Saturday, June 30, 2007
Friday, June 29, 2007
HillaryCare did not die; nothing dies harder than a bad idea. Or perhaps more accurately, it is the kind of idea that keeps crawling out of its grave. Now Senate Republicans are trying to keep it from doing so again with some market oriented health care reform.
This also helps explain the timing of Sicko. It's nice when people work together.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
It really outrages me that there are politicians like Diane Feinstein who seek to re-impose the Fairness Doctrine. It will be interesting to see which groups support it. Obviously, the incumbent plutocrats who don't like criticism -- the same saintly bunch who sought to silence criticism in McCain-Feingold -- but who else? I would not be surprised to find MSM institutions, like the networks and the establishment newspapers, trying to do the same thing, because (like McCain-Feingold again) it would not effectively restrict them. But what other low-lifes are there out there who will support it. I would like to know.
And, to tell you the truth, I am not really scared about it happening. I am usually a pessimist about things political, but I don't fear the doctrine's re-emergence. I think talk radio and the blogosphere are strong enough that they can defend themselves. My guess is that those who seek restrain these groups will end up with egg on their face, and it will be fun to see it. Call me a naive optimist, if you will, but that is how I see it.
And my optimism has nothing to do with any hope that President Bush would veto a bill that sought to reimpose the Unfairness Doctrine. Bush signed McCain-Feingold, and I think it is quite possible he would do the same for the Unfairness Doctrine. By contrast, we know what the Gipper would do with such a bill: He would veto it, just as he did the last time Congress sought to reimpose it. I can still remember being at OLC when the veto statement was written. That veto is another reason why Reagan's legacy is so significant, just as the real possibility that Bush would not veto it helps to explain why his legacy will be far less important and beneficial.
I'm in Jerusalem for a conference at the Hebrew University Law School on judicial independence and international courts. True to my Right Coast roots, I seem to be the most sceptical participant: both about the creeping (or galloping) judicialization of international politics and about the very possibility of "judicial independence" on international courts, when most of the judges come from dictatorships which have none-too-subtle ways of making sure their appointees follow the party line.
Meantime we visited the Israeli Supreme Court this afternoon: a graceful and aesthetic building in a country where you can't take those qualities for granted. I sat in on a criminal appeal: a Russian immigrant who got into a drunken fight and badly injured his "opponent" and got a long prison sentence from the trial court. There was a panel of three Supreme Court Justices: an Orthodox Jew (with skullcap), a secular Jew (no skullcap), and an Israeli Arab. The Justices spent nearly an hour questioning the prisoner - who was present in the dock - about what happened. It was all through an interpreter, of course, since the prisoner spoke only Russian. There was something especially touching about the Israeli Arab Justice courteously putting questions in Hebrew to this very rough-looking Russian customer.
Steve Landsburg discusses how significant technological progress has been (and the fact that the means we use to measure per capita income significantly understates the benefits of such progress):
As far as the quality of the goods we buy, try picking up an electronics catalogue from, oh, say, 2001 and ask yourself whether there's anything there you'd want to buy. That was the year my friend Ben spent $600 for a 1.3-megapixel digital camera that weighed a pound and a half. What about services, such as health care? Would you rather purchase today's health care at today's prices or the health care of, say, 1970 at 1970 prices? I don't know any informed person who would choose 1970, which means that despite all the hype about costs, health care now is a better bargain than it's ever been before.
The moral is that increases in measured income -- even the phenomenal increases of the past two centuries -- grossly understate the real improvements in our economic condition. The average middle-class American might have a smaller measured income than the European monarchs of the Middle Ages, but I suspect that Tudor King Henry VIII would have traded half his kingdom for modern plumbing, a lifetime supply of antibiotics and access to the Internet.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Arnold Kling applies economist Douglas North's views to health care reform. The bottom line is that health care reform is blocked by people's beliefs about what is appropriate in this area. In particular, Kling discusses the view that doctors should be highly compensated and that there should be no rationing of health care. Quite interesting.
Monday, June 25, 2007
George Bush should have vetoed the McCain Feingold bill, but at least his two Supreme Court appointments are moving in the direction of holding it unconstitutional.
(Of course, Bush gets even less credit, because his initial nominee was Harriet Miers, not Sam Alito, and who knows how Miers would have voted.)
VP Cheney’s counsel believes that the VP is neither in the legislative or the executive branch. One can debate this question as a matter of constitutional law or in terms of the specific question at issue – whether Cheney should conform to the executive order on classified documents.
I have analyzed the constitutional law question below. But answering that question does not really answer the executive order question. If Cheney is handling classified documents, that is because the President has delegated executive power to him (or at least has delegated to the President the authority to advise him). If the President wants to apply the executive order to him, then he must follow it. I don’t see any constitutional power that the Vice President has that would exempt him from the order. Similarly, if the President wants to exempt the Vice President, then Cheney does not have to follow the order. It is up to the President. So his VP status is largely beside the point. And therefore the VP office's explanation to the press that the VP is not in the legislative or executive branch was not very powerful as a justification for the VP not following the executive order. Not because the explanation of the VP's constitutional status was not true – it may or may not be true – but because it was not really relevant.
Another issue under the executive order is whether the President can amend it orally or whether he has to do so in writing. And the answer appears to be that he can amend it orally. Unlike Congress, which speaks through written laws, the President can give both oral and written directions. And he can supercede or make exceptions to his written directions orally. Of course, doing so may create some confusion if not everyone received the oral directions. But there is no constitutional limitation on him doing so.