I know, I know: Who cares about the Constitution when millions of people don't have health insurance? After all, as George W. Bush said, "When someone is hurting, government must move." And we all know what Bush thought about the Constitution.
Yes, well, be that as it may, a few of us still hold some regard for the Constitution as written. Perhaps a few judges do, too. Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett writes in Sunday's Washington Post about some of the constitutional problems with health care reform, and notes possible remedies.
On the "Individual Mandate" and the Commerce Clause:
The individual mandate extends the commerce clause's power beyond economic activity, to economic inactivity. That is unprecedented. While Congress has used its taxing power to fund Social Security and Medicare, never before has it used its commerce power to mandate that an individual person engage in an economic transaction with a private company. Regulating the auto industry or paying "cash for clunkers" is one thing; making everyone buy a Chevy is quite another. Even during World War II, the federal government did not mandate that individual citizens purchase war bonds.
On the the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, Gator Aid and other legislative horse-trades:
Congress can always argue that, say, an Air Force base in Nebraska benefits the United States as a whole. But the deals in the Senate bill are different. It is really hard to identify a benefit to all the states from exempting one state from an increase in Medicare costs or allowing only the citizens of Florida to get Medicare Advantage.
On the defunct 'Slaughter House rule':
The whole purpose of the "deem and pass" procedure -- which was advocated by Rules Committee Chairman Louise Slaughter -- was to avoid a separate vote on the Senate bill, which many House members find objectionable, and instead vote on the reconciliation bill and simultaneously "deem" the Senate measure passed. Although Democrats cited prior examples of deem and pass, "the Republicans did it" is not a recognized constitutional argument -- especially if the public and the justices have never heard of such a thing. This constitutional objection seems to have succeeded, as House leaders decided on Saturday to take a separate vote on the Senate version, rather than "deeming" it passed.
On 10th Amendment objections:
Under the 10th Amendment, if Congress enacts a law pursuant to one of the "powers . . . delegated to the United States by the Constitution," then that law is supreme, and nothing a state can do changes this. Any state power to "nullify" unconstitutional federal laws has long been rejected.
On constitutional amendments:
Ultimately, there are three ways to think about whether a law is constitutional: Does it conflict with what the Constitution says? Does it conflict with what the Supreme Court has said? Will five justices accept a particular argument? Although the first three of the potential constitutional challenges to health-care reform have a sound basis in the text of the Constitution, and no Supreme Court precedents clearly bar their success, the smart money says there won't be five votes to thwart the popular will to enact comprehensive health insurance reform.
But what if five justices think the legislation was carried bleeding across the finish line on a party-line vote over widespread bipartisan opposition? What if control of one or both houses of Congress flips parties while lawsuits are pending? Then there might just be five votes against regulating inactivity by compelling citizens to enter into a contract with a private company. This legislation won't go into effect tomorrow. In the interim, it is far more vulnerable than if some citizens had already started to rely upon its benefits.
Barnett suggests there is a clear, if unexpected, Supreme Court precedent here. Read the piece to find out what it is.
Update (Monday, March 22): Barnett participated in an online Q&A at the Washington Post today. Here's the transcript. He elaborates on several points in Sunday's piece, and makes several important observations. Of particular note is this exchange, given news today that at least 11 states are preparing legal challenges to the law:
Princeton, N.J.: A Professor Jost of Washington and Lee Law School was on C-SPAN this morning. He claims the states have no standing in this issue. He also says that since the individual mandate does not go into effect for 4 years, nobody has any standing until then.
He also said that the interpretation of the commerce clause has been so broad that any case likely to be thrown out. He gave many examples; the one I thought was striking was the partial birth abortion ban relying on the commerce clause.
Randy Barnett: Professor Jost has a very broad reading of federal power! I am not a big expert on "standing," but agree that states may not have standing to contest the individual mandate. They could contest the Cornhusker Kickback, etc. I also think that once the bill is signed any person who will be subject to its mandate could bring an immediate "facial challenge," but I could be wrong about this. As for why previous cases do not justify this extension, I may be able to explain this more as discussion proceeds.
Also: For more on why Barnett argues the individual insurance mandate is unconstitutional, see this Heritage Foundation legal memorandum.
President Obama and his lefty Democrat allies expect their new socialized medicine entitlement, once passed, to be permanent, untouchable, and beloved by the public, just like Social Security and Medicare. That is why they are so crazed to get it passed by any means and at any cost. But not living in the real world, they fail to understand that Social Security and Medicare are bankrupt under the government's own numbers, and are about to be fundamentally reformed themselves. It is beyond the power of even the authoritarian government to which the current ruling Democrats aspire to repeal the laws of arithmetic, even though that is the root of their ideology. The Tea Party movement, by contrast, understands all this perfectly well.
As I indicate in the comments to Joel's post, I'm not quite as optimistic. The shape and scope of the reaction against Obamacare and its attendant horrors is not yet clear. And although it may be heartening for those of us who follow politics closely to see this surge in activism from the Tea Party movement, we shouldn't forget that tens of millions of Americans either embrace the "reforms" under discussion -- having little or no idea what they would actually accomplish -- or have simply checked out of the debate altogether. The question, then, is not whether a majority of Americans will resist this change but rather whether just enough of those Americans who can resist this change will do so? The Tea Parties may not be enough.
Monkey Robb and I discuss this with John O'Hara, author of The New American Tea Party: The Counterrevolution Against Bailouts, Handouts, Reckless Spending and More Taxes, in the new podcast. I'll be posting the audio a little later Sunday.
Rick Moran has a pretty shrewd take on the Tea Party movement over at Rightwing Nuthouse (though I wish he had an editor to correct his minor factual errors as well as some of his grammatical infelicities). I don't agree with the analysis all the way, but I think he's on to something here:
Misinformed? Yes. Shallow? An understanding of the Constitution that runs a mile wide and a centimeter deep. Fearful? Beyond being manipulated by the cotton candy conservatives on talk radio, the fear of change is so ripe you can smell it in many sections of the country.
