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Showing posts from April, 2012

No, really: Are the feds trying to end farm chores for kids?

Reason weighs in with round two of the debate:

Farm Bureau notes that DOL claims its “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” will not change the “parental exemption” in the current law, but Farm Bureau says DOL’s new language would not include an exemption for farms that are incorporated or formed as family partnerships.  “Many farm families in Pennsylvania and across the United States have incorporated or formed a family partnership for estate planning, insurance and other reasons.  They are still family farms with moms and dads making the decisions over what work duties their children have been trained to do and are capable of doing in a safe manner.  Farmers understand that there are potential dangers on the farm and they abide by existing farm labor laws,” added [PFB President Carl T.] Shaffer. That doesn't sound right. This is what the proposed rule in the Federal Register says:
The Department interprets ``operated by'' the parent or person
standing in the place of the paren…

The Daily Caller is misleading you about family farm regulations

Some of my conservative friends are angry about this story in The Daily Caller:
The Department of Labor is poised to put the finishing touches on a rule that would apply child-labor laws to children working on family farms, prohibiting them from performing a list of jobs on their own families’ land. Well, not quite. As documentation, the Caller links to this somewhat-vague press release from the Department of Labor announcing the proposed rules. The press release then says the actual rule will be published in the Federal Register on Sept. 2. So what does the Federal Register say?
The proposed agricultural revisions would impact only hired farm workers and in no way compromise the statutory child labor parental exemption involving children working on farms owned or operated by their parents. This is at the very outset of the rule. It's hard to miss if you're bothering to look at it directly. Which means The Daily Caller A) didn't or B) did, but chose to ignore it.

A c…

Podcast: Timothy Noah on 'The Great Divergence' and income inequality

Ben and I have a long discussion with Tim Noah about his new book. Go here to listen to and download the podcast. It's informative! And a personal note: I haven't been blogging lately because—for me, anyway—blogging often ends up being a tribalistic "so's your old man!" exercise. I can write about why Mitt Romney's a doofus, but it's probably not going to be terribly different from the take of 100 other political bloggers. So I'm trying to figure out how to do more thoughtful and more original work. The podcast, for what it's worth, fits that goal: Rather than lining up on one side of an issue or another, we can take time with smart people to really talk through an issue. Ben and I still end up with different takes on an issue, but the distinctions seem less forced than in other formats—and in podcast form, we get to explore the distinctions a little more. I'm proud of the work we're doing on the podcast. Our hope is that it becomes a …

Castro's 'murderous' regime

In our Scripps column about Ozzie Guillen's suspension, Ben makes the following comment about the Castro regime in Cuba:
Guillen, of course, is free to say or think anything he likes about Fidel Castro's murderous regime. (The Venezuelan native is evidently an outspoken fan of Castro wannabe Hugo Chavez, too.) This is America, after all.Wait. Murderous?

Don't get me wrong. I don't come here to praise Fidel or Raul Castro. As I noted in my part of the column: "Fidel Castro is a bad man." He certainly oppressive of his people's rights, and as Ben noted to me offline, there are a lot of people who have tried getting off the island using little more than an innertube. Cuba may be a lot of things, but it's not a socialist paradise.

But murderous?

Here's what Human Rights Watch has to say about Cuba: "Cuba remains the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent. The government enforces political conformity u…

Campaign finance and rent-seeking

One of the main conservative complaints about "big government" (as I understand it) is a practice known as "rent seeking." The idea being that bigger government has more money, power, and favors to dole out—and thus will encourage individuals and businesses to bend government activities in such a way that benefits their bottom line.

But conservatives who complain about big government and rent seeking are, often, also very much in favor of loose campaign finance laws that allow big businesses and individuals to spend lots and lots of money ... trying to bend government activities in such a way that benefits their bottom line.

I thought about that a bit with a recent This American Life episode on campaign finance, which demonstrates--as observers already knew--that the pursuit of campaign cash is nearly a full-time job among members of Congress. I was particularly struck by this (paraphrased) quote from former Sen. Paul Feingold, who likened the process to legalized …

A Wednesday morning poem

Read this years ago in the New Yorker, and it has stayed with me since:


If there is no God,
Not everything is permitted to man.
He is still his brother’s keeper
And he is not permitted to sadden his brother,
By saying there is no God.

