Geraldine Ferraro, a Milepost in Social Change

At the Britannica Blog I reflect on the death of Geraldine Ferraro and the dramatic changes in women's role in political and social life in a surprisingly short time:
In the 1960s and 1970s feminism swept the field, overwhelming all opposition.
And if you don't know who was the first woman in American history to win an electoral vote, or the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate who did not follow her father or husband into politics, read the whole thing.

Posted on March 28, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Patrick Henry and Mohammed Nabbous

On this day in 1775, Patrick Henry delivered his famous "Liberty or Death!" speech at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia. Fortunately, Henry got the liberty he sought and lived another quarter-century to enjoy the republican government he helped to create. But last night, NPR reported on Mohammed Nabbous, a man who made a similar stand in Libya and almost immediately lost his life in the struggle for liberty. Henry told his fellow Virginians:
If we wish to be free -- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending -- if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!... Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
Mo Nabbous used modern technology to reach more listeners. NPR's Andy Carvin called him "the face of Libyan citizen journalism" who started a one-man Internet broadcast, Libya Al-hurra or Free Libya:
The media was so tightly controlled by the Gadhafi regime. And then all of a sudden, as Benghazi was trying to free itself, you started hearing voices coming over the Internet. And one of those first voices to come out was Mo, Mohammed Nabbous. And he was a fairly tech savvy guy, had worked in the tech industry before. And so he managed to rig together a live stream, using freely available tools and a satellite Internet access. And suddenly, he became their local equivalent of Radio Free Europe or Voice of America, where he was trying to get the world to hear their point of view of what was going on.
And then, only weeks after starting his broadcasts, at the age of 28, Nabbous was killed -- on the air, as he broadcast from a firefight in Benghazi. Interviewer Melissa Block recalled that he had been known to say, in words that echo Patrick Henry,
I'm not afraid to die. I'm afraid to lose the battle.
Freedom is won by people like Patrick Henry and Mohammed Nabbous. We should remember both of them today, and take inspiration from their example.

Posted on March 23, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Missing in Action: The Antiwar Movement

At the Britannica Blog today, I ask, What ever happened to the antiwar movement?
Maybe antiwar organizers assumed that they had elected the man who would stop the war. After all, Barack Obama rose to power on the basis of his early opposition to the Iraq war and his promise to end it. But after two years in the White House he has made both of George Bush’s wars his wars.... And now Libya. In various recent polls more than two-thirds of Americans have opposed military intervention in Libya. No doubt many of them voted for President Obama.... It’s hard to escape the conclusion that antiwar activity in the United States and around the world was driven as much by antipathy to George W. Bush as by actual opposition to war and intervention. Indeed, a University of Michigan study of antiwar protesters found that Democrats tended to withdraw from antiwar activity as Obama found increasing political success and then took office. Independents and members of third parties came to make up a larger share of a smaller movement. looked at the dwindling antiwar movement two months ago.
Like Gene Healy, I also reflect on these words from Senator Barack Obama in his campaign for president:
The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

Posted on March 21, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The Tea Party, Real and Imagined

In the Washington Post, Dana Milbank rounds up a lot of bills introduced into state legislatures by conservatives, some of them a bit odd, and blames them all on "the Tea Party." "Tea Party" has sort of replaced "neoconservative" as an all-purpose pejorative for liberals. Meanwhile, a tiny AP story down in the small type among the nail fungus ads reported some real Tea Party-style news. The Miami Herald covered it in more detail:
Voters swept Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez out of office by a stunning margin Tuesday [88 percent], capping a dramatic collapse for a politician who was given increased authority by voters four years ago to clean up much-maligned county government but was ushered out in the largest recall of a local politician in U.S. history. The spectacular fall from power comes after two years of missteps, ranging from granting top staffers big pay hikes to construction of a publicly funded stadium for the Florida Marlins to implementation of a property-tax rate increase that outraged an electorate struggling through an ugly recession.... Tuesday’s vote served notice that the public is thirsting for widespread reform at County Hall, long dominated by entrenched politicians and insiders. County Commissioner Natacha Seijas was similarly recalled Tuesday in a resounding defeat. For 18 years she represented a district that includes Miami Lakes and Hialeah and was widely regarded as the most powerful politician on the commission. The two ousters come on the heels of Dorrin Rolle’s defeat in November, which marked the first time a sitting county commissioner has been defeated in 16 years. More than 200,000 people cast votes in the election.
Miami is no right-wing hotbed. Obama got 58 percent of the vote there. This should worry tax-hikers everywhere.

Posted on March 16, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Cato on Stossel — at a New Time

Thursday evening, "Stossel" on FOX Business Network moves to a new time -- 10 p.m. ET. This week's show looks at waste in government, with Rep. Jeff Flake, Cato's Chris Preble on military spending, and John McWhorter on the drug war. Set your DVRs. Or, come to think of it, you can still watch TV live.

Posted on March 16, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

A Routine, Run-of-the-Mill Half-Billion-Dollar Corruption Story

It may be Michael Kinsley who first said that the scandal in Washington is not what's illegal, it's what's legal. Maybe a corollary is that the scandal is what people don't even notice when it's exposed. The Washington Post splashed a huge story of corruption across the front page of its Sunday Business section. The pull quote in the center read
A D.C. lawyer and her associates secured $500 million in federal contracts to benefit Alaska native corporations. Less than one percent made it back to Alaska.
And so far this impressive story by Robert O'Harrow Jr. has generated 4 comments, 7 tweets, 11 "likes" on Facebook, and only one other blog post that I can find. Are we so jaded that a full-page investigation of self-dealing and corruption involving affirmative action, small business, defense contracting, and complicated financial maneuvers just doesn't get our juices flowing? And if one diligent reporter, who obviously spent a lot of time on this story, could find this much fraud by one well-connected contractor, how much could a hundred reporters find? I generally don't think that "waste, fraud, and abuse" is the key to cutting federal spending; you have to go after the big programs, like transfer payments and military spending. But as Everett Dirksen almost said, $500 million here, $500 million there, pretty soon you're talking real money. So let me just turn the floor over to O'Harrow to tell you what he found: Read more...