I’m not talking about Obama-type change. I’m talking about the undercurrent of change that constantly runs through history and that occasionally, breaks ground in a flood that, when it ebbs, reveals a much altered landscape. Most people who inhabit such a place are not prepared for, nor can they manage the seminal changes that have made the familiar, unfamiliar.
America has been undergoing a radical change for more than 20 years. Our entire economy has flipped from being industrial-based to service-based, with the consequent changes in wages, lifestyle, and mores occurring faster than many can absorb. The old moorings by which most of us clung have been torn away and some have been let adrift — strangers in their own land.
The catalyst that revealed this was the financial crisis and the growing realization that recovery will be a slow, painful process no matter whether we stupidly try to spend our way to prosperity or cut taxes and risk even higher deficits, thus stifling growth. Millions of jobs are gone and it will take years to recreate the kind of economy where anyone who wants a job can get one.
With all of this happening, can you blame the tea partiers for grasping at the one talisman that has served as a steadying influence on America for 222 years? The Constitution as legal document and patriotic connection to our past is as a life buoy tossed to a drowning man. Given that there are far worse symbols upon which citizens could tie themselves — including the Communist Manifesto as some of the anti-war protestors appeared to have embraced — you would think that critics would grant tea partiers a little slack in their choice of iconic American notions to idolize.
That last is a bit naive, I think. The Constitution of the Tea Party movement is a decidedly unprogressive document. What right-minded 21st-century American could possibly take such a thing seriously? I guess we'll find out soon enough.
That's the headline the Boston Herald put on my op-ed, which casts a cold eye on the recent mass-firings at a Rhode Island high school:
It’s true that some schools are so hopeless and the teachers so inept that mass firings and shutdowns are the only solution. But isn’t that for local authorities to decide?
Firing every teacher from a struggling Rhode Island high school is a spectacular display of what passes for accountability in education these days. But the controversial decision by a New England school superintendent has more to do with buckling under unforgiving federal mandates than bucking the status quo and boldly asserting local control.
Kindly read the whole thing.
But former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich said Obama and the Democrats will regret their decision to push for comprehensive reform. Calling the bill "the most radical social experiment . . . in modern times," Gingrich said: "They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years" with the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.
As writer Dan Balz notes in the next paragraph, "no one doubts that Johnson was right to push for those civil rights measures." No one does now of course -- at least not openly, if they wish to participate in mainstream politics -- but the reason the civil rights legislation was so devastating for the Democratic Party over time was that there were plenty of people who did think it was wrong for Johnson to push for those measures.
What does this have to do with the health reform debate?
There's a lot about Republican governance the last 40 years that I've thought annoying at best and damaging to the country at worst. And yet the worst of it has never been so bad that it would justify hopping in a time machine and convincing LBJ not to pass civil rights legislation in order to keep the South in the Democratic column. The tradeoff -- 40 years in the political wilderness in exchange for a legal regime that protected and enforced the rights of African Americans for the first time in our history -- was worth it, frankly.
And if Gingrich's prediction comes true -- I'm not at all sure it will -- I suspect it will again be worth it. Millions of Americans who can't afford health insurance will finally be covered; millions of others who have paid for coverage will actually get to use that coverage instead of seeing it revoked when they get sick. A legal regime that enables all Americans to access and use health care is, frankly, the least that can happen in the richest civilization this planet has ever seen.
Republicans might be able to tap into anger among some voters to ride back into power. But it's unlikely they'll have the stones to repeal health reform -- last seen in power, of course, they were expanding the Medicare entitlement that conservatives had vociferously opposed a generation earlier. So they can have the presidency for the next 40 years, if they want. Power is important, but so is the end to which it is used. Democrats might be sacrificing their power now, but for a worthy cause. I'm OK with that.
It's almost getting tiresome to me, this picking on Peggy Noonan for her naivete concerning Barack Obama. Almost. She's coming around to the truth of Obama's hard leftism and the phoniness of his HopeyChange campaign rhetoric slower than my quest to lose that extra 20 pounds I've been carrying around for five years. At some point, I expect Noonan's BS meter to finally redline, and read a column in which her great talents are righteously unleashed on Obama. But no matter The One's transgression, so far, Noonan never takes on the persona of a woman scorned. And scorned she has been.
Alas, much of the right side of the blogosphere that still cares about Noonan's work has been aflutter about this week's column, titled "Now for the Slaughter." One would think such a headline means Hell fire follows. Alas, all we get the flicking of a Bic. Noonan begins by accusing the Obama administration of being "bush league" (small "b") for blowing off a trip to Australia and Indonesia so the president can stay in town to
shepherd through bribe and threaten for passage his health care debacle. After Gibbs made the announcement this week ...
The reporters didn't even provoke or needle in their questions. They seemed hushed. They looked like people who were absorbing the information that we all seem to be absorbing, which is that the wheels seem to be coming off this thing, the administration is wobbling — so early, so painfully and dangerously soon.
Nice of you to notice, Peggy. You noticed that this week? It's not like Obama's approval ratings went south from its great heights just yesterday. And this is your first observation that the press has been merely "absorbing" information from the administration, rather than reporting and questioning? Oh, well. Many of us "absorbed" the wheels coming off this administration for some time. At least Peggy was cogent enough to recognize that Bret Baier's interview with Obama the other night was the exception to the rule of reverential press treatment of our president.
It revealed [Obama's] primary weakness in speaking of health care, which is a tendency to dodge, obfuscate and mislead. He grows testy when challenged. It revealed what the president doesn't want revealed, which is that he doesn't want to reveal much about his plan. This furtiveness is not helpful in a time of high public anxiety.
No kidding. Welcome to the reality based community, which has noticed Obama's tendency to dodge since the campaign days. Noonan was amazed that the excellent Baier, who would not be bullied or filibustered, pressed Obama to concede "that no, he doesn't know what's in the bill right now."
It is still amazing that one year into the debate this could be true.
