Stories by Noah Kristula-Green

Noah Kristula-Green is the Managing Editor and a Contributor to FrumForum. He was formerly a Web Intern at The New Republic. He lives in Washington DC, grew up in Tokyo, and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in political science from The University of Chicago. His email is noahkgreen [at] gmail.com & you can follow him on Twitter: @noahkgreen

Log Cabin Republicans Finish Off Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

July 7th, 2011 at 1:37 am 5 Comments

When the US Congress voted to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell there was still the lingering possibility that the policy could be reinstated or the repeal would get reversed. That possibility was removed on June 6th after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a permanent injunction against the law, in a case brought to the courts by the conservative Log Cabin Republicans. The law had originally been declared unconstitutional in October of 2010 before getting appealed.

“The ruling by the 9th Circuit in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States removes all uncertainty – American servicemembers are no longer under threat of discharge as the repeal implementation process goes forward,” said R. Clarke Cooper in a statement issued by Log Cabin.

Clarke Cooper told FrumForum that “The bottom line is that this is binding everywhere”. National Journal reports that the Pentagon has accepted the ruling and that the process of fully complying will be done in just “weeks”. The AP reports that their sources inside the Pentagon believe the ban will by fully lifted by September. Unless the White House appeals the ruling (which seems incredibly unlikely) DADT is now effectively dead.

Here is the full press release from Log Cabin Republicans:

(Washington, DC) – Log Cabin Republicans celebrate the decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the permanent injunction against enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” originally awarded by Judge Virginia Phillips in the case of Log Cabin Republicans v. United States.

“The ruling by the 9th Circuit in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States removes all uncertainty – American servicemembers are no longer under threat of discharge as the repeal implementation process goes forward,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director. “As a captain in the United States Army Reserve, I have observed the reactions of my colleagues to the Department of Defense’s move toward open service, and can say with complete confidence that our military is ready, willing and able to take this step. Log Cabin Republicans are proud of our role in ending this unconstitutional and un-American policy once and for all.”

“We are delighted with today’s Ninth Circuit ruling that reinstates the injunction that Judge Phillips entered last September against enforcement of DADT.  This ruling vindicates the right of openly gay and lesbian individuals to enlist or serve in our armed forces,” said Dan Woods, White & Case partner who is representing Log Cabin Republicans. “We have been saying all along that the government had no legal basis for appealing Judge Phillips’s decision and injunction.  The court’s ruling today finds that the government especially had no basis for putting that injunction on hold so that it could continue to investigate and discharge patriotic service members merely for their sexual orientation.  This is a tremendous victory for the many Americans who want nothing more than to serve their country honorably and patriotically without regard to their sexual orientation, but the real winner here is our Constitution, which guarantees the rights of all Americans, gay and straight, whether serving in our armed forces or not.”

Log Cabin Republicans have maintained a three-front strategy against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ lobbying for repeal in Congress, consulting with the Department of Defense, and filing suit in federal court.  The case went to trial in July of 2010, and Judge Virginia Phillips ruled on September 9, 2010 that the policy violated the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution.

Ron Paul Fan Causes Headache for Local GOP

July 6th, 2011 at 1:03 am 45 Comments

The commentary about Ron Paul’s influence on the GOP tends to focus on the big national issues, such as his efforts to end the Federal Reserve or the growing isolationism among Republicans. What gets under-reported are the consequences of Ron Paul having supporters get involved in politics at the local level.

Currently, the Republican Party of Pima County in Arizona is dealing with a situation created by its Ron Paul-inspired Chairman. Chairman Brian Miller has used a recently conducted SWAT operation to try and start a discussion about why citizens need to remain vigilant about “routine” invasions of private property by the government.

The SWAT operation in that began this operation took place on on May 5th when a SWAT team entered the home of former marine Jose Guerena to follow through on a search warrant. The sheriff of Pima County has said that Guerena was a subject in a 20 month long drug and homicide investigation.

According to the police report, Guerena responded to the raid by pointing an AR-15 assault rifle in the direction of the SWAT members, who responded with deadly force. The Pima County Chief Criminal Deputy Attorney David Berkman has cleared the SWAT team of any wrongdoing. Since his death, Guerena has also been linked to a home invasion crew. However, the operation has also been the subject of strong criticism.

