Ramesh Ponnuru's latest article at National Review Online explains why U.S. Senate rules changes would be a bad idea, and not just because it would be easier for simple majorities to approve legislation:
These rules would, as is generally understood, weaken the minority. But what people who have not worked in the Senate may not appreciate is that they would not weaken the minority primarily by changing vote thresholds from super-majority to simple-majority. They would weaken the minority by giving the majority greater control over the Senate calendar.
The minority party in the Senate, by extending debate on some issues, can force the majority to set priorities. The infamous bill to create a government for “native” Hawaiians wasn’t blocked because it lacked a supermajority; it died because Democrats were not willing to devote time to going through an extended debate over it. Note that this type of leverage depends on the minority’s influence over the calendar in general, not just over the scheduling of one bill. So if time for debate on nominations is cut down, as in the proposals, one effect will be to enable the Senate majority to confirm a lot of additional nominees. But another effect will be to enable it to get a lot of other bills through by adding to the majority’s available time.
North Carolina U.S. Reps. Larry Kissell of the 8th Congressional District and Mike McIntyre of the 7th Congressional District joined with Republicans and two other Democrats to vote in favor of a rule to repeal President Obama's health care reform law.
Carolina Journal reported on the N.C. delegation's impending vote here.
Raleigh, N.C. – Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) announced today that upon convening the 2011-2012 session of the General Assembly he will name Sen. Stan Bingham (R-Davidson), Sen. Harris Blake (R-Moore), and Sen. Louis Pate (R-Wayne) as Co-Chairmen of the Senate Health Care Committee. Sen. Bingham has served as a co-chairman for the committee in previous sessions. The three senators will also serve as Co-Chairmen of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
Sen. Berger said, “Addressing the myriad of problems facing the health care system in our state is a top priority in the next session of the General Assembly. I’m confident we have the right leadership in place to approach these issues with care and precision.”
“Our health care system is facing crises at both the national and state level in the short and long term. We will approach these problems both prudently and patiently,” said Sen. Bingham.
Sen. Blake said, “North Carolina families need a health care system that provides them with choices and does not become a financial burden too great to bear in an already fragile economy.”
“Our state’s economy will not grow and strengthen without getting our health care system under control. I am proud to do my part to take on these issues on behalf of North Carolinians,” said Sen. Pate.
Jonah Goldbergwrites for National Review Online that the argument about extremists trying to hijack the peaceful religion of Islam might be backwards:
Salman Taseer, a popular Pakistani governor, was assassinated this week because he was critical of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.
Specifically, Taseer was supportive of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who has been sentenced to death for “insulting Muhammad.”
Bibi had offered some fellow farm laborers some water. They refused to
drink it because Christian hands purportedly make water unclean. An
argument followed. She defended her faith, which they took as synonymous
with attacking theirs. Later, she says, a mob of her accusers raped
Naturally, a Pakistani judge sentenced her to hang for blasphemy.
And Governor Taseer, who bravely visited her and sympathized with her
plight, had 40 bullets pumped into him by one of his own bodyguards. ...
Many columnists and commentators denounced the murder, but the public’s
reaction was often celebratory. A Facebook fan page for Qadri had to be
taken down as it was drawing thousands of followers.
And what of the country’s official guardians of the faith?
A group of more than 500 leading Muslim scholars, representing what the
Associated Press describes as a “moderate school of Islam” and the
British Guardian calls the “mainstream religious organizations”
in Pakistan not only celebrated the murder, but warned that no Muslim
should mourn Taseer’s murder or pray for him.
They even went so far as to warn government officials and journalists
that the “supporter is as equally guilty as one who committed
blasphemy,” and so therefore they should all take “a lesson from the
exemplary death” of Salman Taseer.
If that’s what counts for religious moderation in Pakistan, I think
it’s a little late to be talking about extremists hijacking the
religion. The religion has long since been hijacked, and it’s now moving
on to even bigger things.
The Constitution, on the other hand, is a document that speaks. It defines concretely the nature of our social contract. Nothing in our public life is more substantive.
Americans are in the midst of a great national debate over the power, scope and reach of the government established by that document. The debate was sparked by the current administration's bold push for government expansion -- a massive fiscal stimulus, Obamacare, financial regulation and various attempts at controlling the energy economy. This engendered a popular reaction, identified with the tea party but in reality far more widespread, calling for a more restrictive vision of government more consistent with the Founders' intent.