Really. Really? Has Noonan even read her own newspaper's editorial pages in the last two months? Or even in the last week? Obama has never cared what's actually in the health care bill. That's why for all his talk in the Baier interview of the Congress voting on "his" bill, it's never been his bill. It's been Harry Reid's bill. It's been Nancy Pelosi's bill. It's been the bill of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. All that matters is that the government becomes Master and Commander over 1/6th of the U.S. economy. The rest is merely details down the line — the kind of details that exact how, not why, politicians and bureaucrats exercise the power that comes with this take-over.
Noonan notes that "throughout, Mr. Baier pressed the president."
Steve Chapman diagnoses what's wrong with the Obama administration's education policy in this Monday's Chicago Tribune:
I can't pinpoint the moment when the Obama administration went wrong on the subject of education. But I can pinpoint the moment when it demonstrated that it can't be taken seriously.
It happened on Monday, March 15, when Education Secretary Arne Duncan was expounding to reporters about revising the No Child Left Behind law. The new policy, he asserted, "is going to revolutionize education in our country."
No, it's not. We have been at the task of education for a long time, and one thing we know is that you cannot revolutionize it. The American system of schooling is vast, complicated, self-protective, slow to change and even slower to improve.
And, I would add, fairly straightforward. Yes, certain subjects are complicated. But the task of educating citizens is as old as Aristotle.
Things are obviously still fluid, but the reporting on this is coming from several different places:
Rep. Mel Watt just told our Brian Beutler that the whole "self-executing" rule (aka what the GOP was calling the "Slaughter Rule") thing is off. They'll vote on the rule, then the reconciliation bill and then the original Senate bill.
If this is true, it's good news. Our debates going forward -- probably in the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns -- can concentrate on the substance of health reform instead of the process of its passage. And you know what? I'm more than happy to let the American people judge that debate.
Author Susan Jacoby, a lively agnostic whose books The Age of American Unreason and Freethinkers are worth engaging even if you're inclined to disagree, offers some rather ill-considered ideas for reforming America's schools in the New York Times.
Jacoby begins with the oft-heard lament that American kids are mediocre in math and science compared to their peers in other countries. She takes a poke at President Obama's proposed overhaul of No Child Left Behind and serves up a heaping ladle of scorn for the Texas State Board of Education. "Each of these seemingly unrelated developments," Jacoby writes, "is part of a crazy quilt created by one of America’s most cherished and unexamined traditions: local and state control of public education."
The idea that the American tradition local and state control of public education is "unexamined" should be the first of several clues that Jacoby is writing from terra incognita. But she sallies forth boldly, arguing her view:
Our lack of a national curriculum, national teacher training standards and federal financial support to attract smart young people to the teaching profession all contribute mightily to the mediocre-to-poor performance of American students, year in and year out, on international education assessments. So does a financing system that relies heavily on local property taxes and fails to guarantee students in, say, Kansas City the same level of schooling as students in more affluent communities.
It's funny she should mention Kansas City, which is an object lesson in how billions of federal court-ordered dollars simply could not buy an excellent education.
The new proposals being offered by the Obama administration will not significantly change a setup that combines the worst of both worlds: broad federally mandated goals and state manipulation of testing and curriculum. Nationwide testing is useless unless it is based on a curriculum consensus reached by genuine experts in the subjects being taught — yes, the dreaded “elites.” That is how public education is administered in nearly all industrialized nations throughout Europe and Asia, whose students regularly outperform Americans in reading comprehension, science and math.
Jacoby is at best half right. It's true that federally mandated curriculum standards are almost certain to fall prey to political pressures to dumb them down. But she omits a major reason why students in Asia and Europe perform so much better on international tests. It isn't merely that elites are administering the schools; the elites -- or, rather, their children -- are also taking the tests. Those other industrialized nations are fairly unapologetic about separating the intellectually gifted wheat from the more trade-oriented chaff. American schools are much more egalitarian and, therefore, much more mediocre.
Jacoby goes on to offer three tentative steps toward meaningful reform. Rather than answer them myself, I would encourage you to read Kevin Kosar, who thoroughly demolished Jacoby in a post earlier today. Writes Kosar:
The notion that our democratic republic is dependent upon government-operated schools is unproven. Walter Lippmann called out this claim 85 years ago; and reams of political science studies indicates that people seldom vote based on reason or deep knowledge of the issues. Before this country had public schools, it had private schools. When Adams and Jefferson lived, there were few public schools. Yet, the Republic endured. And, it is a fact that a disproportionate percentage of private school graduates end up taking leading roles in public affairs.
Here, an old saw seems appro—one is entitled to one’s own opinion, not one’s own facts. And it should go without saying that newspapers, especially influential ones, should not entrust important subjects to dilettantes.
A new Field Poll finds Barbara "Call Me Senator" Boxer's prospects for a fourth term less than certain. The Fresno Bee reports:
Former Rep. Tom Campbell has a six-point lead over his closest challenger in the three-way Republican primary to face Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, whose popularity has significantly eroded in the past two months, according to a Field Poll released today.
The survey found Campbell leading former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina 28 percent to 22 percent among likely Republican voters in the June 8 primary, while Assemblyman Chuck DeVore had support from 9 percent. But most prospective GOP voters, roughly 40 percent, were undecided.
While Boxer's races have historically been sleepy affairs, the poll indicates that Californians could be in for a barnburner this year. Boxer is in a statistical tie in trial matchups with both Campbell and Fiorina. In January, she had substantial double-digit percentage-point leads over all three GOP challengers.
"Formerly, I would have said this is in the Democratic column, but I would say now it's got to be moved into the tossup column," said Mark DiCamillo, the director of the poll. "There just seems to be a turning of voter opinions. I think a lot of it has to do with the Congress."
As with the Field Poll noting Meg Whitman's slight lead over Jerry Brown, the standard caveats apply. Boxer can be as vicious as anyone. (Just ask Bruce Herschensohn.) And the outcome of the Republican primary is far from assured, especially if Fiorina and Campbell continue clashing.
Somewhere, a demon sheep is bleating.
