratic political cultures; Schwarzenegger is even a member of the Kennedy clan, through his marriage to Maria Shriver.

While Washington has been in gridlock and “when President George W. Bush’s political adviser is a household name but his domestic policy adviser was unknown even in Washington until he was arrested for shoplifting,” mayors and governors are being forced to take action:

Look at global warming. Washington rejected the Kyoto Protocol, but more than 500 U.S. mayors have pledged to meet its emissions-reduction standards, none more aggressively than Bloomberg. His PlaNYC calls for a 30% cut in greenhouse gases by 2030. It will quadruple the city’s bike lanes, convert the city’s taxis to hybrids and impose a controversial congestion fee for driving into Manhattan. And Schwarzenegger signed the U.S.’s first cap on greenhouse gases, including unprecedented fuel-efficiency standards for California cars. (He’s already tricked out two of his five Hummers, one to run on biofuel and another on hydrogen.) The feds have done nothing on fuel efficiency in two decades, but 11 states will follow California’s lead if Bush grants a waiver. After signing a climate deal with Ontario — on the same day as his stem-cell deal — he said he had a message for Detroit: “Get off your butt!” He had a similar message for Washington. “Eventually, the Federal government is going to get on board,” he said. “If not, we’re going to sue.”

But they’re tackling not just the climate. Bloomberg is leading a national crackdown on illegal guns, along with America’s biggest affordable-housing program. He also enacted America’s most draconian smoking ban and the first big-city trans-fat ban. And he’s so concerned about Washington’s neglect of the working poor that he’s raised $50 million in private money, including some of his own millions, to fund a pilot workfare program. Meanwhile, after the Bush Administration rebuffed California’s appeals for help repairing the precarious levees that protect Sacramento, Schwarzenegger pushed through $42 billion worth of bonds to start rebuilding the state’s infrastructure. He’s also pushing a universal health-insurance plan and hopes to negotiate a deal with Democrats this summer. “All the great ideas are coming from state and local governments,” Schwarzenegger told Time. “We’re not going to wait for Big Daddy to take care of us.”


Samuel Alito Pledges To Defend Freedom of Speech

There’s hope that Samuel Alito won’t be a total disaster on the Supreme Court as he has stressed the importance of freedom of speech in considering upcoming cases while speaking at the National Italian American Foundation:

Two of the court’s biggest remaining cases focus on the First Amendment, and while Alito didn’t mention either, he did make it clear that any restrictions on speech face a high hurdle with him.

“I’m a very strong believer in the First Amendment and the right of people to speak and to write,” Alito said in response to a question of “where’s the line” on what can be posted on the Internet. “I would be reluctant to support restrictions on what people could say.”

The newest justice, who was protective of speech rights as an appellate judge, added that “some restrictions have been held to be consistent with the First Amendment, but it’s very dangerous for the government to restrict speech.”

One case is over whether a principal violated the rights of a student who unfurled a flag saying “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” along a parade route. The other concerns restrictions under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law on corporations, unions and special interest groups naming federal candidates in ads broadcast in the run-up to elections.

Liberal Profs Not Responsible For Destroying Religion

If you listen to the babble coming from many conservatives, you’d get the impression that “politically correct” liberal professors are turning students into atheists who will help Democrats steal their bibles. A study in Social Forces shows that college is not responsible for people losing interest in religion:

“Actually we’ve just been wrong about this for quite a while,” said Mark D. Regnerus, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the authors of a new study that suggests students who attend and graduate from college are more likely than others to hold on to their faith.

It’s not that colleges necessarily encourage faith, he said, but for all the talk about how intellectuals are out to destroy students’ relationships to their religions and God, the main obstacles to such relationships have to do with maturing and how young people spend their time. “Some kids were bound to lose [their faith] anyway and they do,” Regnerus said. But the evidence suggests that college isn’t responsible…

A substantial majority of young adults report a decline in attendance at religious services, while a minority report that religion has become less important and that they have completely dropped their religion. But the greatest drops come from those who are not in college.

Pelosi Criticized For Seeking Free Air Travel For Children

Nancy Pelosi is involved in another controversy over transportation on government planes. The Hill reports, “Pentagon officials are bracing for a fight with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over her desire to allow lawmakers’ adult children to tag along on taxpayer-funded travel for free.”

There may be some logic to her argument that adult children might fill in for a  spouse who cannot make a trip, but at risk of once again being attacked for my “lack of leftist purity” in criticizing a Democrat, this just does not pass the smell test. When you take control of Congress running against the “culture of corruption” it is smartest to remain squeaky clean should you win. It also appears inconsistent to protest free travel on corporate jets but expect to receive free travel from the taxpayers. Pelosi has already been criticized by Public Citizen for this:

“One of the things she was praised for when she came in was her sweeping reforms on gifts and travel,” said Craig Holman of Public Citizen. “It is very disheartening if she is, in fact, backsliding on this.”

