Virginia Tees up a Senate Race ( General ) by David Boaz

Virginia's voters -- about 1.5 percent of them, anyway -- have given James Webb a narrow victory in the Democratic Senate primary, setting up a race with incumbent George Allen that promises to be among the most interesting in the country. Allen, who has mysteriously been regarded as a leading presidential candidate, will now have to spend some time at home fighting off the bestselling novelist and former Navy Secretary. Webb is not your typical Democrat, which is why he had trouble winning the nomination over a lesser-known party activist. But he should be strong in the general election. He's a Vietnam War hero who was appointed Navy Secretary by Ronald Reagan and was an early and vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, warning in 2002 that "there is no exit strategy." He can appeal to both leftwing Democrats and moderates who are increasingly disillusioned with the war and the Republicans. Polls indicate that some 15 to 20 percent of voters hold libertarian views, differing from both liberals and conservatives. Webb's opposition to the war and his boast that he's  "pro-choice, pro-gay rights but also pro-Second Amendment" should give him strong appeal to those voters. He thinks the GOP-controlled Congress "rubber-stamps" whatever the Bush administration does, and as a result "we are on the verge of a constitutional crisis in this country . . . far more serious and far more widespread than anything we saw during the Watergate era." However, the Washington Post editorialized that his "somewhat strident populism on trade policy tends toward xenophobic sloganeering and business-bashing." He'll have to develop a more thoughtful position on economic issues to make much headway with libertarian-leaning voters. If he does, it will be interesting to see what libertarians make of the choice between an orthodox conservative Bush Republican and an unorthodox antiwar Democrat. As governor, George Allen scored a 40 on Cato's Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors (his predecessor, putatively liberal Democrat Doug Wilder, scored 75), and he has no notable achievements in the Senate. He voted for the war, the Patriot Act, the Federal Marriage Amendment, the Medicare prescription drug entitlement, and the No Child Left Behind Act. Let the battle for the libertarian center begin.

Posted on June 14, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Charity Doesn’t Begin in This Home ( General ) by David Boaz

Andrew Cuomo -- former secretary of HUD, former candidate for governor of New York, current candidate for attorney general of New York, and best known as the son of former Democratic dream candidate Mario Cuomo -- released his tax returns earlier this month. In 2004 and 2005 Cuomo had more than $1.5 million in adjusted gross income. And he gave a total of $2,000 to charity. He made no charitable contributions in 2003, when his income was a bit less than $300,000. It's no wonder that Cuomo believes passionately in taxing Americans to support all manner of welfare and transfer programs. Looking within himself, he quite understandably fears that in the absence of coerced transfer programs there would be no support for the poor. Yet in fact Americans gave about $250 billion to charity in 2004, or an average of about 2 percent of income. In a related story, leftwing bloggers two months ago denounced Vice President Cheney for the "shady charitable contributions" reported on his 2005 tax return and called him "a major beneficiary of the Hurricane Katrina tax relief act." What was so shady? It seems that on an income of almost $9 million (mostly deferred compensation from his years at Halliburton), Cheney gave 77 percent of it, or $6.8 million, to charity. Some beneficiary! To the lefty bloggers, and especially to their commenters, this was shady because normally you can only take a deduction of up to 50 percent of your income, but that cap was lifted to encourage contributions in the year of Katrina. So Congress passed a law to encourage charitable contributions, and Cheney gave more to charity, and leftists called him "shady." A clear case of Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Posted on June 13, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Very Small Ideas ( General ) by David Boaz

Cato fellow Lawrence Gasman has a new book out: Nanotechnology Applications and Markets. It's about business opportunities in nanotech, not policy, though it has a very brief discussion of the pros and cons of government funding. But if you're interested in the business of nanotech, Gasman knows the technology field well.