Posted on March 15, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Book ‘Em, Danno

I hope you've got your NCAA bracket in by now. The NCAA estimates that 35 million Americans will do so. But keep in mind: As the Washington Post notes, you're breaking the law:
Office pools, despite the warnings of law enforcement officials, are among the country’s most popular illegal activities. The FBI estimates that roughly $2.5 billion is gambled on the NCAA tournament, and only $80 million is bet legally through Nevada sports books. A good portion of the rest takes the form of $5 or $10 entry fees to participate in a bracket-pick NCAA tournament pool.
Is this the most popular illegal activity in America? Well, the Office of National Drug Control Policy says that 104 million Americans have used marijuana, 28.5 million in the past year. Does it make sense to criminalize peaceful activity that tens of millions of Americans enjoy? Discuss.

Posted on March 15, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Tax-consumers Use Our Money to Lobby for More of Our Money

I have two items published today about how governments and other tax-consumers use taxpayer dollars to lobby the government to get more taxpayer dollars. Politico Arena asks, "Will the public warm up to the health care law?" My reply:
I'm amused -- at best -- that the vast United States government is using my tax dollars to try to persuade voters that the signature legislative accomplishment of the president's term is actually a good idea. Search Google for the term "Obamacare," and the first paid link is for, a government propaganda site for the Affordable Care Act. They're also using that way. And roping in poor old Andy Griffith for a TV ad that says uses "weasel words" to "mislead" seniors. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the administration had a “lot of reeducation to do.” If administration officials were confident that their health care scheme was a good idea, they wouldn't need to spend tax dollars -- in a year when the deficit exceeds $1.5 trillion -- to try to sell it to the citizens. And this raises a real question for democratic governance: Are the people supposed to tell policymakers what policies they want, or should policymakers use the people's money to tell them what they should want?
Meanwhile, at the Britannica Blog I cite other examples of tax-funded lobbying:
Between broadcasts of “Downton Abbey” and “Frontline,” PBS viewers are implored to call their congressman and keep the money flowing. Public radio websites blare “Protect KCRW, Write your representative, write your senator.” Announcements on the radio carry the same message.... My colleague Richard Rahn complains, “Taxpayer dollars are also used to fund international organizations, which, in turn, lobby the U.S. Congress for not only more money for themselves, but also for higher taxes on the American people."... The Hill newspaper reported in 2009, “Auto companies and eight of the country’s biggest banks that received tens of billions of dollars in federal bailout money spent more than $20 million on lobbying Washington lawmakers in the first half of this year.” Later in the year the Huffington Post found, “Twenty-five top recipients of government bailout funds spent more than $71 million on lobbying in the year since they were rescued.”
And I ask:
Lobbying is constitutionally protected. The First Amendment guarantees not just freedom of speech and of the press but also “the right of the people…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” But does that mean the government itself has a right to petition itself for a piece of the pie?

Posted on March 14, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Mitch Daniels and That Social Issues ‘Truce’

Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin is surprisingly alone as a conservative beating up on Gov. Mitch Daniels this week for his reiterated call for a "truce" on social issues while the country confronts the "new Red Menace" of deficits and debt. The Post's "Fix" reports the latest:
In a new interview for the online television program "Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson", Daniels expands on the idea he first laid out in a profile for the Weekly Standard that economic issues -- and the debt in particular -- should take precedence over social issues. "If you don't believe that the American public is mortally threatened -- as I do -- by this one overriding problem we have built for ourselves, then of course I'm wrong," Daniels told Robinson in an excerpt of the interview, which is set to air on Monday. "All I was saying was, we're going to need to unify all kinds of people, and we're going -- freedom is going -- to need every friend it can get."
The NBC-Wall Street Journal poll finds that Republican voters like the idea of focusing on fiscal issues. Meanwhile, look at the letters in Saturday's Wall Street Journal in response to the article "Americans Don't Want a 'Truce' on Social Issues" by Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. Every one of them defends Daniels, in language like this:
"Man cannot live on bread alone, but man cannot live if the monetary and fiscal structure of the nation collapses on top of him." "Mr. Land's statement that, 'Most social conservatives are also fiscal conservatives' did not seem to be in effect during the George W. Bush administration and the Republican Congress. Those social conservatives significantly increased the size of our government and our debt." "What Mr. Land fails to understand is that most fiscal conservatives in the 50 states are social moderates." "I congratulate Gov. Daniels for having the courage to acknowledge that there is only so much government can do—a welcome confession to Christians who believe that absolute certainty in one's own correctness is less an expression of profound faith than human hubris."
On Friday's Cato Daily Podcast, John Samples discusses Mitch Daniels and the changing politics of social issues.

Posted on March 13, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

CNBC ? Milton Friedman

Business network CNBC outflanks Fox Business Network by running a new promo ad featuring Milton Friedman's 1979 interview with Phil Donahue, wherein Friedman challenges Donahue's views about capitalism and "greed": Lefties don't like it. They don't like it at all; they want you to write CNBC and complain. Yet they're forced to concede that the video shows "the Right’s financial guru besting a liberal talk show host." (Milton Friedman called himself a liberal, or a libertarian, not a conservative or rightist.) Let's just hope MSNBC doesn't find out!

Posted on March 9, 2011  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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