Whatever the facts of the case, what has caused a problem for the Pima County GOP is the way in which its Chairman, Brian Miller, used GOP letterhead to start a discussion about how this event showed why citizens must remain vigilant about the Bill of Rights, and warned of “routine” invasions of private homes by the government.

Near the end of May (likely on the 29th) Miller sent out an email from the Pima County GOP email account to announce that a memorial service was being held for Guerena. Miller hoped the services would lead to “a renewed discussion of the policies that routinely lead to heavily armed and militarized local police invading private homes and a renewed interest in the civil liberties codified in our Bill of Rights.”

Miller’s full email can be read posted on an Ars Technica message board. The email was titled “We are all Jose Guerena.” Here is a part of it:

On May 5th, Jose Guerena, an American Marine, Iraq War veteran and fellow Tucsonan was killed in his home by armed government agents sworn to uphold the Constitution and whose declared mission is to protect and to serve the people of Pima County.

While an investigation is still underway to determine the facts immediately surrounding the killing, it is my hope that this tragic event will lead to a renewed discussion of the policies that routinely lead to heavily armed and militarized local police invading private homes and a renewed interest in the civil liberties codified in our Bill of Rights.

The Pima County GOP has been actively working to remove Miler from the Party leadership since he sent the email. The Pima County GOP has stripped Miller of his authority as Chairman and have criticized him for causing “division and chaos” within the Party.

In addition to the email, Miller also referred to the death of Guerena as a “murder” by the government while on a radio talk show. The local GOP asked him to retract that comment as well.

So who is Brian Miller, and why is he concerned about “armed government agents” and “militarized local police”?

Brian Miller is a part of Ron Paul’s ‘revolution’. He got endorsed by Ron Paul when he ran in the Republican Primary for the 8th Congressional district. (The district that Gabrielle Giffords currently represents.) He also made sure to get his photo taken with Ron Paul at CPAC.

He has also made time for the news show most friendly to Ron Paul on Fox News, FreedomWatch with Judge Napolitano. During his interview, Judge Napolitano gushed over Miller’s fealty to the constitution in the context of withdrawing from Afghanistan:


The Pima GOP said in a statement that Miller’s comments were ultimately dividing the party and harming it:

The role of the Republican Party is clear: to elect candidates and support those candidates once elected. The recent statements and actions of Chairman Brian Miller have not served to further those goals, but rather the opposite. Mr. Miller’s statements regarding the SWAT raid have created serious problems for our elected officials, money raising efforts and have divided the Party. Mr. Miller was given repeated opportunities to either mend these fences or resign his position, and has chosen to do neither.

Miller might lose his position over this, but Ron Paul’s efforts have probably already lead to many other like-minded people getting elected to positions of authority similar to Miller’s. These individuals can now take positions that put the local Republican parties in new and uncomfortable territory, and which they may not necessarily agree to.

Log Cabin Director: Donors Want an Inclusive GOP

July 1st, 2011 at 7:55 am 15 Comments

FrumForum contacted Log Cabin director R. Clarke Cooper to comment on his recent appointment to the RNC finance committee:

It is worth noting there is a developing political pragmatism among party leaders as well as a number of elected Republicans who recognize the growing numbers of LGBT voters casting ballots and writing checks for Republicans. The better the RNC can reach and include LGBT voters, younger voters and centrists, the greater majorities can be achieved in 2012. Former RNC chairman Haley Barbour stated at the Republican Leadership Conference when speaking about the 2012 election cycle, “Purity is the enemy of victory” and he is correct. Further, major donors to the RNC would rather the party be more inclusive or at the least not take a position on social issues. As former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman stated during marriage vote in Albany,“I hope that what Republican leaders will consider is what they believe and where the voters are. They should recognize that allowing people to have equal rights under the law is frankly what our party is about.”