Posted on June 12, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Marriage Amendment Failure ( General ) by David Boaz

Supporters of the Marriage Protection Amendment say that even though it failed in the Senate on Wednesday, they are pleased that it did better than two years earlier. But let's do the math. In 2004 supporters lost a cloture vote 48-50, with two opponents not voting. So their strength on moving the amendment to a floor vote was 48-52. This year the vote was 49-48, far short of the 60 needed to invoke cloture or the 67 for a constitutional amendment. If all senators had voted, the vote would likely have been 50-50. So maybe that's a pickup of two votes for amendment supporters. But the Republicans picked up four Senate seats in the 2004 election. So relative to the number of Republicans in the Senate, support for the amendment actually slipped by two votes. Supporters picked up no Democrats, and they lost two Republicans. Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter voted for cloture in 2004, though he would have voted against the amendment itself; this year he voted against cloture and quoted two Cato publications in his Senate speech. Judd Gregg joined his New Hampshire colleague John Sununu in voting for federalism over centralism after realizing that the 2003 Massachusetts court ruling for marriage equality in that state is not being replicated nationwide. Given that younger voters are much more supportive of same-sex marriage than older voters, it seems unlikely that support for an amendment will grow in future years.

Posted on June 8, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Reagan in Leipzig ( General ) by David Boaz

On a trip to East Germany last week I talked to a politician who had been involved in the 1989 Leipzig protests that led to the opening of the Berlin Wall. I asked him, "When Reagan said 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!' in 1987, did you know that?" He said, yes, not from East German TV but from West German TV, which they could watch. And what did you think, I asked. "We thought it was good, but we thought it was impossible." And yet just two years later, "peace prayers" in Leipzig's Nikolaikirche turned into protests for liberalization and open borders. The Leipzig politician told me, "As it says in the Bible, we walked seven times around the inner city, and the wall came down." Then I went to a museum exhibit in Leipzig on the history of the German Democratic Republic. It was very impressive, with a large collection of posters, letters, newspapers, video, and more. Alas, it was all in German, so I had only a dim understanding of what it all said. I did get the impression that it wasn't a balanced presentation of communism such as might be found in a Western museum; these curators knew that communism had been a nightmare, and they were glad to be out of it. As it happened, the only English words in the entire exhibit came in the collection of audio excerpts that greeted visitors in the entry foyer. And they were a familiar voice proclaiming "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate!"

Posted on June 8, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Waiting for FEMA ( General ) by David Boaz

The New York Times reports on a new production of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" which "implies that that the mysterious, perpetually awaited Godot, often thought of as God, is actually the Federal Emergency Management Agency." Which makes sense, since too many people in the theater and allied worlds think that the federal government is God.

Posted on June 6, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Same sex, different states

A bid to ban gay marriage anywhere in America would be a radical intrusion on the power of the 50 states.

Posted on June 1, 2006  Posted to The Guardian

Reckless Justice: The Marriage Protection Amendment ( General ) by David Boaz

Here's a new topic for Chairman Sensenbrenner's suddenly awake Judiciary Committee: “RECKLESS JUSTICE: Does the Marriage Protection Amendment Trample the Constitution?” Of course, the case seems open and shut. In the landmark Lopez case a decade ago, Chief Justice Rehnquist opened with the basics: "We start with first principles. The Constitution establishes a government of enumerated powers." Marriage law has always been reserved to the states in our federal system. Law professor Dale Carpenter calls the Marriage Protection Amendment, which the Senate will debate and vote on next week, "a radical intrusion on the nation's founding commitment to federalism in an area traditionally reserved for state regulation" in his Cato study released today. Conservatives claim to believe in federalism, until the states do things they don't like. Then they turn into New Deal liberals, believing that the federal government should correct the errors of the 50 states. The proposed Marriage Protection Amendment would not just protect states from being forced to recognize same-sex marriages made in other states, as some proponents claim. It would forbid any of the several states from deciding -- through court decision, legislative action, or even popular initiative -- to extend marriage to gay couples. Depending on the interpretation of its language, it may even ban civil unions and domestic partnerships. Of course, it's not good lawmaking to propose an amendment to the Constitution whose language is so unclear, even to its supporters. But then, this really isn't lawmaking. Majority Leader Bill Frist knows the amendment won't pass the Senate next week. It failed in 2004 and is likely to get only a handful more votes this time. A majority leader usually doesn't bring legislation to the floor that he knows will fail. Frist must have some other purpose in mind in bring this amendment up for a futile vote.

Posted on June 1, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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