My friend Daniel Watts is running for Davis City Council. Watts ran for governor in the 2003 recall circus, and although he didn't do quite as well as Cruz Bustamante or Mary Carey, he made a respectable showing. He had planned to run for governor again this year as a Democrat, but the Jerry Brown Juggernaut was simply too much to overcome.
Instead, Watts is taking on local government. Wise choice. The Davis Enterprise reported Tuesday about his plans (subscriber-only link, alas):
Watts vows to make student issues a priority. In fact, his campaign platform focuses almost exclusively on student rights and improving the city-student relationship.
Watts said he noticed other candidates addressing the city budget, public safety and the school district.
'Their concerns were the same concerns that any other city has,' he said.
Meanwhile, he said, Davis' massive college student population is being neglected.
'There is a voice for those other issues on the City Council already,' he said. 'But nobody is addressing those student issues.'
Contrary to popular belief, starving students don't qualify as "indigent," so Watts is on the hook for a $732 filing fee. He's accepting donations via Paypal at email@example.com. Help a fella out.
I have a new op-ed in the Sacramento Bee arguing against the Common Core Standards Initiative, which sounds like a great idea until you realize that President Obama wants to use it as leverage to further centralize education policy.
Here's the gist:
The standards are billed as “voluntary,” but that’s a joke. The Obama administration has already announced plans to make $14 billion in federal Title I funds and another $15 billion in future Race to the Top grants contingent on states adopting the national standards. In short, the standards would be as “voluntary” reporting personal income to the IRS, regulating the drinking age, or maintaining the speed limit. Just try to opt out and see what happens.
The standards are also supposed to be “flexible,” but it’s difficult to see how. The draft reading and math requirements include detailed, year-by-year prescriptions for every child, regardless of ability. A student who struggles with reading, writing, or arithmetic would have an even tougher time keeping up, as teachers would face mounting pressure to cover all the material in federally sanctioned lesson plans.
Of course, that assumes the final standards won’t be homogenized and dumbed down to the point they would be considered “high standards” in name only. Judging by history, that’s probably a bad assumption.
One thing’s for sure: transforming common core standards into a common curriculum would turn an already contentious policy issue into a brawl as bruising and divisive as the fight over health care reform. Where health care is about our bodies, education is about our children’s minds.
Obviously, you should read the whole thing. (Try not to be scared off by the mugshot.)
And while you're at it, check out the new School Reform News Web site at the Heartland Institute. In the coming weeks, we'll be introducing daily content, and weekly interactive and multimedia features, including polls, videos and podcasts.
Update: Cato's Neal McCluskey writes at NRO:
All kids are different. They mature at different rates, have different interests, and face different obstacles. In light of this, it simply makes no sense to try to force them all to learn the same thing at the same pace. It’s something that most conservatives — who recognize the primacy of the individual — fully understand, yet Finn asserts that it’s liberals who oppose a single standard for all.
If that’s so, then why aren’t more liberals supporting widespread school choice — the key to ending special-interest control of education and enabling unique kids to find schools specializing in their needs — the way conservatives are? Oh, right: Because it’s typically liberals who love big, one-size-fits-all government solutions to problems fundamentally rooted in a lack of freedom.
The CCSSI standards might look great on paper. But federally extorted standardization? That’s something conservatives should never embrace.
Meantime, Julie Ponzi at No Left Turns picks up a thread that I think deserves elaboration in a separate piece:
A perceived problem for those advocating on behalf of keeping standards at the state level has been the rancorous and, in many ways, ridiculous fight over history standards in Texas that has produced, in the words of Boychuk, "a politically correct mishmash." Any objective observer of the outcome in Texas would have to concede that their "solution" has been less than wonderful. As Ben says in the comment section under his piece, "including the Declaration of Independence in the social studies standards while excluding Thomas Jefferson is... confusing." It is also stupid and deserving of all the mockery and derision it is getting--however wrong-headed and mean-spirited some of it may be. (One way to avoid being called a fool is to avoid doing foolish things!) But this result is in no way--as left-wing critics eager to score points against the "rubes" in red states might hope--an argument in favor of national standards. It is an argument AGAINST them. Why would we want to nationalize that fiasco of a fight in Texas? For that is exactly what would happen.
More on the Texas textbook controversy soon.
Former eBay CEO and California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman is riding high in the polls after her appearance at the GOP state convention. The latest Field Poll has Whitman leading Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner by a whopping 49 points. Poizner immolated himself six weeks ago with his bizarre press conference claiming that Whitman's campaign tried to intimidate him into abandoning the contest.
Apparently, she's leading Brown, too.
Don't worry, it won't last.
It's early yet. Whitman is spending a fortune acquainting herself with voters and tearing down Poizner. But her message is lame, hackneyed and clichéd. As Rep. Tom McClintock said over the weekend, Whitman might as well be Schwarzenegger in a skirt.
The Los Angeles Times wonders if Poizner "can pull a Gray Davis." What's that? Get himself recalled?
The Poizner campaign maintains that polls at this phase of the campaign are meaningless.
Not convinced? Take a look at the headline from the Field Poll almost 12 years ago to the day. The headline of Field's March 18, 1998, survey read, "Harman moves ahead of Checchi and Davis in Democratic field for governor."
That would be Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), the candidate who eventually finished with 12% of the vote, and Al Checchi, the former Northwest Airlines executive who finished with 13% in the June 1998 primary election.
Primary rules for that election were slightly different than they are now. In that election, voters from either party were allowed to vote for whichever candidate they wanted. Gray Davis was the top Democratic vote-getter that year with 35% of the overall vote. Republican Dan Lungren, who did not have a competitive primary, was the top Republican vote-getter.
But three months before the election, Davis' victory was anything but guaranteed. The March 1998 survey found Davis with just 11% of the vote. Harman had 17%, while Checchi was favored by 15% of those surveyed.
Well, that's interesting. Interesting but totally irrelevant, that is.
