Thursday, July 3, 2008

Victory for a Proud Rabble-Rouser!

So the same day that the Supreme Court decided that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual right to bear arms, I had an idea. I thought "I wonder what the ACLU's position on all this is?" So I go on the ACLU's website, and didn't find a damned thing!

I figured - this is ridiculous. Supposedly the foremost defenders of civil liberties in America, and they're not even mentioning the right that comes second only to speech and religion on the most important day in the history of the Second Amendment after 1791 itself??? Crazy!

So I went on their blog and commented on the day's post... I think it was on something stupid like mandatory ultrasounds or something. I basically said "look - you decided to blog on ultrasounds today, so I have nowhere else to put this so I'm asking it here - what is your position on the 2nd Amendment and why aren't you talking about it today?" They got back to my comment and said they see it as a collective right! So that started a minor debate on the ultrasound blog that I checked in on every once in a while. Eventually I suggested they do a blog post on the 2nd Amendment - just to see what their members think of it, and if enough think its an individual right that maybe the ACLU should change its position.

Well today I visited the ACLU blog again, just out of curiosity - and they listened to me! They did a 2nd Amendment blog post at my request! So far the response has been enormous - FAR more respondents than any of their other blog posts. I've started reading through and I can't find a single person supporting the ACLU's current position!!!! Is that cool or what? Granted, I'm no where close to working through all 200-some posts, but it seems pretty clear where people fall out on this. People are completely outraged and want the ACLU to change its position. I betcha they will over the next couple months, too.

As I stated in my initial post - if the ACLU doesn't support the individual right to bear arms, they aren't really a civil liberties organization - they're just a libertarian-leaning liberal organization. I'm so psyched that my comment started all this (go to the ultrasound blog post - you don't have to take my word for it!)!!!!! It would be great if something changes at the ACLU as a result of this outpouring of criticism!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"Chronic, Rather Than Acute Pain"

This recession looks like it will be a long one, according to experts quoted in the New York Times. This is consistent with the stagflation of the 1970s and early 1980s - normally, consumer demand picks up as unemployment lifts, but if inflation stays high because of fuel and food shortages, there's no reason to believe that demand will have as easy of a time resurrecting itself.

My suggestion? Well I'm no macroeconomist, but it seems to me that the infrastructure of the U.S. is in dire need of repair, and as Senator Obama has pointed out, we need to substantially reinvest in our military - our stock of equipment has depreciated rapidly over the course of the Iraq War. Those sound like two Keynesian policies I could get behind.

The only problem is, borrow-and-spend Republicans (and not a trivial number of Democrats) have run up budget deficits for the last seven years or so. Even bigger deficits are projected over the next several decades because of the entitlement programs (Medicare and Social Security). It could be a good time to reign in those two programs, which would help the budget and provide more flexibility on Keynesian countercyclical measures, but there's bound to be an uproar about "cutting my benefits during a recession!!". It's also questionable whether we would really want to cut a program that provides so much revenue to the health care sector - one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy. That just seems counter productive.

Another possible solution, of course, is raising taxes. That wouldn't find many supporters in a good year, and certainly not during a recession.

So we're in a pretty tight bind here. It is worth noting that lots of great public investment projects are out there that would provide jobs and set us on the path to stronger long-term growth. Whether we can get these projects off the ground is a different story.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Military Action in Iran

Dan Froomkin suggests that Dick Cheney may be trying to pick a fight with Iran before the Bush administration leaves office. I hope not, but it wouldn't surprise me either. I'm very happy to hear Defense Secretary Gates's reaction to this (at least his reaction communicated through a Democratic senator, off the record). Gates is quoted describing the consequences of military action in Iran during a luncheon with Democratic members of Congress:

'We'll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.'

How terrifying is that? I'm glad Gates seems to have his head screwed on straight - and apparently there are a lot of people over at the Pentagon that are adamantly opposed to the kind of covert provocation that Cheney is apparently encouraging. It got me thinking - if Obama won it would be great for him to hold onto Gates for a little while. I really like the guy - he's probably more supportive of the Iraq war than Obama or the electorate is, but since he's been in office he's probably the right person to manage any kind of withdraw - and that sort of consistency with the previous administration will probably help reassure people. It would be an affirmation of a non-"cut and run", non "Bush" defense policy. Not that Gates would have to stay on that long - clearly Obama should put his own man (or woman) in. But I really have a lot of respect for Gates.

Anyways - I didn't read Froomkin's whole article, but this one statement by Gates made me shiver.