Service Per Week or Per Year?

One problem of the blogosphere is the tendency to respond to stories quickly, as well as to believe the worst about the other side. There have been a number of stories which have been popular in the blogs which I’ve been glad I held off on commenting on, and an occasional post which I wish I had delayed. A perfect example of this is seen in the unveiling of Obama’s call for public service (a policy which just has never excited the libertarian side of me). Incuded is this goal:

Establish a goal of having middle and high-schoolers contribute at least 50 hours a year to community service, and reach that goal through national guidelines for service-learning and additional resources for schools to develop successful programs. 

Unfortuanatley the first time I saw this on line there was an error, calling for fifty hours a week of community service by students. My immediate reactions were that 1) there is no way that my daughter (or any other high school student) could possibly do this and still attend school and 2) this must have been an error. I decided to simply wait a little longer and see how many hours Obama really intended before commenting.

Conservative bloggers such as Ed Morrissey were quicker to comment. In the time between starting to write and completing this post Ed has already posted a correction, and was skeptical about what Obama intended in his post. It is also notable that some people commenting on this were willing to accept the initial report as representing what Obama was advocating.

All in all this is no big deal, but just serves as something to keep in mind when reading reports on line. The blogosphere is a great way to get out information, but sometimes there were also advantages of the slower pace of old news sources which had more time to weed out errors such as that in Obama’s initial press release. Actually I wonder why Mark Halperin, who ran the initial release, didn’t question this before posting. Apparently his new philosophy on reporting political news still leaves something to be desired.

Will Hinton’s Advice For Ron Paul

Will Hinton weighs in on last week’s question to Ron Paul on conspiracy theories at the CNN/You Tube Debate. I previously posted this portion of the transcript here. Hinton realizes, as most of his supporters do not, that as long as libertarianism is connected with conspiracy theories their views will not be taken seriously. He writes:

Until Libertarians/libertarians like Ron Paul can learn to not allow themselves to be lampooned in this manner, the beliefs they promote will make little headway. Until Ron Paul can learn to be a smarter politician, he will continue to harm the libertarian cause.

Hinton argues that Paul should have answered the question in this manner:

“I’m certainly familiar with organizations like the Council on Foreign Relations but I don’t believe in conspiracy theories per se and quite frankly I don’t appreciate the insinuation that I am a conspiracy theorist. Regarding my supporters, I am drawing from all across the political spectrum because of my support of freedom. And yes, even those who believe in conspiracy theories believe in freedom as well.”

If Paul’s goal was to appeal to more people as opposed to promote his personal views, then this argument would make sense. I’ve recently noted evidence that Paul might be hiding his opposition to the Iraq war in some mailings in attempts to get the votes from veterans. In the comments to that post, former Paul staffer Eric Dondero argues that Paul has long attempted to appear far more pro-military than he really is. We also see that Paul is willing to compromise libertarian principles in his support for earmarks for his district.

While Paul might sometimes be willing to compromise principle at times, I suspect that his belief in conspiracy theories, as opposed to libertarianism or even his opposition to the war, more clearly defines who he is and this is a viewpoint which Paul could simply not conceive of attempting to hide. Comments from Paul supporters demonstrate that belief in conspiracy theories is by far the most common attribute of his internet supporters. It would be a mistake to believe that such beliefs are unique to his supporters and are not shared by their candidate. Paul’s belief in conspiracy theories is often seen in his writings. Paul’s recognition that conspiracy theorists, and not libertarians, represent his major base is also seen in the letters he sends to contributors which echo their beliefs. Paul will not answer as Hinton recommends as this opinion differers too greatly from how he thinks.

Hinton writes that “the average fairly well-informed citizen in the U.S.” will include the following as descriptions of Libertarians:

  • Legalize drugs
  • Government is BAD!!!
  • Bring back the gold standard
  • Get rid of the Dept. of Education
  • Conspiracy theories

I’ve often noted that I personally avoid labels as they tend to lump people together who have significant differences of opinion, as well as separating those who might agree in several areas. I’ve also discussed how the label “libertarianism” is used in a number of different manners and how the meaning has changed over the years. It is especially unfortunate that the major legacy of Paul’s campaign will be to connect libertarianism to conspiracy theories, discrediting the viewpoint in the minds of most Americans. While there is a definite pro-freedom trend in this country with an increasing number of people being more socially liberal and fiscally moderate or conservative, libertarianism, with all its baggage, has failed to provide the answer sought by such voters.