Call it constitutionalism. In essence, constitutionalism is the intellectual counterpart and spiritual progeny of the "originalism" movement in jurisprudence. Judicial "originalists" (led by Antonin Scalia and other notable conservative jurists) insist that legal interpretation be bound by the text of the Constitution as understood by those who wrote it and their contemporaries. Originalism has grown to become the major challenger to the liberal "living Constitution" school, under which high courts are channelers of the spirit of the age, free to create new constitutional principles accordingly.
What originalism is to jurisprudence, constitutionalism is to governance: a call for restraint rooted in constitutional text. Constitutionalism as a political philosophy represents a reformed, self-regulating conservatism that bases its call for minimalist government -- for reining in the willfulness of presidents and legislatures -- in the words and meaning of the Constitution.
Hence that highly symbolic moment on Thursday when the 112th House of Representatives opened with a reading of the Constitution.
In today's Pope Center piece, Duke Cheston writes about his findings regarding the UNC political science department. Not surprisingly, it turns out that some professors get paid a lot to teach very few students, while others are paid relatively little and teach a large number of students.
By itself, that doesn't necessarily indicate inefficiency. I suspect you might find something similar if you looked at doctors in a medical clinic and the number of patients they see. Some highly paid specialists might see few patients. What does seem to indicate inefficiency, however, is the general downward trend in teaching requirements over time. Is it the case that faculty research has become more important compared to teaching over the last few decades, thus warranting this change, or is it that the tenured faculty has engaged in some successful "rent seeking" to reduce the amount of teaching time they have to put in?
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy, by Eric Metaxas, Thomas Nelson, 2010
Author of Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the Lutheran pastor and theologian who participated in the plot to kill Hitler. When the plot was discovered, he was imprisoned and just 3 weeks before the Germans surrendered, he was executed.
That’s the short version of this detailed 550-page biography. The subtitles hint at the more complete story of this incredibly courageous man.
As a pastor and prophet, he spoke out against the Nazified Lutheran church when it began purging Christian pastors of Jewish heritage. He helped form the alternative Confessing Church where he served as a pastor and led an illegal underground seminary to train new pastors.
He was a spy for the Abwehr, German military intelligence. The Abwehr organized several failed attempts to kill Hitler including the bomb placed by Col. Claus von Stauffenberg in the famous Valkyrie plot.
Bonhoeffer was martyred on April 8, 1945, the first Sunday after Easter. Before going to the gallows, he preached a sermon for his fellow prisoners based on 1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Years later the prison doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s death reported: “In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.” Bonhoeffer had always considered death as “the last station on the road to freedom.”
This is a long and detailed book and I often wondered why the author was spending so much time on Bonhoeffer’s early childhood and student days. To fully appreciate the depth of his faith and his courage in the face of Nazi terror, you must understand how his character developed in his early life.
Economics professor Steve Horwitz explains this seemingly simple point in this Freeman essay.
Seemingly simple points often elude statists and "progressives" who wish to believe that all we need to do is have the government "stimulate" consumer demand in order to achieve high employment and prosperity. That cannot work, as we know from the great inflations of history -- inundating the country with borrowed or printed money does not lead to prosperity, but does the opposite. The state never does anything to enhance the efficiency with which the people use their scarce resources.
Gov. Beverly Perdue has called for a reorganization of state government, and she’s recommended that the new Republican-led General Assembly take steps to boost legislative transparency and change the politics of redistricting. Joseph Coletti examines those ideas in the next edition of Carolina Journal Radio.
We’ll also address the goals the new General Assembly is likely to pursue. Becki Gray offers her predictions, and you’ll hear from the likely president pro tem of the new state Senate: Phil Berger of Rockingham County.
Bruce Gardner of Tea Party Western North Carolina will discuss his group’s goals for the new year, and you’ll hear details of a recent review that skewered the University of North Carolina system’s enrollment growth funding formula.
This week's Carolina Journal Online Friday interview features a conversation with former congressman and 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr about threats to Americans' Second Amendment gun rights.
Michael Sanera's guest Daily Journal explains that government planners often ignore the most important "stakeholders."