Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Welcome Company

It took me until darkness fell to pick up a paper copy of today's Richmond Times-Dispatch, which is fairly easy to do in Charlottesville. (One of our election officials mentioned to me at training tonight that he had seen and liked my article.) Once I did purchase a copy, I discovered that my op-ed on federal hate-crime laws was placed in juxtaposition to some very good and well-known writers.

My article was positioned on the upper right-hand corner of the page and its two columns extend about two-thirds down along that page. Running parallel, to the left, is a George F. Will column about economic policy. Will's piece does not appear on the Times-Dispatch web site, but, as it was published in last Sunday's Washington Post (under a different headline, "The Real Jobs Threat" instead of "Stimulating Incumbency"), it can be found there.

There is also a Robert Arian editorial cartoon showing Barack Obama at his desk with a plaque that reads "THE BUCK DROPS HERE."

Underneath those two articles, across the bottom third of the page, is an article originally published in the The Wall Street Journal on October 12. Written by Mary Anastasia O'Grady, the original headline was "George Shultz on the Drug War"; the Times-Dispatch headline was "George Shultz Weighs In on the Continuing Drug War."

Will writes:

Republicans are operatic when they pretend to take seriously, in order to wax indignant about, the Democrats' professed plan to partially pay for Sen. Max Baucus's version of reform by cutting at least $400 billion from Medicare. Supporters of the Baucus bill are guilty of many things but not, regarding such cuts, of sincerity. Congress regularly vows to make Medicare cuts, and as regularly defers them.

Today, Washington routinely speaks of trillions, as in: This year's trillion-dollar deficit. And the $9 trillion in projected deficits over 10 years. And the upwards of $1.8 trillion that Baucus's "$829 billion plan" would actually cost in the first 10 years (2014-23) in which its provisions would be fully operational. But the number from which Washington flinches is precisely 999,999,999,997 less than a trillion. It is: 3.

Many Democrats believe that rising unemployment means the nation needs a "second" stimulus -- but one they could call something other than a stimulus because it would be the third. The first was passed in February 2008, two months after the recession began. Its $168 billion tax rebate failed to stimulate because overleveraged Americans perversely saved much of it.

Admitting that the first stimulus existed would complicate the task of justifying a third one, given that the second one -- the $787 billion extravaganza that galloped through Congress in February -- has not been the success its advocates said it would be.
O'Grady wrote, with regard to the former Secretary of State's realization that the misguided war on drugs has been a failure:
Mr. Shultz recalls what happened shortly after he left government, when his view that interdiction is not the solution came up after a speech to a Stanford alumni group.

Then, as now, he believed that we need to look at the problem from an economic perspective and understand what happens when there is high demand for a prohibited substance. When his comment hit the press, he says he "was inundated with letters. Ninety-eight percent of them agreed with me and over half of those people said I'm glad you said it, but I wouldn't dare say it. The most poignant comment was from [a former member of the House of Representatives] who wrote and said I was glad to see your statement. I said that a few years ago and that's why I'm no longer a congressman!"

I asked Mr. Shultz if he thinks a more sensible approach might come from the states. He says "people can express themselves a little better at the state level." And, with respect to some liberalization of the drug-possession laws at the state level, "I regard these developments as a distinctive statement by people that the present system is not working very well and they want to change it."

It's nice to be in such pleasant, intelligent, and erudite company.

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