Poizner could have been a contender, if he hadn't come off as a desperate loser. More likely, though, Brown is holding back, waiting for the Republican candidates to savage each other, and fully expecting to unleash his well-heeled surrogates. Oh, and though they might deny it, the press looooooves Jerry.
So don't put too much stock in the polls at this point. And never, ever count out Jerry Brown.
Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard is convinced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to resort to the "Slaughter Solution," which we've had quite the discussion about over on this thread. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, the smart and funny Republican from Michigan, dubbed this end-run around the Constitution the "Slaughter House Rules." I like that moniker.
Anyway, Kristol outlines several quotes from House Democratic leaders reflecting their current talking points about how the American people don't care about "process," and how all of this drama is about "inside baseball" that — in the words of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) — is only interesting to Inside-the-Beltway reporters. Kristol didn't take the time to mention what I think is one of the best dismissive and contemptuous quotes from the mouth of Pelosi. About the shenanigans going on, the Speaker said today of the Slaughter House Rules:
It's more insider-and process-oriented than most people want to know. But I like it because people don't have to vote on the Senate bill.
Yes. That's nice. The people's representatives not actually voting on a bill that will fundamentally transform Americans' relationship to their doctors, and their relationship with the government, is peachy in Pelosi's eyes. I think the Hosue Democrats, or at least their leadership, are delusional. And I think this stuff does matter to "ordinary" Americans, whom the Democrats apparently think are too stupid to understand that a fundamental trust in a consensual government is being violated here. Kristol agrees.
Here the Democrats betray their contempt for the supposed simple-mindedness and short-sightedness of the American public. They also convey their vision of the American people living under the big government liberalism: We are to be passive consumers of government action, who accept what is done for us and to us in light of our perceived narrow short-term self-interest. We are not to think of ourselves as self-governing citizens with a stake in the process of constitutional self-government and a concern for the good of the whole.
This may be the outcome — turning citizens into consumers, self-government into the nanny state — that the Democrats would like to achieve. I don't think it's one the American people wish to accept.
I don't think so, either. I think Americans' political sophistication will manifest itself in November with an historic political reckoning. Hell, the public's political sophistication is manifesting itself now. But, if this scurrilous procedure occurs, it will be probably be too late for the public to make substantive corrections.
Yet, if the future Republican majority has to resort to such tactics to repeal the totality of this disaster, I'll support it — just this once. Because it would be sweet justice.
(Please, dear readers, don't nit-pick me on this post about the history of "deeming" and other such Congressional procedures throughout history. We've gone over that in the previous post. There are enormous differences, not the least of which is the fact that stuff like raising the debt ceiling are "resolutions," not bills that our constitution stipulates are quite different.)
"Starbucks is 39 years old now, and like a lot of 39-year-olds, especially those who’ve experienced great success in their salad years but are beginning to wonder if they’ve lost their touch, it’s having a bit of an identity crisis," writes Greg Beato in the March issue of Reason.
See, I'm a few months younger than Starbucks and I can't relate to that at all. I feel like my best years are yet to come.
But I think I understand the problem. Starbucks overextended. We had two Starbucks within a couple of miles of our house. Both closed last year -- one of them after just one year in operation.
I like Starbucks. I spend a lot of time at the store across the street from where my wife works. They know me there. I can work there more or less in peace. (Thank you, Bose Quiet Comfort 2's!) The coffee is too hot and too bitter and the food is overpriced, but it does the job. Although it may not be "a venue for conversation and civic discourse," I see plenty of realtors, pastors, paralegals, students and band moms gathering there regularly to converse about... well, whatever it is they discuss.
(I)f Starbucks really hopes to re-establish its authority as an innovative, forward-thinking trailblazer, it should perhaps use its next experimental venue to honor its heritage as the first chain to take gourmet coffee culture beyond the narrow boundaries of traditional coffeehouse values and aesthetics. Imagine a place with matching chairs, clean tables, beverages that look like ice cream sundaes, Norah Jones on the sound system, and absolutely no horrid paintings from local artists decorating the walls. A place, that is, exactly like Starbucks!
Because despite its ubiquity, despite its advancing years, Starbucks is still the most radical thing to hit the coffeehouse universe in the last 50 years.
Beats gas station coffee, anyway, I can tell you that.
...you'll likely enjoy this Academy Award winning movie trailer. It's the feel-good hit of the season!
(Hat tip: Steve Hayward)
(Hat tip: Cato's @ Liberty blog)
One would expect from that headline that former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines would have used an opportunity to speak from the pages of The Washington Post to provide a mea culpa on his dereliction of duty for allowing the alarmingly shoddy journalist Jayson Blair to commit serial plagiarism and fiction on his front pages in the early 2000s. And one would be wrong.
One might also expect from that headline that the former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines would have used an opportunity to speak from the pages of The Washington Post to lament his former standard of American journalism's dereliction of duty on misreporting the Tea Party phenomenon. Or how The Times continues to get its clock cleaned by British newspapers on the ClimateGate scandals? Again, you'd be wrong. Two times.
Nope. Raines says the "one question" that has "tugged" at his "professional conscience" lately is this:
Why haven't America's old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration — a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?
That Raines — who trumpeted the MSM's dogged criticism of the Nixon administration as a highlight that he did not characterize as "a propaganda campaign" but something "well covered" — feels the burning urge to slam the only major television news outlet in this country to cover the Obama administration with a critical eye says all you need to know about the self-induced destruction of the MSM.
Does he call out Fox News citing examples of the kind of fiction that he presided over at the helm of America's "Newspaper of Record"? No. He does not. Instead he laments that Ailes allows on his network a "cadre of raucous commentators" that have "overturned standards of fairness and objectivity that have guided American print and broadcast journalists since World War II."
Hey, Howell. Those are commentators. MSNBC, CNN and even The New York Times has them, too. A former media big shot like you should know the difference between news reporting and commentary, of which Fox News has successfully achieved both if ratings are any gauge.