Is College Still Worth It? A Symposium

July 1st, 2011 at 7:09 am 32 Comments

Is college worth it? It seems that every month a magazine, newspaper, or web publication will come out with a new trends piece or blog post wrestling with this question. Such as this New York Magazine piece which profiled the efforts of two venture capitalists (James Altucher and Peter Thiel) who are leading the anti-college crusade, raising doubts about the utility of a college degree and pushing for their right not to pay for their children’s education:

The father of two young girls, Altucher has a very personal perspective on college: He doesn’t think he should pay for it. “What am I going to do?” he asked last March on Tech Ticker, a popular investment show on Yahoo. “When [my daughters are] 18 years old, just hand them $200,000 to go off and have a fun time for four years? Why would I want to do that?”

Since we have gotten a group of interns in the FrumForum offices for the summer, we decided to ask them to read the New York article and to respond to it. Do they agree that their time is being wasted? If their parents are paying for their education, are they really throwing money down the drain?  We will be posting their responses over the course of the day, and post links to the pieces from this hub.

Our interns range from freshmen to seniors. Some of them will stand by the economic benefits of college. Others will argue that while college is important, that the real benefits are – remarkably – the intellectual growth that colleges advertise themselves as providing.

What do you think? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

***

Tessa Berenson argues that college still pays off in the long run:

The fact of the matter is that it is a rough economy, and not every single graduate is going to be able to find a job worthy of a college grad.  Thus, the horror stories that populate the media about people with Ivy League degrees scrubbing toilets and tending bars.

However, the simple truth is that whether or not it is a tough job market, college grads will come out ahead financially. The data shows that college graduates consistently get more skilled jobs and earn more than non-college grads. Between 1983 and 2008, the inflation-adjusted median wage for people with bachelor’s degrees increased by 34 percent, while the wages for high school dropouts fell by 2 percent.  And, by 2007, 48% of people with bachelor’s degrees were in the top three deciles of income.

Click here to read more.

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Robert Lee argues that the real benefit from college is learning the skills that will lead to jobs, not just higher wages:

Once, a great professor of mine, said, “College has nothing to do with what you learn here.  You’ll forget most of it before you graduate anyways.  You’re here to be inculcated with the norms and expectations of a professional lifestyle.”  If anything, that is where I see my college worth.

College has nothing to do with academic retention.  Well, it does — but not to the extent that it is popularly emphasized.  In college, young people (who are pampered throughout high school) finally get to see the real world.  For many, it is the first time we are treated as adults and given the opportunity to excel — or fail.  In a world that plays by these same rules, this is a fundamental experience.  It shows us how to get a job.

Click here to read more.

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Fred Messner writes that college students need to work to get the most out of their education:

I am currently a student at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (SFS), a vocational-leaning program embedded in a liberal-arts dominated institution.  The arguments made by Daniel Smith the New York Magazine do not suggest to me that college lacks value.  They suggest, and my experience confirms, that students do not derive the benefits of college just by paying and showing up.  Like most things in life, they must work for them.

Click here to read more.

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Nicole Glass argues the main benefit of college is self-development, not the value of the degree itself:

I spent my first year of college with no unique desires to learn – but simply with the goal of getting a degree and eventually a job. I was a part of the many who flock to college and routinely proceed through the requirements because it is expected – and because a degree was thought to be a first-class ticket in the “real world”. But as I approach my senior year, I’ve come to realize how little a degree will do for me.

This formerly golden document has decreased in value as it became more common. A bachelor’s degree seems to have the same value that a high school degree had 100 years ago – but it costs $200,000 more.

The past few years led me to a realization: college is not about grades or degrees – it’s about self-development. Unfortunately, few people strive towards that anymore.

Click here to read more.

Why The GOP Should Not Accept Ron Paul

June 24th, 2011 at 11:13 am 86 Comments

Conn Carroll asks a fair question from our recent bloggingheads: How can I believe that the conservative tent should stretch to include former US Senator Bob Bennett, but not include Ron Paul?

It’s a question nobody would have asked five years ago. Back then, Bob Bennett was recognized as one of the more conservative members of the Republican caucus. It’s a mark of how much the GOP has changed that Conn would talk about Bob Bennett the way conservatives once talked about, say, Arlen Specter.

Even more startling is the change in the conservative swing toward placating and accepting Ron Paul and his version of libertarianism. My answer to the question of why this kind of libertarianism does not belong in the GOP comes down to the title that BHTV decided to give to our dialogue: quality control.