More Question Effects of Mandates But The Real Question Remains One of Principle

More writers are joining Robert Reich, who I quoted earlier in the week, in disputing Hillary Clinton’s claims that her health care plan will insure more people than Obama’s. The New York Times writes:

But while Mrs. Clinton is right that Mr. Obama’s plan would leave out millions, she is being misleading in implying that her own plan covers everyone. Mandates rarely achieve 100 percent compliance. In addition, they are almost impossible to enforce.

Because of those difficulties, Mrs. Clinton’s own plan would probably leave out millions.

Mandates have not worked with auto insurance. While all drivers are required to have it, 15 percent of the nation’s drivers have none, according to the Insurance Research Council.

Mr. Obama’s health plan could actually have a better compliance rate. The 15 million who would supposedly be left out equal about 5 percent of the population — a smaller portion than are going without auto insurance, said Joseph Antos, a health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a nonpartisan group.

“If Obama’s plan were to leave 15 million people without insurance, I think Senator Clinton’s plan would certainly do the same, not because of a mandate but because of the fundamental problems of getting people to recognize that they should buy insurance and making them buy it,” Mr. Antos said.

Tapped has posted a response from the Clinton campaign to these criticisms. I have already commented on some of these arguments in previous discussions of individual mandates. A major philosophical difference can be seen in the Clinton argument that “the key reforms necessary to make insurance accessible will be far more difficult without an individual requirement.” Clinton has clearly not learned anything from the previous health care debacle. Any plan which is based upon excessive intrusion into the lives of Americans is a flawed plan and will face serious political obstacles. In contrast, any plan, such as Obama’s, which attempts to be more voluntary is both preferable and has a significantly greater chance of being accepted.

The real problem in these discussions is the manner in which the goal posts have moved between 2003 and 2007. In 2003 the Democratic candidates (including John Edwards) concentrated on plans to remedy many of the current problems as opposed to demanding universal coverage. Allowing everyone who desires health care the opportunity to purchase affordable care should be the benchmark, not whether the plan is universal and includes even those who do not desire the plan.

Clinton’s arguments that it would be preferable for everyone to have coverage certainly make sense, but that is not what matters. In a free society people will make bad decisions. The proper role of government in a free society is not to prevent everyone from making a bad decision but to help those who desire to make a good decision, such as obtaining health care coverage, capable of doing so.

John Kerry’s plan in 2003 was based upon this principle of voluntary solutions to problems. Kerry rejected the idea of mandates and worked to make the plan voluntary but Republicans still labeled this a “government take over of health care.” The plans advocated by Clinton and Edwards will make such arguments far easier for Republicans to make, and they will be far more convincing to a public which is finally willing to consider some type of health care reform. The individual market for health insurance has serious problems which the market is unable to address due to the financial motivation of insurers to simply deny coverage to those who are expensive to cover drop beneficiaries when more profitable. Health reform plans should concentrate on these problems as opposed to trying to impose a single system upon everybody.

Walter Cronkite: The Invasion of Iraq Was Illegal From the Start

Walter Cronkite’s opposition to the Vietnam war was instrumental in turning public opinion against that mistake. Cronkite is far less prominent now that he was in the 1960’s but he continues to speak out against foreign policy mistakes. The following is an excerpt of an article by Walter Cronkite and David Krieger at CommonDreams:

The invasion of Iraq was illegal from the start. Not only was Congress lied to in order to secure its support for the invasion of Iraq, but the war lacked the support of the United Nations Security Council and thus was an aggressive war initiated on the false pretenses of weapons of mass destruction. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Nor has any assertion of a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda proven to be true. In the end, democracy has not come to Iraq. Its government is still being forced to bend to the will of the US administration.

What the war has accomplished is the undermining of US credibility throughout the world, the weakening of our military forces, and the erosion of our Bill of Rights. Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz calculates that the war is costing American tax payers more than $1 trillion. This amount could double if we continue the war. Each minute we are spending $500,000 in Iraq. Our losses are incalculable. It is time to remove our military forces from Iraq.