OK. I'm not being 100 percent fair. Raines attempts to provide a glaring example of malfesence on the part of Fox News. Pointing to Fox's coverage of the health care debate, Raines writes:
It is a matter of Fox turning reality on its head with, among other tactics, its endless repetition of its uber-lie: "The American people do not want health-care reform."
Fox repeats this as gospel.
Gee. Why would Fox do that? It's not like there are scads of polls showing that the American people wholly reject the vision of "health care reform" that Obama and the Democratic Congress are trying to shove down our throats. The "news" of "health care reform" is not consumed with the vague and historic notions of "reform" that Raines then cites for support. "News," as Raines should know, is what's happening now. And what's happening now on that front is extremely unpopular. Why, pray tell, is reporting — and in commentary shows, reflecting — the "gospel" of public opinion somehow a sin against journalism?
Seriously, the idiocy of Raines' piece is a wonder to behold, and explains why The New York Times is losing readership faster than Monkey Ben is losing hair. Stupid didn't leave the building with Raines, but is institutionalized at the paper.
Mark Steyn and Greg Gutfeld have torn Raines a couple of new ones over his diatribe. And they are worth reading for the giggles. But I'm gonna pull out some more asininity for the dozens of readers of Infinite Monkeys (which includes family). Raines writes:
How to explain? It's like Harold & Maude, only if both characters appeared to be 12 years old and Maude was actually a vampire. And if it had the icy surroundings and slowly building sense of dread as in The Shining. With Scott Farkus from A Christmas Story making an appearance as Harold's tormenter. Oh yeah, and it's all in Swedish -- with all the awkward touches of pubescent sexuality that might imply.
Does that describe it? It's the best I can do.
Cross-posted at Cup O' Joel.
That, at least, is the conclusion of Abe Greenwald a Friday post at Commentary's Contentions blog titled "Democracy only works if you use it." Greenwald, like me, used Charles Krauthammer's latest column, but to make a different point.
Dr. K notes the contentiousness of today's political debate and writes: "Hail the untidiness. Hail democracy. Hail the rotation of power. Yes, even when Democrats gain office." Even though, as Krauthammer writes, "it’s hard to recall a more informed, more detailed, more serious, more prolonged national debate than on health care reform," what does that matter when the Congress and the president are not listening to the people? As Greenwald writes:
All of the fighting, even the polarization, would be easier to hail if the Democrats were not sidestepping it. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid are seeking to change the fundamental nature of the country, not by triumphing in rigorous debate, but rather by exploiting a procedural loophole that would allow them to act against the will of the people.
The citizens of this country have historically enjoyed a unique level of influence on their government. But we are now spectators before whom a cadre of floundering ideologues seeks to sever the trusts that make consensual governance consensual. The Democrats lost the public debate. Ask them if they care.
What I put in bold above is what is so troubling to me. Greenwald points to a recent statement by Nancy Pelosi that reflects her utter disregard — contempt, really — for the opinion of the American people as reflected in the polls and the election of several candidates who ran against the agenda of her caucus and Obama.
We will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we will parachute in. But we are going to get health care reform passed for the American people for their own personal health and economic security and for the important role that it will play in reducing the deficit.
Is that really how our constitutional republic is supposed to work? That if the barriers to an agenda stand in the way — also known as checks and balances — those with a temporary hold on power are to ignore them, subvert them and (if necessary) "pole vault" over them? Previously in the entire history of this country, if you ain't got the votes for a major piece of legislation or "reform," you move on. That's what Bush and the Republican Congress did in 2005 regarding Social Security reform. Rigging the rules, coming up with endless schemes to get your way — including the "Slaughter Solution" to consider the Senate version of the bill passed without ever voting on it as the constitution demands — makes a mockery of our form of government. It's tyranny with a sheen of democracy.
No president, no speaker of the House, should be able to subvert our checks and balances on government power because that president and that speaker say they think its for our own good. We are not children, and they are not our absolute rulers.
Beyond the question of whether ObamaCare is good for the people — and I believe it is not — is proceeding with such contempt for our constitution and the will of the American people good for the country? Does it foster respect for our form of government, or cynicism (which Obama famously said in his campaign was his "real" opponent)?
Obama, Pelosi, and Reid now believe they must pass ObamaCare by any means necessary, because somewhere along the way, the quest to get this done turned into a political suicide mission. Might as well get what you came for, then, and have your political death not be all for naught. It is now left to a handful of House Democrats to decide if they want to take down 200-plus years of what Americans have considered consensual government down with them. Because a "yea" vote not only ratifies ObamaCare, but sets a precedent that "by any means necessary" is now how this republic governs the people.
Every nation has its own creation myth, something that illuminates our understanding of how a country sees itself, and the emergence of China as an economic superpower in the last couple of decades has prompted some cinematic consideration of how it came into being. Notable among these movies in recent years was Jet Li's Hero, which featured some wonderfully staged action scenes -- it was a Jet Li movie, after all -- but was also troubling to Western and democratic sensibilities with its seemingly pro-totalitarian bent.
Hero, though, was preceded a few years by 1998's The Emperor and the Assassin, and one hopes that this version of China's creation myth doesn't really show us how that country's citizens and artists think of themselves -- because it is super twisted.
Long story short: Li Xuejian plays Zheng Ying, the King of Qin who in 221 BC united all of China's disparate kingdoms under one empire. He's the Chinese George Washington, only if George Washington had a frothing bit of Macbeth in him, sprinkled with a twist of Hitler: Even at the outset he's clearly insane -- and as the movie progresses, it becomes clear he'll do anything to consolidate power: Murder his own family members, wipe out all the children of a city, and destroy entire families at a whim. But he manages a moment of clarity early on, describing China as he will one day rule it with kindness and wisdom.
His lover, Lady Zhao, is played by Gong Li, who is one of the most beautiful actresses ever to appear on screen anywhere in the world at any point in cinematic history. (I wanted, during the movie, to call her Lady Rowwwwr.) She is so moved by Ying's promise to benevolently rule a unified China that she has her face branded, part of a plot to create a pretext for Qin's invasion of a neighboring kingdom, Yan. But she changes her mind when she sees Ying's dark side, and plots with a reformed assassin to kill the king.