Not to beat around the bush: Ron Paul’s monetary opinions are crank and he has propagated hysterical theories which attract people who have dangerous theories and outlooks into the party.

Let’s start with Paul’s economics. Paul urges conservatives to repudiate not only Milton Friedman but free-market economists back to Irving Fisher — and to resurrect pre-Civil War approaches to banks and money.

Yet the trouble with Paul goes beyond policy. Ron Paul fans are infamously disruptive, such as when they jeered and heckled Dick Cheney at the most recent CPAC. When they engage in antics like this, how are they different from Code Pink?

Ron Paul’s version of libertarian foreign policy makes room for wild conspiracy-mongering. Paul frequently appears on the Alex Jones radio show. The list of conspiracy theories that Jones pushes is long but the fact that Jones has supported the idea that 9/11 was a crime committed by the US government, not al-Qaeda, should be enough to disqualify anyone who supports his show from being taken seriously.

Paul’s comfort with Jones reminds people with long memories of Paul lending his name to racist newsletters in the early 1990’s. Paul supporters argue that their man had no idea what was being published under his name, month after month. Yet Paul had no qualms about accepting the money generated by the newsletters:

The publishing operation was lucrative. A tax document from June 1993—wrapping up the year in which the Political Report had published the “welfare checks” comment on the L.A. riots—reported an annual income of $940,000 for Ron Paul & Associates, listing four employees in Texas (Paul’s family and Rockwell) and seven more employees around the country. If Paul didn’t know who was writing his newsletters, he knew they were a crucial source of income and a successful tool for building his fundraising base for a political comeback.

So rather than say that Ron Paul is “expanding the debate” and “bringing more people into the party”, let’s acknowledge something important: Paul is not just “bringing new people” into the GOP.

The welcome extended to Ron Paul and his group is actually changing the character of the GOP. When Ronald Reagan had to explain why he received the endorsement of the John Birch Society, he famously said: “They will be buying my philosophy, I’m not buying theirs.”

The case with Paul is reversed. Paul is not signing onto the agenda of mainstream Republicanism. Increasingly, mainstream Republicans are signing onto Ron Paul’s agenda.

And if conservatives can no longer see how extreme and wrong the Paul agenda is, that says something very disturbing about the state of conservatism.

Who Really Controls Fed Policy?

June 22nd, 2011 at 9:59 pm 3 Comments

One question that has always hung over Ben Bernanke’s press conferences is: “Why are you doing this?”

Bernanke’s push for increasing transparency at the Federal Reserve seemed poorly timed since it has come right as Fed skeptics are strongest in Congress, whether the skepticism comes from Ron Paul or other politicians.

During his press conference today, Bernanke suggested that if the Fed can be more transparent and gain the trust of Congress, then it might be able take on more innovative policies such as inflation targeting. This would be great if it were true — but it’s unclear that more press conferences are increasing trust in the Federal Reserve.

Currently, the Federal Reserve sets monetary policy usually by announcing what it’s interest rates are, or by announcing if it will conduct large asset purchases. If it adopted an inflation target, the Federal Reserve would announce a goal for inflation that it wants to achieve (for example, two percent) and its success in policy making would be determined by how closely all its activities meets that target.

Bernanke is a self-described “ longtime proponent of an inflation target” and was asked directly about how the Federal Reserve could adopt this policy in practice. He suggested that the policy could take time to develop since it would need to be explained to members of Congress. He also warned that the public might not understand the benefits of inflation targeting and they would fear the Federal Reserve was intentionally abandoning its mandate for employment:

“It is very important first that we communicate to the public what we are doing. Without sufficient explanation and background many people might think are abandoning our employment targets. We need to make sure it’s well understood by the public and by congress that having a target would not mean we are abandoning the other leg of the dual mandate.”

Left unsaid in Bernanke’s response was that many people might also be terrified of the Fed intentionally trying to increase inflation due to the fear of inflation among many members of the population.

As for why Congress would need to be consulted:

“We might have the legal authority to do this, but I think we need some buy in from the administration and Congress to take this step.”

