FREEDOM OF SPEECH

constitution1.pngWhat is the threat to political blogging? Some worry that irresponsible bloggers pose a threat. I don’t really think so. If we have to worry about anything, I think we should worry about the nature of our government. Government, after all, is where the busybodies go who insist upon running everyone else’s business.

That is why several days ago in response this post at Shaun Kenny I wrote this comment.

How long have people been blogging on the Internet? Ten years, maybe? How will people regard the Internet and blogging ten years from now? Do any of us know? Based on these past ten years, do we have enough data to extrapolate what the future holds?

What can history teach us about blogging and its future? What past technologies have allowed individuals to cheaply publish news and opinions for the benefit of a reading audience? I chose the pseudonym of Thomas Paine (i.e., Citizen Tom) for a reason. When I consider blogging from the perspective of the past, I think of the pamphleteers of Paine’s era. And I would not be surprised if our fates will be similar to those that befell the pamphleteers of the past.

Based upon what we know of those pamphleteers, I think our fates will depend upon largely upon chance, the content of our blogs, and salesmanship. What successful pamphleteers did is they evolved into corporately held newspapers and magazines.

Yes, the overall quality of blogging does affect readership, but as a practical matter, blogging is just another way for people to communicate. Thus, the real problem we each face from other bloggers is the sheer number of them. How do we rise above the din? How do our readers find us? With that in mind, we each instinctively practice a concept called market segmentation.

Market segmentation, however, provides only an immediate business solution; it does not solve a glaring technical problem. The technical key to our fate lies in solving the problem our readers have in finding us. Thus there are others, not newspapers such as the Washington Post or the Washington Times, who may hold the key to the fates of our blogs.

Google, Yahoo, and other search engines function as gatekeepers. Aggregators such as Blognetnews.com and Waldo’s Virginia Political Blogroll only provide welcome alternatives.

Technology development tends to be unpredictable. The efforts of government to control communications are predictably never ending. Consider what services certain large Internet companies have provided the Red Chinese. Then consider what some who run our government are itching to do.

Well, the threat from government to Internet freedom is coming. However, the government’s choice of controls may take a little different form than I thought. See this post at Below the Beltway.

Remember our Constitution. If you do not remember, our leaders will certainly not bother themselves to remember.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. (from here)

PRESIDENTIAL PROS AND CONS: RUDY GIULIANI

elephantgop.pngBecause I am having trouble figuring out which Republican presidential candidate I want to support, I decided to evaluate the Republican field based upon the issues I care about. The last section of this post, The Issues, describes the issues I care about.

The Candidate on the Issues

The first candidate I chose to evaluate is Rudy Giuliani. As Virginia’s primary date approaches, February 12, I will rate the remaining candidates.

Most of the data in this section is taken straight from the candidate’s websites. In addition, Wikipedia (here) and some news articles are cited.

Education – Guiliani unambiguously favors school choice. This is the next best thing to getting the Federal Government out of the education business. Guiliani recognizes how choice ensures quality in higher education and wants to allow parents to choose the K – 12 education their children receive.

Guiliani is not new to this issue. As sources I derived from Wikipedia note, Guiliani supported educational choice as the mayor of New York City (see here and here). Unfortunately, the anti-school choice forces prevailed in New York City.

Law – Guiliani has an outstanding record as a crime fighter (see here and here for example).

As a lawyer and former attorney in the Justice Department, Guiliani has experience selecting judges. He helped to select judges for President Ronald Reagan. Guiliani has straight-forwardly promised to appoint justices such as Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas. Nonetheless, Guiliani position on abortion still poses campaign problems with some conservatives (see here).

Guiliani says abortion is immoral, but he also says it should be legal, and he has contributed to Planned Parenthood (here). That seems to be an awkward position, but some think not. Here is Charles KrauthHammer’s take Guiliani’s position.

Guiliani also favors homosexual rights. As mayor, he signed legislation recognizing domestic partnerships (see here).

National Defense – Guiliani’s positions on National Defense are perhaps his best selling point. Due to his performance as the Mayor of New York on September 11, 2001, Guiliani has tremendous credibility on defense issues. Guiliani is a stauch proponent for winning Iraq and the War on Terrorism. He promises to strengthen the military and remain on offense.