We know from history that Ying did become the first emperor of China, and thus we know what becomes of the plot. But still, something buzzes throughout the movie: This is China's creation myth! And it's full of double-crosses, palace intrigue and deaths to fill two or three Shakespeare plays! We're apparently supposed to take it as a given that the unification of China was a worthy thing -- and if you're a Chinese moviegoer watching this, that may well be a given. The rest of us, though, are left aghast at the horror of it all. Put it this way: I've never seen a movie with so many dead children on screen.
China's movie industry is not known, for obvious reasons, for its subversiveness. But there might be a hidden message in all of this. Lady Zhao is so moved by the king's promises of benevolence, food, safety and even good roads for all that she deforms her own visage to enable Ying's military adventurism ... only to find his bright vision similarly deformed by the awful task of acquiring power. A lesson learned: Never, ever trust the king.
Cross-posted at Cup O' Joel.
Surely, there are hard lefties (and even mainstream Democrats) unhappy with the state of America's continued war-mongering foreign policy more than one year after that swaggering, idiot cowboy left the Oval Office and a liberal Democrat (with a like-thinking Congress) settled into power. But the good doctor, like me, looks at wonder at the tranquility on the war-protesting stage.
Do you think if John McCain, let alone George W. Bush, were president, we would not see growing demonstrations protesting our continued presence in Iraq and the escalation of Afghanistan? That we wouldn't see a serious push in Congress to cut off funds?
Why not? Because Barack Obama is now commander in chief. The lack of opposition is not a matter of hypocrisy. It is a natural result of the rotation of power. When a party is in opposition, it opposes. That's its job. But when it comes to power, it must govern. Easy rhetoric is over, the press of reality becomes irresistible. By necessity, it adopts some of the policies it had once denounced. And a new national consensus is born.
Left unsaid by Krauthammer, and what needs to be said, is that there's a reason why the protests from those "out of power" have not materialized. Those out of power today have a sense of decorum and — OK, I'll say it — patriotism. Those out of power today don't just support the troops in some kind of vague sense. They realize that you can't really support the troops without supporting the mission.
But Krauthammer asks a great question: Where are all you smelly hippies! I guess we'll have to wait until ObamaCare dies to see them. ;-)
As I await the fusillade of approbrium ... please read the rest of Krauthammer's latest. Even you liberals. It's good stuff, and not nearly as snarky as my asides.
The popular image of Mike Tyson has long been that he's a dumb, savagely abusive brute who treats women -- in particular -- like crap. James Toback's documentary, Tyson, is supposed to correct the record a bit and it does: Now we know that Mike Tyson is somewhat self-aware that he's a savagely abusive brute who treats women like crap.
That's not what Toback is necessarily aiming for in this 2008 documentary. After all, we're treated to many, many images of Tyson staring pensively at the ocean while he tells his rags-to-riches story of a youngster who went from being the first coming of Omar Little -- robbing drug houses -- to the world's youngest heavyweight boxing champion to a convicted rapist to Holyfield ear-chewer and finally to a washed-up boxer and family man. We're also treated to private home video footage of him play-boxing with one of his young children. This is supposed to make us think that Tyson's not quite the brute we've perceived him as: Google up the phrase "Mike Tyson Toback complex" and you'll get 32,000 hits.
But where women are concerned, Mike Tyson is anything but complex. He professes openly that his goal is to dominate women, particularly sexually, and particularly if they're extraordinarily powerful. He calls Desiree Washington, the woman he was convicted of raping, a "wretched swine" -- betraying no Kobe-like awareness or contemplation of the possibility that (at the very least) the sexual advances he thought were welcome actually weren't. Every moment that Tyson talks about women makes you cringe -- though at least there's a laugh to be had when he describes performing "fellatio" on one young woman he met early in his career.
One, though, can be unsympathetic to Tyson and still recognize his story as a tragedy -- a tale of talent, riches and opportunity pissed away because of his own faults, and stolen from him by the always-corrupt game of boxing. But Tyson's contemptible characteristics loom too large in the story for you to feel sorry for him for long.
"Netflix Queue" features reviews of movies I just got around to watching -- no matter how out-of-date they might be. Cross-posted at the brand-new Cup O' Joel.
I'm no Second Amendment zealot -- I've said before that I think the right to bear arms probably isn't such a hot idea in cities plagued by gun violence. Still, I think there's a bit of disingenuousness in today's LA Times op-ed piece by Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence -- a call for Starbucks to ban from the premises any customers who lawfully enter the store with a gun on their person.
Here's the laugh-out-loud untruth:
We are not asking Starbucks to take a position on America's gun debate. We are asking it to establish a policy to protect its customers -- including gun owners and employees -- against the possibility that misused firearms carried into the stores by those The Times describes as "postmodern cowboy wannabes" could cause great harm. We are not pressuring Starbucks to take a position against anyone's beliefs.
I suppose this is narrowly true in the sense that the Brady Campaign isn't asking Starbucks to send lobbyists far and wide to campaign for restrictive gun laws. But the Brady Campaign is clearly asking Starbucks to send a rather clear message about the state of gun laws in California and America -- that they're not restrictive enough to protect public safety, and that further steps must be taken by private businesses to do the job if politicians in Sacramento and D.C. won't.
That's clearly a political act, clearly the taking a position on America's gun debate. And it is, in fact, a legitimate position for both the Brady Campaign and Starbucks -- should it ever choose to do so -- to take. But it is a not-very-good lie, an unnecessary lie, to pretend that such a position is somehow apolitical. The Brady Campaign should own its beliefs and positions instead of this pretense. Truth matters.
As a (theologically) conservative protestant, let me say that I'll stick with Aquinas on the "social justice" issue, rather than the crazed rantings of a man who chose his religion almost incidentally.
we need an "education" topic pigeonhole around here. imo
" The competition was set up to encourage states to take on reforms supported by the Obama administration. "
Anyone want to tell me how a state with 10% of the population blew this one? WHO ARE THE GRANT-WRITERS RESPONSIBLE? I WANT THEIR PENCILS BROKEN.