Public Citizen filed a complaint with the IRS last year, saying that family members who receive free travel by accompanying lawmakers should pay taxes on the travel’s value. The complaint focused on privately sponsored travel, but Holman said it should apply to taxpayer-funded travel as well.

Conservatives Debate Whether Fred Thompson Attended Church Frequently Enough

David Brody of CBN asks, and answers, a disturbing question: “Do you care if the President of the United States attends Church? My bet is the majority of Americans would say yes.” Not only do they care if he attends, but some are now keeping score as to how often. Brody links to an article at WorldNetDaily which questions whether Fred Thompson has attended church enough–with no discussion of whether he has ever played a priest, minister, rabbi, or even a character attending church on television. From WorldNetDaily (and indirectly found through Andrew Sullivan):

First, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson was reported to have said the Republican presidential hopeful is not a real Christian. Thompson shot back that he’s not only a Christian, but a member of the fundamentalist Churches of Christ.

Now a political science professor at a Church of Christ-affiliated college charges Thompson is a “lapsed member.” And he has issued a challenge on the Internet to anyone who can come up with evidence that Thompson, now an actor, is active in the Church of Christ.

Is the Hollywood star-turned-politician a true believer?

Thompson’s chances at capturing the GOP primary may rest on the answer, thanks to the growing electoral clout of Christian conservatives.

Professor Mark Elrod of Harding University said he doubts Thompson is “filling out an attendance card at a Church of Christ on Sundays.”

The political scientist says he hasn’t been able to find any information regarding the former senator’s actual membership in a local congregation in his home state of Tennessee.

“In our tradition,” Elrod said, “that’s called ‘being out of fellowship’ or a ‘lapsed member.'”

On his blog, the professor challenged the Church of Christ faithful to produce evidence they’ve seen Thompson “at an assembly of a Church of Christ (Stone-Campbell) in the last 20 years.” So far nobody has met the challenge.

Specifically, Elrod is soliciting any information about Thompson having:

Taught a Bible class,
Presided at the Lord’s table,
Served as a greeter,
Or led singing (“If it was 728b and you can prove it, I’ll give you $100,” he wagered, referring to the hymn, “Our God, He Is Alive,” which is considered an anthem in the Churches of Christ).

Edwards Takes on Pharmaceutical and Insurance Industries

Watching John Edwards is becoming like watching Lost. Each time we seem to get answers we find new questions raised, and in some cases new enemies. ABC News reports two proposals from Edwards which will not get him much support from the pharmaceutical or insurance industries. While some blog comments have dwelled on this factor, in reality they were never going to back him any ways. If there is any danger, it is that this will further give the impression that Edwards is anti-business and alienate many potential voters.

The biggest proposal from Edwards is to replace the current system in which pharmaceutical companies have a patent on new drugs for several years, allowing them to charge high prices which the pharmaceutical companies claim are necessary to fund further research. I wonder how much of it is also to fund all those glossy brochures on their drugs which wind up in my trash immediately upon receipt. I doubt this proposal has much of a chance, but much more information on the details is needed to evaluate.

Edwards also proposes to require insurance companies to spend 85% of premiums on patient care. He states that currently 30% of premiums go to administrative expenses, but that New York, Minnesota, New Jersey,and Florida impose similar restrictions.

Free Paris


It’s been impossible to ignore all the publicity about Paris Hilton, and difficult to resist posting on. It was just too hard to resist blog posts entitled Paris Has Been Liberated! and Paris Burning. I’ve heard claims that Paris was being treated more harshly than others with similar offenses would, but I’ve actually only paid marginal attention to the whole affair and hadn’t seen any clear evidence either way. Today the Los Angeles Times presents an analysis,and also turns this into a real story as opposed to celebrity fluff, ensuring that we’ll always have Paris.

The analysis in the Los Angeles Times find that “Paris Hilton will end up serving more time behind bars than the vast majority of inmates sent to L.A. County Jail for similar offenses.”

The Times analyzed 2 million jail releases and found 1,500 cases since July 2002 that — like Hilton’s — involved defendants who had been arrested for drunk driving and later sentenced to jail after a probation violation or driving without a license.

Had Hilton left jail for good after four days, her stint behind bars would have been similar to those served by 60% of those inmates.

But after a judge sent her back to jail Friday, Hilton’s attorney announced that she would serve the full 23 days. That means that Hilton will end up serving more time than 80% of other people in similar situations.

Paris Hilton shouldn’t be given special treatment due to her fame and wealth, but neither should she be treated more harshly than the vast majority convicted of similar offenses.