Term Limits: Let’s Keep ’em

Former Clinton Treasury secretary Larry Summers proposes that we switch from an eight-year, two-term limit for the union’s presidency to a six-year, single-term limit. He contends that by chucking the president’s second term, we can maybe prevent such gridlock and scandal as tends to especially afflict those second terms.

Six years is a long time to be stuck with an abysmal president, though.

And when the policies that a president imposes or encourages in his first term turn out to be an endless horror show — I’ll name no names here except Obama and Obamacare, IRS’s ideological targeting, NSA’s surveillance of us all, millions in tax dollars flung at bankrupt eco-firms like Solyndra, etc. — the more gridlock the better, seems to me. For it nobly reduces the extent to which we can be kicked in the teeth.

And I don’t like being kicked in the teeth.

However, throw in a national recall power so Americans can boot incumbents from office when they’re fed up with them, and I might accept that single six-year term, Professor.

In reply to Summers, some pundits argue that we should just drop presidential term limits altogether. We have heard the suggestion before. But I agree with blogger Matthew Dickinson. He argues in a piece for Christian Science Monitor that whatever the abuses plaguing term two, these must pale in comparison to the problems which flow from enabling presidents-for-life. Their abuses of power, around the world, are legion, and nigh unstoppable.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Learning Lerner’s M.O.

I fib. We’re not really learning anything new about Lois Lerner’s modus operandi. It’s just the same old wiping of evidence — evidence that she and others at IRS knew was relevant to congressional inquiry into IRS misconduct.

Lerner is the former IRS department head in charge of reviewing applications of non-profits for tax-exempt status. Her department targeted right-leaning applicants for special obstruction and delay. The practice began to come to light a couple of years ago.

Congress has asked for a great deal of documentation from the Internal Revenue Service that has yet to be supplied, including all of Lerner’s pertinent email. As I’ve discussed before, the IRS has claimed that her hard drives accidentally crashed in June of 2011 — and not hers alone — so that much of the relevant email is gone.

No backups on any server, either.

It all sounded pretty bogus back when the story was “hot.” And now, according to testimony of an IRS employee just filed in the case of Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service, it transpires that Ms. Lerner had a BlackBerry on which her email traffic was routinely duplicated … and that this device was wiped in June 2012, months after Congress started asking questions about the ideological targeting of applicants for tax-exempt status.

Judicial Watch, my hero, is now urging the court to require the IRS to divulge the relevant dates of the wiped data, then subpoena BlackBerry for the data. Because we all know that it hasn’t really disappeared forever into the black hole at the center of the galaxy.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Justice Delayed in Cambodia

It’s not a satisfying verdict. And no punishment can ever balance the scales for the many lives that the Khmer Rouge destroyed.

This August the two most senior surviving regime leaders, responsible for slaughtering an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979 in the name of restructuring society along collectivist agrarian lines, were sentenced to life imprisonment. They are 88-year-old Nuon Chea and 83-year-old Khieu Samphan.

The pair are the first Khmer Rouge leaders convicted under proceedings sponsored by the Cambodian government and the United Nations. The only previous verdict was handed down in 2010 against a lower-rung if still pretty vicious official, Kaing Guek Eav, then 67, sentenced to 19 years. As a prison commandant, he had overseen the torturing and killing of more than 14,000 people.

“I am not satisfied!” said 79-year-old Chum Mey back then. He had testified about being tortured by the regime. “We are victims two times, once in the Khmer Rouge time and now once again.” Others expressed similar dismay.

As for the notorious Pol Pot, he had died in 1998 after briefly suffering a house arrest as penalty for just one of his many murders.

One hopes that the proceedings, tainted by politics and other vitiating factors, will be improved even at this late date. But as near-futile as the trials must seem to many survivors, I have to believe that even partial justice, however meager and belated, is better than no justice.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Unsustainable Pseudo-thinking

One of the fashionable thought-killing words offered by the cliché-recycling movement is “sustainable.”

In the common tongue, as spoken by many, many environmentalists, this term implies that we will run out of all our stuff pretty soon unless everybody on the planet (except maybe Al Gore) is put on a strict low-consumption regimen.

The environmental movement has adopted the color “green,” but “drab-gray” is what comes to mind when I’m told that we must treat economic goods as existing in a fixed quantity, only to be skimpily apportioned (by regulators), never massively expanded (by profit-seeking producers, as they’ve done whenever free to do so).

In fact, as economist and Cafe Hayek blogger Don Boudreaux argues in his article “Unsustainable Platitudes,” market actors tend to swiftly counteract shortages that occur in a market context. When supply of a good slumps for whatever reasons, prices for it rise. Rising prices yield predictable effects. That is, they

  1. nudge customers to economize; and
  2. entice profit-seeking producers and vendors to create more of the good, or
  3. provide good-enough (or better) substitutes for it,
  4. or both.

This is Economics 101, teachable in one lesson.

The Wall Street Journal saw fit to quote Boudreaux, provoking the ire of enviro-cliché aficionado Joshua Holman. He contacted Boudreaux to accuse him of “[emitting] word pollution . . . to block the work of the many activists struggling to save our planet from overuse, exploitation and destruction.” In reply, Boudreaux suggests that reality “cannot be grasped, and it certainly cannot be improved, with slogans.”

Slogans do have their place. They’re just not a sustainable substitute for reasoning.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Registering Dissent in Russia

Russian politics — does it consist in anything but the progressive unraveling of what modest liberalization of civic life the Russians benefited after the crackup of the Soviet Union?

The latest assault on liberty? The government targeting of Russian bloggers. The most popular ones — those with 3,000 or more daily readers — must now register with the government or risk being shut down. As Bloomberg’s Ilya Khrennikov puts it, “Russian President Vladimir Putin is taking names. Potentially thousands.”

The registrants must supply real names, real addresses.

Mother Russia says it’s doing this to combat inaccurate or defamatory information — i.e., opinions it dislikes; i.e., any too critical of the government. Putin already has authority to shut down “extremist” web pages sans judicial oversight. The new law tightens the noose.

It seems there’s little we can do about this in the West except express our sympathy for Russians fighting the commissars.

Well, one other thing, at least; and not so little. Western tech firms can refrain from abetting such repression the way Yahoo did when, several years ago, it turned over user info on Chinese dissidents Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao to the Chinese government and thus enabled their imprisonment. Facebook, Google+ and other hosts of Russian-language blogs can flatly reject demands to censor or delete these blogs — or to supply the Russian government with identifying info on the authors.

Obviously, predictions of the end of history have indeed proven premature. We’re not all liberal democrats now.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Townhall: First Step for Ferguson

On Townhall this weekend, a frank and honest discussion about . . . what’s really behind the problem in Ferguson.

It isn’t race.

The title refers to a first step at some resolution of the underlying problem, mentioned in Friday’s Common Sense and Saturday’s featured video.

Click on over to Townhall for where those on the left (Eric Holder) and right (Bill O’Reailly) go wrong about the blame for the Ferguson debacle. Come back here to load up on information.

Video: What We Can Do Now to Help Ferguson

A practical proposal that will solve some of Ferguson’s (and the nation’s) problems:

Yes, there is something practical for you to do now:

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