~Czeslaw MiloszFeels appropriate today.

John Derbyshire and me: A confession of failure

By now the tale of John Derbyshire's exile from National Review for racist writings is well-known and well-told. I have little to add to the discussion, except to make a confession: I interviewed John Derbyshire two years ago. I thought his work was racist, sexist, and homophobic—but offered a chance to forcefully challenge the man and his ugly views ... I tiptoed and hid. I'm not proud of this. But it's worth recognizing.

Some context: Ben Boychuk and I have been writing a column together for Scripps Howard News Service for more than four years. He's conservative, I'm liberal, and part of the point of the project is that we can be in friendly dialogue with each other even as we disagree vigorously. This is where I got a bit tripped up.

As part of our project, we also do a regular podcast. (Or, it's getting regular again: My medical travails in 2011 sidetracked us.) And in 2009, we decided to interview Derbyshire on the occasion of his then-new book. I read the…

The Constitution and 'invented rights'

After this week's Scripps column in which I pooh-poohed "judicial activism," I received several responses from conservative readers suggesting it's actually very easy to spot.
Read the constitution and uphold it. Don't manufacture "rights" not mentioned in the constitution. What does the constitution say? Don't impose your opinion, or your own political philosphy. Judicial activism is manufacturing "rights" not enumerated in the constitution.This, I think, is a fairly common conservative view. It is also--according to the Constitution itself!--dead wrong.

Here is the text of the Ninth Amendment:
"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."The Founders were worried that by creating a Bill of Rights, they would legally imply that people didn't have other rights not named in the Constitution. This is how they covered their rights-loving butts. …

Small government, big banks?

One reason I've never really come around to being a small-government conservative is my belief that if we put a tight leash on the feds, that will allow other large institutions--mostly big businesses, but not limited to that--to dominate me instead. Conservatives deploy the language of liberty pretty effectively, but often it's in the service of a corporatist agenda that would wouldn't necessarily feel "free" to most of us. I'm not so much sure that "big government" is as much of a problem as is bigness itself: Outsized institutions of any sort, public or private, can have outsized impacts on our lives.

So I'm intrigued by the question raised by my friend (and occasional nemesis) Steve Hayward over at Power Line. If conservatives want small government, he asks, should they also be in favor of breaking up the big banks? 
So I think I could be persuaded that the big banks should be broken up, though this requires conservatives and pro-market liber…

The GOP version of the DREAM Act is better than nothing. Just barely.

At CNN, Ruben Navarette praises an up-and-coming GOP version of the DREAM Act. The original version, promoted by Democrats, would give sons and daughters of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, provided they go to college or serve in the military. The GOP version apparently includes the college or military part--but not the citizenship.But unlike the earlier version, it would not include a path to citizenship. Students could become citizens later. It's not like they'd be barred from the citizenship process. But they would have to take the initiative. It would be on them, as it should be.As I understand it, then, all the GOP version really does is tell the sons and daughters of illegal immigrants that they won't be deported.  "We'd like to send you to Afghanistan, and if you're not killed or mutilated, maybe we'll think about making our relationship permanent." My concern is that this legislation essentially creates a permanent class of legal sub-…

I, for one, would like to know much, much more about Gene Marks' private life

Gene Marks--remember him?--says employers are within their rights to ask job candidates for their Facebook info:
I don’t want your “password.” I don’t want to be able to go onto Facebook and be you. I don’t even want to monitor your activities on Facebook once you’re hired. All I want is to be “friended” for a short period of time while I’m evaluating you as a prospective employee.He needs this, you see, because as an employer he has to feel really, really comfortable that he knows enough about you. Well screw that.

Listen: Employers have the right to know everything that's publicly knowable about you. If you have a felony record, for example, or if you've appeared in the local newspapers advocating for the Nazi Party. I've got no problem with that. But they don't have a right to your private life.

And for me, Facebook is relatively private. Not totally: I have a few hundred "friends," so I can't fool myself that the walls of privacy are high and impenetr…