Great News For Bob Scheiffer and George Stephanopoulos

David Gregory is reportedly to take over as host of Meet the Press. He did have his good moments when pressing the Bush administration during press conferences, but he has all too often repeated lame Republican talking points. Are there also any political junkies who do not consider him one of the most boring hosts of network or cable newscasts?

Gregory’s credentials are summarized by Mike Allen:

Gregory, 38, celebrated his 30th birthday — complete with cake — aboard George W. Bush’s presidential campaign plane, the assignment that solidified his stature as a network rising star. Enjoying a gravitas boost from his prematurely salt-and-pepper mane and friendships with Tom Brokaw and other of the legendary figures of NBC News, the Los Angeles native quickly became one of the hottest personalities in network news.

Eating cake with Geroge Bush, being a friend of Tom Brokaw, and having premature gray hair does not make one a great journalist.

Since I did not think there was much hope that Jon Stewart would get picked, or even that NBC would go with Steve Benen’s top choice of Rachel Maddow, I was hoping that Chuck Todd would be chosen. I think that he was the only one now at NBC who could maintain the current position of Meet the Press as the top Sunday interview show.

Does Size Matter (When Considering Freedom)?

Veronique de Rugy considers the correlation between freedom and size of government, arguing that we are freer today than we were forty years ago despite the increase in the size of government. While the size of government has clearly increased, it is more difficult to answer the question of whether we are more free. What is significant is that an article in the libertarian magazine Reason is even considering this question.

While de Ruby believes we are more free there are clearly counter arguments that we are less free, including the civil liberties consequences of the “war on terror,” the growth in influence of the religious right, and a hell of a lot of new regulations on the books. At least the election of Obama and the repudiation of the authoritarian right in the last election should improve conditions with regards to the first two. The consequences with regards to the third remain to be seen.

The significance of this discussion in a libertarian publication is that many libertarians would argue, without a moment of thought, that there is a direct and absolute negative correlation between size of government and freedom. This is also seen in many Republican voters who blindly vote for the outright authoritarian policies of the GOP thinking they will provide more freedom because they promise to cut or eliminate this or that government agency. There is nothing to prevent a small government from being more tyrannical than a larger one.

In judging whether the policies of a party will make us more or less free, considerations of the size of government only play a small role. It is far more important to consider the role of government in the lives of individuals, as well as the underlying principles they hold. A political party which denies important principles such as separation of church and state, and which ignores the limitations upon the Executive Branch devised by the Founding Fathers, is an enemy of freedom regardless of their rhetoric about cutting the size of government. Of course Republicans haven’t done too well with regards to cutting government spending either.

Now that the Democrats have control of both the Executive and Legislative Branches we can evaluate them based upon how they respond to issues crucial to freedom. Some libertarians and Republicans will continue to have a knee jerk reaction to any measure which increases the size of government and claim that they are reducing our freedom. This would be a poor way to evaluate government under the Democratic Party.

Instead of thinking exclusively of size of government we should evaluate the Democrats based upon whether they act to restore the civil liberties which have been restricted under the Bush administration or continue to allow such polices to continue. The Democrats should be judged based upon whether they restore the checks and balances on Executive Power which were eliminated under the Republicans or whether they allow increased Executive power to continue when it is in their hands. Democrats should be judged on whether they act to restore the wall of separation of church and state as advocated by our Founding Fathers. Democrats should be judged upon whether they act to end the war in Iraq, and ideally to also end the drug war (although I am far less optimistic on this one).

Ronald Reagan was elected with promises to get government off our backs. The Republicans failed to live up to this rhetoric, except in areas where some government regulation is necessary. Reagan’s promise, applied to the lives of individuals as opposed to the financial sector alone, is now one which hopefully the Democrats can fulfill. If they can go this, then we can live with what will inevitably be a larger government.

Hillary Clinton Picked To Do A Girl’s Job?

