The Spectacle Blog
Merging the topics of my previous two posts, here's a classic Sarbanes Banking Committee moment, as recounted by Bill Bradford in 1997:
[Alan] Greenspan ... recommended to a Senate committee that economic regulations all should be sunsetted. Senator Paul Sarbanes accused him of "playing with fire, or indeed throwing gasoline on the fire," and asked him whether he favored a sunset provision in the authorization of the Fed.
Greenspan coolly answered that he did. Do you actually mean, demanded the senator, that the Fed "should cease to function unless affirmatively continued"? "That is correct, sir," Greenspan responded. "All right," the senator came back. "The Defense Department?" "Yes."
The Senator could scarcely believe his ears.
Is it really that bad to have sunset provisions on laws that expand government power during wartime? The Patriot Act is a big, complicated law, and while some of its provisions are necessary and useful, others aren't (for example, the way the Patriot Act expanded the already nigh-useless data-collection that started with the Bank Secrecy Act). A periodic reassessment seems entirely appropriate.
I'll be on again with John Batchelor (WABC radio in NY and nationally-syndicated) tonight about 10:35 EST talking about the latest on the Fitzgerald/Plame/Wilson/Libby saga. Bob Woodward's statement raises some new and interesting points about the Fitzgerald investigation. We'll be talking about that and more.
Western Illinois University econ professor William J. Polley notes this exchange from the Bernanke hearings last night:
Sen. Sarbanes held up a chart showing how our unemployement rate is so much lower than Europe's...and of course he reminded us that the European Central Bank has an inflation target. Mr. Bernanke's response: "Senator, it was below that rate 20 years ago before the ECB was even created. I believe there are other factors that contribute to that difference."Bernanke was too polite to expound on those factors -- i.e., policies that Sarbanes has spent his political career fighting for.
A fact that is frequently blurred by media, liberal politicians, and even clergy, the Catholic Church's teaching on the death penalty is not an absolute proscription, as with abortion. Phil Lawler lauds the Boston Globe for noting this important point in the wake of the bishops' conference approving a new statement denouncing capital punishment in the U.S. Bishop DiMarzio of Brooklyn said that unlike teaching in areas of euthanasia or abortion, on the death penalty "people of good will can disagree."
Is half a loaf okay when the issue involves our domestic security?
Apparently our elected officials in Congress think so, judging by the deal they struck on renewing and making permanent ivestigative tools in the USA PATRIOT Act. We'll leave the details to people like Corallo who actually dealt with the stuff during their time in government, but this negotiated deal, which keeps many of the most critical investigative tools on a sunset schedule for seven years, is just awful.
Granted, it's better than the four years Democrats were asking for, but we shouldn't be playing games with policies that keep us safe. The privacy concerns related to some of these tools have been overblown by People for the American Way and the ACLU, which have both raised millions off of half-truths and outright lies. And besides, privacy rights don't do you much good if you're not alive to enjoy them.
Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore told the Washington Times yesterday that he will run for public office again, either as governor again or as a U.S. Senator. Interesting tidbit: the Times asked Jerry Kilgore's campaign manager, Ken Hutcheson, why Gilmore wasn't more involved in the race (Gilmore said he was ready and willing). Hutcheson claimed Gilmore didn't offer. In other words, the Kilgore campaign wasn't seeking out these senior Virginia Republicans. That campaign's missteps become more clear by the day.
It isn't government that is hyping avian flu threats. It's the markets: global banks and investment houses and large international companies that trade in Asia.
They are rightly concerned, and have been for more than three years now. This isn't a new concern, it's just a new concern to the media. Bethell is right on one point: the media has oversold by not being forthright about how the disease is most likely carried over from fowl to human. Who wants to know the intricacies of nonmodern butchering techniques in the hinterlands of Mongolia, after all?