Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Senator Clinton, planted question, and what we should expect of candidates

November 12, 2007

Senator Clinton’s campaign has been accused of planting at least one question at a rally in Iowa. See the story at the BBC’s web site at this address:

Senator Clinton states, as reported in the story, that “It was news to me and neither I nor my campaign approve of that, and it will certainly not be tolerated.” I am glad that she does not approve of question planting. The practice is dishonest. It does not give us an accurate view of the candidate in an extemporaneous situation. It’s only purpose is to provide another venue for the candidate’s rhetoric.

I wish that she had said one more thing about this incident. I wish that she had said that while she didn’t know about the plant, and while she didn’t approve of the plant, that she was responsible for the actions of her campaign and her campaign staff in trying to further her cause. I think she needed to say that. Perhaps it’s harsh to believe that the good senator should accept responsibility for something that a campaign worker did under personal initiative. Nevertheless, the candidate is responsible for setting the direction of the campaign and for establishing the values under which the campaign will operate. At least, that’s my view.

The candidate should be ensuring that the campaign knows, among other things, that fundamental principles of fairness, justice, and honesty are to be followed. The candidate needs to set the example and the campaign workers need to follow it. We need examples of strong character, of willingness to take responsibility. We need these examples not only in our presidents but also in our candidates.


The balance of power, or my legislature can beat up your executive

February 8, 2007

Administrative rulemaking is an admittedly dry part of government. Its dryness doesn’t make it any less important. Rulemaking comes about because, among other things, the executive branch has expertise. Legislatures, especially part-time legislatures, simply don’t have the time or the expertise necessary to craft laws of requisite detail and depth; nor should they be expected to.

Yet sometimes the legislature desires to assert authority over the executive. Expertise is no substitute for being the people’s representatives. (There is a certain degree of truth to this, but I don’t want to get into a philosophical discussion of which branch amongst the three branches is the most equal; at least not right now.) In New Mexico, the state legislature is proposing an amendment to the state constitution to allow the legislature to prohibit “regulatory rules” (a redundant statement here in Utah) from taking effect until reviewed and approved by the appropriate legislative committee. The legislature would need to do this by law if it so desired (for the text of proposed amendment, see Senate Joint Resolution 14 at the New Mexico State Legislature.

New Mexico has done it right, in one sense. If the legislature is going to assert this type of control over the executive, then it must be done via a constitutional amendment. Any statutory attempt would be subject to a separation of powers attack, or so I suppose. By amending the constitution, that attack is sidestepped. The governing document of the state will allow this incursion into the executive. Is this a good thing?

When we tout the values of limited government, are we only talking about limiting the executive? I don’t think so. All branches of government must have some limits, even the legislature. But here we have a state legislature essentially doing an end run around the principle of separation of powers, around the principle of limited government, in an attempt to arrogate power. I think that this is wrong.

KT McFarland, campaigns, and parenting

August 22, 2006

According to a story at NY1 News, KT McFarland is “suspending” her campaign subsequent to her youngest daughter’s arrest for shoplifting.

Political campaigns take a lot out of the candidate. In a way, I think they take even more out of the candidate’s family. Nothing is private any more; everything is made available for public consumption. A candidate needs to be very convinced of his or her desire for office and of the appropriateness of that desire for office before committing to the campaign. A candidate also needs to make sure that the family is on board with the decision.

How does the candidate decide between the campaign and the family, if ever there is a cause to have to decide between the two? My personal belief is that the family should come first. But then I’m not running for anything. Are there times when a candidate should sacrifice the family?

Warrantless wiretapping unconstitutional?

August 17, 2006

The article “Judge nixes warrantless surveillance” tells how U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor has declared the NSA’s program of warrantless wiretapping to be unconstitutional. I haven’t read the opinion, and I haven’t read the ACLU’s original complaint, but my gut reaction to the decision is that it’s right.

I wonder about the contention the government makes, again as told by the article, that the program is within the president’s authority but proving this “would require revealing state secrets.” What might have to be revealed in order to prove scope of authority?

Tunnels in Boston and the private sector as government

July 24, 2006

I have always felt skeptical about government relying too much on the private sector. The opportunity for the private sector to take advantage of government seems to be too great. Where the private sector must respond to investors and shareholders first, government must respond to the people first. These two populations are rarely the same, nor do they have the same interests; thus a conflict arises when government relies on business to perform some function.

A case in point is the collapse of a section in one of the tunnels of the Big Dig in Boston. The Big Dig is a project designed to move a large portion of Boston’s automobile traffic underground. Earlier this month, a 12-ton section of the roof of one of the tunnels collapsed, crusing a car and killing a motorist. According to the Washington Post, the project is significantly over budget, a contractor is under indictment for providing inferior concrete, and the Big Dig is the subject of state and federal investigations. What was the genesis of the difficulty? The article suggests this:

The warnings were overshadowed, many officials now acknowledge, by zeal among politicians, business leaders, lobbyists and private contractors who had a stake in the project. That eagerness to move forward coincided with a political culture in which a series of Republican governors and the state’s independent turnpike authority have trusted a private consultant to shepherd virtually every facet of the project, with relatively little government supervision. “What was missing from the whole project was outside oversight,” said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino (D).

When I read articles such as this I wonder why many insist that the market is superior in providing quality work and goods. I don’t see it. Perhaps because of the “liberal bias” in the media the only things that are reported are the huge singularities like Enron or the Big Dig. Still, I’m less convinced than ever of the ability of the private sector to perform in a manner that is in the public’s best interests.