He will add at least 10 new combat brigades to the Army and will expand our Navy to more than 300 ships. He will ensure that the Air Force has the new refueling tankers it needs, and will build a new long range bomber to replace the B-52. (from here)

Immigration – Guiliani promises to secure our borders, but he says nothing about punishing employers who hire illegal immigrants. Guiliani talks about a tamper proof ID, but only foreigners would be required to have this ID (So I guess anyone without the ID would not be a foreigner?)

Guiliani portrays illegal immigration as a crime problem, something he has a good reputation for dealing with. However, there is nothing in this plan about punishing the employers of illegal immigrants (So I do not think his plan will work.).

Limited Government – Guiliani says that he helped cut taxes 23 times as mayor and that he kept spending in check in the Big Apple (see here). According data available on Mitt Romney’s website (here), the New York City budget grew more than 37% during Mayor Giuliani two terms as mayor (1994 through 2001). Admittedly, 37% does sound like a lot — until you factor inflation (8% after inflation) for six or seven years.

Mona Charen describes Giuliani as a budget cutter (here). The truth appears to be in the middle. During most of mayoralty, Guiliani was favored by a booming economy and surpluses. When the economy soured in the aftermath of September 11, Guiliani ended his mayoralty with deficits. The current mayor, Mike Bloomberg, blamed Guiliani for leaving him with a budget mess. However, even after all these years, Bloomberg seems quite unable to balance a budget (here).

Guiliani promises to:

Reduce the Federal Civilian Workforce by 20% through Attrition and Retirement: Within the next decade, 42% of the Federal Civilian Workforce – some 300,000 bureaucrats – will retire. (from here)

The Environment – Guiliani does not directly with environment directly. Instead, he approaches this issue from the perspective of energy policies. Guiliani talks about diversifying our energy portfolio and energy independence. He wants to provide private industry incentives to develop alternative energy sources including nuclear energy.

When I hear the term “incentives” from a politician, I tend to cringe. Their incentives usually favor certain technology choices. Aside from the fact they don’t know enough, making technology choices for us is not the rightful business of politicians.

As the mayor of New York, Guiliani’s did not acquire much of a record on the environmental issues (not in the mayor’s portfolio). What little there is is a mixed bag. There has been some stink about how the personnel cleaning up after September 11 did not have adequate protective gear (here). On the other hand, some laud the former mayor for his aggressiveness in dealing with the West Nile virus (here).

Welfare – Here Guiliani focuses on the problems with respect to health care. As an aging baby boomer, I can understand why he might do that. Older folks vote, and the expanding role of government in health care is busting the budget. Nonetheless, Guiliani proposed fixes do not address us old folks. Instead he promises to expand choice by reforming the tax code.

America’s tax system penalizes millions of citizens without access to employer health care, including 40 percent of employees at small firms. Americans without employer-based insurance should have tax benefits just as the 175 million Americans with employment-based coverage do. Rudy proposes an income exclusion of up to $15,000 for those without employer coverage to make insurance more affordable. (from here)

Otherwise, what Guiliani provides is a laundry list of sensible, if somewhat nebulous, improvements.

The Economy – Guiliani economic program is consists of a two-pronged attack. One prong consists of a program of tax cuts and fiscal discipline. The second prong is a program to improve America’s economic competitiveness. He promises to make permanent the hand-me-down laundry list of tax cuts Bush has worked on for the last seven years. In addition, he promises to fight for free trade and to improve America’s educational system.

Candidate Websitewww.joinrudy2008.com is a respectable website. The website’s designers make considerable use of online video technology. So you have ample opportunity to hear the candidate speak and address the issues.

Guiliani emphasizes his record as mayor of New York focusing on his role as a crime fighter and his record of fiscal discipline. On some issues such as school choice, the website provides a frank presentation of Guiliani views. On others such as abortion, homosexual rights, and his divorces, information is sparse.

Personal Life – Due to his two divorces and extramarital affairs, Guiliani’s personal life leaves something to be desired (here). It is not good when your spouse cannot trust you.