Bernanke said there is “nothing imminent” on the horizon and that actions such as this press conference are part of a longer term strategy of increasing transparency.

The exchange was a revealing look at the limits of the Federal Reserve’s independence. On the one hand, Bernanke believes he has the legal authority to conduct inflation targeting if it would be better policy. On the other hand, he wants to get stakeholders behind him first –but given how skeptical many in Congress are of the Federal Reserve, that doesn’t seem likely to happen.

Given how timid the Fed can be on some policy questions, it’s remarkable that politicians such as Newt Gingrich are claiming the Fed is violating the “rule of law.”

Newt: Fed Violates “Rule Of Law”

June 22nd, 2011 at 12:16 pm 34 Comments

While doing my bloggingheads with Conn Carroll, we discussed the consequences of having monetary cranks like Ron Paul being given a voice within the GOP. Carroll argued that Ron Paul might have a louder megaphone, but no one is actually following his lead on the gold standard. Unfortunately, they are following his lead with empirically untrue claims about inflation and with fear-mongering about the Federal Reserve.

The latest Presidential candidate to do this is Newt Gingrich.

Today, Gingrich released a video entitled “Who Got the Money?” The video calls for the Fed to adopt a single mandate for price stability, makes a lot of warnings about inflation, and calls for a Fed audit. (Presumably, Gingrich wants an ongoing audit of the Fed since the Dodd-Frank reform bill — which the former House Speaker wants repealed — has a one-time audit in it).



The language that Gingrich uses is hyperbolic and apocalyptic. He warns that the Fed “violates the rule of law” and “violates the sense of fairness”.

While I agree with Gingrich that the Fed could theoretically work with a single mandate for price stability, that mandate would require a commitment to be on guard for deflation. Unfortunately, Gingrich, like many conservatives, can only see inflation. This is despite significant evidence the current price levels simply don’t indicate the sort of inflation that Gingrich is warning about is on the horizon:



Gingrich’s argument also ignores the argument that the five percent inflation rate could actually do serious good in reducing the debt held by many Americans, the very same debt which is preventing an economic recovery from happening.

In his speech to the Atlanta Press Club that he gave where he laid out this vision, Gingrich also made sure to credit the man who has cleared the way for him to warn about the non-existent hyperinflation, gold-standard advocate Ron Paul:

Unfortunately, this idea that we would want a dramatically more limited Federal Reserve is not very popular in Washington.

And let me say in this regard that there is no elected official who has done a greater job of bringing to public attention the very serious problems raised by the operations of the Federal Reserve than Texas Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul.

We all owe him a debt of gratitude for focusing our attention on the very real erosion of American freedom and prosperity caused by the actions of the Federal Reserve.

In light of the recent revelations that Gingrich had a second line of credit at Tiffany’s and the mass defection of his fundraisers it seems unlikely he will be the GOP nominee. There is still an opportunity for another candidate in the field, maybe Pawlenty or Bachmann, to take up the conservative position to explicitly call for tighter money.

Noah and Conn Debate Cranks in the GOP

June 22nd, 2011 at 12:00 am 18 Comments

On Monday, I recorded a bloggingheads with the Washington Examiner’s Conn Carroll. We discussed the current state of the GOP presidential field whether monetary policy cranks like Ron Paul should be welcomed into the party:

I apologize for the atrocious quality of the video from my end! If the prospect of watching to a dialogue where one person talks from a super-blurry camera is unappealing, you can always listen to just the audio podcast.

In a bit of fortunate timing, Newt Gingrich will be giving a speech criticizing the Federal Reserve early on Wednesday morning. Conservative opposition to the Federal Reserve was something that Conn and I spent a lot of time debating.

Conservatives: Don’t Doctor The Ryan Plan

June 15th, 2011 at 1:17 pm 43 Comments

How far will conservatives go to tell Republicans they must support the Ryan budget in its entirety? A new Weekly Standard piece on Senate candidate Mike Haridopolos gives a hint.

The editorial line taken with this piece suggests that every Republican has to support the Ryan budget in its entirety, and that any qualm or qualification is unacceptable..