Not necessarily because I favor federal funds being taken from states, filtered thru the feds and then generously being returned to us a little at a time. Rather, mostly because you could pluck me out of bed at 3 A.M. and I would be able to write a pretty good grant proposal for federal education funding. These grant-writers are obviously inept.
Present company excepted, sirs!
Preface: Zaius and I got into it more than usual last week over a blog post in which I -- perhaps too casually -- suggested racism was at play in a posting at Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website. We've kissed and made up behind the scenes, but this post involves some of the same issues, so I want to be clear: I'm not trying to bait anybody here.
That said, here's a video posted at Big Government right now:
It's billed as a "comedy rap video" so I'm sure I'll be admonished not to take it so seriously. But as Spencer Ackerman notes:
This is a conservative rap song that repeatedly addresses the first black president as “boy”; has a lyric in which a rapper imagining herself as a soldier in Iraq declares herself “sick of smelling like a mosque after Ramadan”; and then features a birther talking about how Obama isn’t an American.
You know what? That speaks for itself.
Um, well, it certainly seems to. But I also know my conservative friends -- and Zaius is my friend, let me shout it from the rooftops -- are very sensitive about loose allegations of racism directed at conservatives. So I want to tread carefully here ... and yet I don't want to be so careful that I ignore troubling content at leading mainstream conservative site. But I wonder: How should we interpret this?
Thus endeth one of the most carefully worded posts I've ever written.
Ever since it became apparent we weren't actually going to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, certain conservatives have continued to argue that the invasion was still a good idea. Maybe he didn't possess nukes or other WMDs, the thinking goes, but Saddam Hussein was still a bad guy -- a threat to his own people and a destabilizing force in the region who needed to be removed. As National Review's Victor Davis Hanson said last year: "Congress cited 23 reasons why we should remove Saddam. The majority of these authorizations had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction."
I've long contended that's a dodge: Maybe there were plenty of reasons to want to see Saddam Hussein out of power, but there was only one necessary and sufficient reason the American public was going to back an otherwise-unprovoked invasion of Iraq: the WMDs.
Guess who agrees with me? Karl Rove and George W. Bush:
While the opportunity to bring democracy to the Middle East as a bulwark against Islamic extremism "justified the decision to remove Saddam Hussein," Mr. Rove makes clear that from the start, at least, the suspected weapons and their perceived threat were the primary justification for war.
"Would the Iraq War have occurred without W.M.D.? I doubt it," he writes. "Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use-of-force resolution without the W.M.D. threat. The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam, bring about regime change, and deal with Iraq's horrendous human rights violations."
Rove goes on to reject that Bush "lied" the United States into war -- he really, really believed Hussein had the weapons. Fine. Lots of people and nations did. Only one problem: There was a process in place before the war to determine the nature of Saddam's WMD programs -- the UN inspectors -- and their inability to find the non-existent weapons somehow became proof that the weapons actually existed!*
*Not to mention that there were options besides invasion for deterring Saddam Hussein if he possessed WMDs. But that's a whole 'nother argument.
But the math here is simple and, really, inarguable. If the invasion of Iraq wouldn't have happened without the WMDs, and if Iraq didn't actually possess WMDs, then the invasion of Iraq was a huge mistake -- one created in part by the Bush Administration's aggressive blunder in short-circuiting the U.N. process. The debate, such as it was, is over. We can all move on.
I've said it before, but in light of this column today by none other than Jonah Goldberg, I'll say it again: "Big business" and "big government" are two sides of the same coin, and it's a mistake for conservatives to side with one over the other. The problem again is the adjective, not the noun.
Here's Goldberg making a related point in USA Today:
The lesson here is fairly simple: Big business is not "right wing," it's vampiric. It will pursue any opportunity to make a big profit at little risk. Getting in bed with politicians is increasingly the safest investment for these "crony capitalists." But only if the politicians can actually deliver. The political failures of the Obama White House have translated into business failures for firms more eager to make money off taxpayers instead of consumers.
That's good news. The bad news will be if the Republicans once again opt to be the cheap dates of big business. For years, the GOP defended big business in the spirit of free enterprise while businesses never showed much interest in the principle themselves. Now that their bet on the Democrats has crapped out, it'd be nice if they stopped trying to game the system and focused instead on satisfying the consumer.
This also relates to the arguments we had here and at Joel's place about the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizen's United campaign finance case. If you're going to inject politics into business by way of regulation, it's only natural that business will seek to inject itself into politics to protect its interests. Hence: "Vampiric" big business.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in the case of McDonald v. Chicago, which is challenging the Second City's 30-year-old ban on handguns. McDonald is the sequel to Heller v. District of Columbia, in which the justices ruled that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to bear arms in federal jurisdictions. If the court follows its own logic in McDonald, it will "incorporate" the language of the Fourteenth Amendment with the Second Amendment, extending the right of gun ownership to the states.
That would be a very good thing, of course. But as Randy Barnett argues in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, what's most interesting about McDonald are the questions the justices aren't asking.
At the McDonald argument, it seemed obvious that five or more justices will vote to apply the Second Amendment to the states. This would be a great victory for gun rights—one that until a few years ago would have been unimaginable. But it was also obvious that most were deeply afraid of following a text whose original meaning might lead them where they do not want to go. When it came to following the written Constitution, a visitor from another planet would not, I suspect, have been very impressed.
Barnett has bigger game in his sights; namely, the Fourteenth Amendment's "Privileges and Immunities" clause: "Justice Scalia insisted that the right to keep and bear arms is right there in the text, which of course is true. But so too is the Privileges or Immunities Clause, which, unlike the Court's due process jurisprudence, has a historical meaning that helps define and limit the rights it was meant to protect."
There is more, of course. Much more, in fact. Barnett continues the argument over privileges and immunities with Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy. And David Kopel weighs in on the question of "reasonable regulation."