Here the Washington Post provides a write-up on the business dealings of Guiliani’s management consulting firm after he left office as the Mayor of New York. Guiliani’s firm appears to have been a financial success, largely capitalizing on his reputation. Because of the nature of its business, giving advice and serving as an advocate, Guiliani’s Partners was a rather secretive enterprise. Thus the Post article was forced to use unnamed sources (which we are suppose to trust?) and insinuates much more than it actually proves. Guiliani’s continued association with Bernard B. Kerik, nonetheless, constitutes a blemish on his record (here).

General Observations

It is hard to argue with the general consensus that Rudy Giuliani was a good mayor for the city of New York. With the exception of his personal life (divorces) and the dubious choice of Kerik as police commissioner, Giuliani has a relatively good record. Guiliani’s recognizes his weakness on social issues, and he has tried to compensate by offering to appoint conservative judges. Nonetheless, that promise cannot alleviate some reasonable concerns. In addition to appointing conservative judges, President Bush has served as a bulwark against irresponsible legislation concerning the public financing of abortions and stem cell research. Guiliani has provided little reason to believe he is willing to serve in a similar capacity.

That said, Guiliani has the requisite experience, and even in the teeth of opposition, New York City, he has shown the willingness to implement fiscally conservative policies. Thus Guiliani still ranks as one of the best choices available for president.

The Issues

  • Education – Ostensibly, the Federal Government has no role with respect to education. Unfortunately, the lack of constitutional authority does not seem to stop elected officials from spending money and issuing mandates. I want this abuse of authority to stop.
  • Law – Our president should understand the law and be willing to live within the law. Our president should take the lead in protecting our rights, particularly freedom of religion, the cornerstone of American Law. As a conservative, I also think Supreme Court judges such as Anthony Scalia and Clarence Thomas have the best understanding of the Constitution. I want more such judges appointed.
  • National Defense – To deter potential aggressors, it is imperative that we have a strong military and an ethical strategy designed to protect our vital national interests. We cannot cavalierly abandon Iraq.
  • Immigration – Our nation is being slowly overrun by poor, uneducated, illegal immigrants. Since most of these people come from Spanish speaking nations to the south of us, our nation is being balkanized into different language and economic groups. What that portends for the future is civil strife.
  • Limited Government – You will not see a balance budget or low taxes in this list. What I am looking for is a candidate who sees all spending as discretionary and that we have too much government. We do not need a candidate who makes promises to hand us other people’s money. As I see it, anybody who will rob Peter to pay Paul cannot be trusted not to rob Tom too.
  • The Environment – A clean environment is a fundamental right. To protect the environment, we need a strong environmental policy. Such a policy cannot depend on the scientific wisdom of politicians. No human being, not even a politician able to make endless promises, has sufficient brain power to figure out how to build a modern industrial society that does not pollute the environment. What our government can do, however, is punish polluters when they dump pollutants into our environment. Thus I want candidate who understands the difference between stopping polluters and trying to run private industry.
  • Welfare – The welfare state is a massive scam; welfare is politicians buying us with our own money. Our cradle-to-grave welfare state is also a steadily growing national disaster. Even though the Federal Government has no constitutional authority throw our money into these idiot programs, each year we put a greater percentage of the Federal budget into welfare programs. Eventually, the money must run out.
  • The Economy – Because none of us know enough to run everybody else’s business, government must have a limited role in the economy. What government can and must do is regulate economic activity. Government encourages economic activity by ensuring that buyers and sellers are honest. In addition, government encourages economic activity by establishing a currency for exchange and standard weights and measures. Government cannot and does not create jobs.
  • Candidate Website – Any candidate fit to run our nation should be able to set up a decent campaign website. That candidate should also be forthcoming about his record and what he intends to do if he is elected.
  • Personal Life – Character makes a difference. If we want our nation to strive for high ideals, then the person we select to lead us must honorable and trustworthy. We should not allow a candidate to buy our vote, but people do. By suggesting that those of us who want to vote for a trustworthy politicians are fooling ourselves, some seemingly revel in the fact too many candidates are unworthy of our trust (see here). That makes for a sad state of affairs and says how much we need to pray for our leaders.