We must ask ourselves whether continuing to pursue this war is benefiting the American people or weakening us. We must ask whether continuing the war is benefiting the Iraqi people or inflicting greater suffering upon them. We believe the answer to these inquiries is that both the American and Iraqi people would benefit by ending the US military presence in Iraq.

Moving forward is not complicated, but it will require courage. Step one is to proceed with the rapid withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and hand over the responsibility for the security of Iraq to Iraqi forces. Step two is to remove our military bases from Iraq and to turn Iraqi oil over to Iraqis. Step three is to provide resources to the Iraqis to rebuild the infrastructure that has been destroyed in the war.

Congress must act. Although Congress never declared war, as required by the Constitution, they did give the president the authority to invade Iraq. Congress must now withdraw that authority and cease its funding of the war.

Huckabee Backs Teaching Creationism in Schools

Mike Huckabee might make sense compared to other Republicans from time to time but this report out of Des Moines shows that he is still out of touch with reality with regards to science. He continues to assert that his views on evolution do not matter, arguing, “That’s an irrelevant question to ask me — I’m happy to answer what I believe, but what I believe is not what’s going to be taught in 50 different states.”

As evolution is a fundamental principle of modern biology, and as advances of biology are likely to increasingly impact matters of public policy, it is important that a president understands the basics of modern science. It is also important that American students be taught science in science classes and not religious beliefs. Huckabee has supported the teaching of intelligent design, the new name for creationism:

Huckabee, at a dinner in Des Moines, told reporters that the theory of intelligent design, whose proponents believe an intelligent cause is the best way to explain some complex and orderly features of the universe, should be taught in schools as one of many viewpoints. “I don’t think schools ought to indoctrinate kids to believe one thing or another,” he said.

With regards to science there is only one proven viewpoint, and biology cannot be taught coherently without teaching evolution. Teaching evolution in science class is no more indoctrination than teaching that 2+2=4 in math class. Of course the supporters of Big Brother tried to teach Winston Smith a different answer in 1984, and the tactics of the religious right to place religious stories as being on par with science are no more valid than the Orwellian claim that 2+2=5.

Ron Paul Flubs Appearance on The View


Before he appeared as a guest on The View, Hot Air predicted that this would probably be the “first time that Ron Paul makes more sense than anyone else on the stage.” Paul has been on several stages where he made more sense than anyone else, such as at every Republican debate he has participated in and discussed Iraq. It seemed like a sure bet that Paul would make more sense than anyone else on the stage at The View. As seen in the video above, that was not the case. This was one of the weakest appearances I have seen by Ron Paul.

Without the benefit of questions on topics such as Iraq or civil liberties, Paul came across as someone remarkably uninformed and incapable of making a coherent argument. The questions started on on abortion, placing Paul at an immediate disadvantage. While I might disagree, it is possible to make a coherent argument in opposition to abortion rights, but Paul simply could not do so. Although introduced as a Gynecologist, making him someone who should know better, he even referred to “partial birth abortions” as if the term had some medical validity.

Lacking any intelligent arguments, Paul resorted to his standbys of the Constitution and state’s rights. He stated, “I want to sort this out the way the Constitution mandates and that is at the state level.” This ignores both Constitutional issue of the individual’s right to privacy and promotes a view of state’s right which is not supported by the Constitution. I recently quoted historian Joseph Ellis on his view of the five core achievements of the founding fathers. In addition to disagreeing with Paul’s view denying separation of church and state, Ellis also explained how the founding fathers created over-lapping sources of authority in which blurring of jurisdiction between federal and state power became an asset. Paul ignores the extension of Constitutional liberties from the federal government to the states under the 14th Amendment and ignores the important role of the federal government in protecting these liberties as opposed to allowing the majority to restrict the rights of the minority at a state level.

After the discussion of abortion the discussion was weak on both sides. The next two questions coincidentally were two of the topics at NPR’s Democratic debate, immigration and China but the questioning was superficial. They ended with a particularly inane question as to which other candidate Paul would support. While everyone other than some of Paul’s supporters realize Paul has no chance to win, we still must allow the candidates the hope of victory rather than to expect them to endorse an opponent.