Megan at Jezabel seems to think so. Spencer Ackerman sets her straight. It is also unfortunate that something as important as soft power has such a weak sounding name.

Supreme Court Allows California Court Ruling Defending Medical Marijuana to Stand

There has been conflict in recent years between state and federal law on medical marijuana. The DEA has enforced federal laws, ignoring the laws in states which have legalized medical marijuana. This is yet another example of where conservatives actually oppose federalism except in cases where the federal government interferes with attempts by states to restrict civil rights.

The Supreme Court at least provides one step towards recognizing state law by refusing to review a decision of a California court which found that its medical marijuana law was not preempted by federal law.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a landmark decision today in which California state courts found that its medical marijuana law was not preempted by federal law. The state appellate court decision from November 28, 2007, ruled that “it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws.” The case, involving Felix Kha, a medical marijuana patient from Garden Grove, was the result of a wrongful seizure of medical marijuana by local police in June 2005. Medical marijuana advocates hailed today’s decision as a huge victory in clarifying law enforcement’s obligation to uphold state law. Advocates assert that better adherence to state medical marijuana laws by local police will result in fewer needless arrests and seizures. In turn, this will allow for better implementation of medical marijuana laws not only in California, but in all states that have adopted such laws.

“It’s now settled that state law enforcement officers cannot arrest medical marijuana patients or seize their medicine simply because they prefer the contrary federal law,” said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical marijuana advocacy organization that represented the defendant Felix Kha in a case that the City of Garden Grove appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. “Perhaps, in the future local government will think twice about expending significant time and resources to defy a law that is overwhelmingly supported by the people of our state.”

Kentucky Enlists God in War on Terror

Many conservative politicians fail to respect our heritage of separation of church and state. In Kentucky the state government has even tried to enlist God in fighting terrorism, or at least credit God for keeping us safe. This violation of separation of church and state has now wound up in the courts, as reported by The Lexington News:

An atheists-rights group is suing the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security because state law requires the agency to stress “dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth.”

American Atheists of Parsippany, N.J., and 10 non-religious Kentuckians are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, set to be filed Tuesday in Franklin Circuit Court.

Edwin Kagin, a Boone County lawyer and the national legal director of American Atheists, said he was appalled to read in the Herald-Leader last week that state law establishes praising God — and installing a plaque in God’s honor — as the first duty of the Homeland Security Office.

The state and federal constitutions both prohibit government from getting involved in religion, Kagin said Monday.

“This is one of the most outrageous things I’ve seen in 35 years of practicing law. It’s breathtakingly unconstitutional,” Kagin said.

Gov. Steve Beshear’s office had not seen the suit and therefore had no comment, spokesman Jay Blanton said.

The requirement to credit God for Kentucky’s protection was tucked into 2006 homeland security legislation by state Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, a Southern Baptist minister.

“This is recognition that government alone cannot guarantee the perfect safety of the people of Kentucky,” Riner said last week.

Riner said he expects Homeland Security to include language recognizing God’s benevolent protection in its official reports and other materials — sometimes the agency does, and sometimes it doesn’t — and to maintain a plaque with that message at the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort.

In the suit, American Atheists argues that Homeland Security should focus on public-safety threats rather than promote religion. The suit notes that the federal and state homeland security agencies were created as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by Muslim fundamentalists, and it refers to those attacks as “a faith-based initiative.”

The plaintiffs ask for the homeland security law to be stripped of its references to God. They also ask for monetary damages, claiming to have suffered sleeping disorders and “mental pain and anguish.”

“Plaintiffs also suffer anxiety from the belief that the existence of these unconstitutional laws suggest that their very safety as residents of Kentucky may be in the hands of fanatics, traitors or fools,” according to the suit.

I agree with removing this provision from the law, but when they claim to deserve monetary damages for pain and suffering I fear they risk making a mockery of their argument. On the other hand, if they should win such damages, the world is full of similar injustices for which we could claim mental pain and anguish.