Haridopolos is currently the president of the Florida state senate and is seeking the GOP nomination to be the 2012 United States Senate candidate. What sets Haridopolos apart from other GOP candidates is that he is not supporting the GOP budget as it is currently written.

In a recent op-ed Haridopolos explained that while the current GOP budget stops providing the current version of Medicare for those who are under 55 years old, he would extend that age range further downwards.

His op-ed does not give a number, but when FrumForum asked him about his position at an event in Washington DC, he suggested the changes in Medicare should apply to those who  are currently 40 or 45. He told the Weekly Standard this as well:

“Medicare is not a welfare program,” Haridopolos said today in an interview with The Weekly Standard. “It is a program that each one of us at this table will have paid 47 years of taxes for, and I’m a little reluctant to make that full jump.”

The 41-year-old said he thinks Medicare ought to be reformed for those closer to his own age, people who “have 25 years to prepare.”

“That’s roughly what we’re looking at,” Haridopolis said. “If we’re going to make that transition, let’s give someone the true time to prepare.”

The Weekly Standard took this information and ran with the headline:
Haridopolos: No Major Medicare Reforms for 25 Years

The piece said that Haridopolos “doubled down today on his opposition to Medicare reforms in the 2012 House Republican budget proposal”. Both Haridopoloscare and Ryancare work on the same principle: a vote is held now and Medicare is reformed for people who would qualify for the program at a later date.

If one wanted to be snarky, you could write a headline: “Ryan: No Major Medicare Reforms Until 2021” since that is the date when those who are currently 55 would start getting “Ryancare” as opposed the current version of Medicare. The fact is, both plans involve delayed change to Medicare.

Ironically, Haridopoloscare might be a better policy to run on as a candidate in Florida since its senior population might be scared by the Ryan budget. Haridopolos will be running in 2012 and Democrats can be expected to make a huge effort to run on the GOP budget — so it helps a GOP candidate to set himself apart from Ryan’s Medicare cuts.

Haridopolos told FrumForum that he supported the rest of the Ryan budget, particularly its tax reforms. In his op-ed, Haridopolos also agreed with the Republican position to repeal Obamacare and highlights how he wants to use a repeal to restore the funding to Medicare which has been cut.

In other words, he is with 80 percent of the rest of the Republican plan, yet this position is taken as “doubling down on his opposition to medicare reform”. It will be interesting to see how the Weekly Standard will report the different Medicare plans that the Republican presidential candidates will eventually produce.

Bachmann Makes
a Strong Debut

June 13th, 2011 at 10:57 pm 38 Comments

So how did the substance of the Republican candidates debate relate to what we were on the lookout for?

No one attacked Romney. Surprisingly, Mitt Romney’s position as putative GOP front runner was not directly attacked or challenged by anyone. CNN’s moderator John King tried to goad Pawlenty into explaining why he characterized the Obama healthcare law as “Obamaneycare” and Pawlenty was not eager to take the bait. There were also no direct attacks on Romney’s abortion record. Perhaps the candidates think its too early to go negative.

Ron Paul Was the Biggest Sideshow. More than any other candidate, Ron Paul’s answers were characterized by meandering rambles. This was facilitated by a New Hampshire political reporter who kept asking him questions which elicited predictable answers. Why would you ask Ron Paul: “Do you support eminent domain?” Of course Ron Paul does not, and his answer about eminent domain turned into a digression on the housing bubble.

A Hint of Pawlenty’s Medicare Plan. We did not get any firm details from Tim Pawlenty, but we did get a small peak at his Medicare proposal. It sounds like it will keep the Ryan-budget model of having different care options for people 55 and younger. It might be different by keeping Medicare as an option for those 55 and under while also introducing some sort of competition with a private insurance scheme. It’s still not clear how this would work in practice.

Unexpected Standout: Michele Bachmann. Bachmann was well prepped for this debate. She used the forum to announce she was formally running for President — a blatant attempt to get more media attention, but it worked.

Most importantly, she gave answers that were clear and — in some instances — even memorable.Perhaps her best line was her description of the President’s handling of Libya: “All we need to know is that the President deferred leadership on Libya to France”. It managed to touch on both Obama’s apparent lack of engagement on the issue while still getting a jab in at France. A very crafty response.