Of course not! That would be ridiculous! And yet Pia Lopez and I argue the question in the Sacramento Bee on Thursday. Pia, who spent 15 years in Minnesota, thinks it's a splendid idea. My take:
Personally, I find little comfort in the idea of thousands of low-information voters appearing at polling places on election day, registering on the spot and voting for the candidates they've doubtless been instructed to select beforehand.
I don't know why that vision sets liberals' hearts aflutter. If you care about the vote's rectitude, the prospect should cause anxious palpitations.
Who could play that role initially? Some are touting former Indiana senator and governor Evan Bayh, but he's untested and not particularly articulate. A far better bet is newly elected California governor Jerry Brown -- a kind of Eugene McCarthy-esque figure -- who once bragged that he was going to move left and right at the same time. He is, of course, a serial presidential candidate, having run three times previously (1976, 1980, 1992). Though he failed each time, he twice ran impressively, finishing third in '76 after entering late in the process, winning (or having friendly delegates do so) in Maryland, California, Nevada, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. In 1992, on a financial shoestring, he finished second -- winning Maine, Connecticut, Colorado, Nevada, Vermont, and Alaska, while losing California to Bill Clinton, 48-41 percent.
For Brown, the next nine months are critical, as he'll attempt to use his visibility as governor of the nation's most populous state to become a kind of Democratic Chris Christie, standing up to special interests and proposing bold new fiscal policies. If he does, he could be a formidable 2012 challenger, as he's shown a propensity in the past for running on populist themes (term limits, campaign-finance reform), while taking positions that could attract labor support (he was anti-NAFTA) and even backing from conservatives (he has supported a flat tax). As a Catholic, he does have some appeal to the working-class "Hillary Democrats" -- a part of the reason why he's done well in New England in the past.
Could he beat Obama? It's obviously a long shot. But the hope among some is that his entry into the race would so weaken Obama that Clinton might consider getting in, as Robert Kennedy once did, able to tap into a family-built organization in a matter of days. Some even harbor hopes that, under pressure from his own party, Obama might walk away from the job after one term. Stranger things have happened.
The reference to Brown's Catholicism caught me attention. I knew, of course, he was an ex-seminarian. I also was aware of his well-publicized trips to Asia to study Buddhism. Turns out, though, he married his wife Ann Gust in a Catholic Church in San Francisco -- which may or may not blunt his appeal to "working-class 'Hillary Democrats.'"
You heard it here... uh, second or third. (Tenth or twelvth, more likely.)
(Hat tip: Hayward, of course.)
That dubious distinction may well belong to the voters of Arizona's 7th Congressional District, who apparently decided to re-elect a man who called for the boycott of his own state. What's more, the voters chose a 62-year-old, ethnic chauvanist Democratic Party hack over a 28-year-old rocket scientist, for God's sake!
Somebody on the Sacramento Bee's live chat yesterday asked if any of the election outcomes surprised me. I said no. But that was before I heard about the outcome of this contest in Arizona. I realize it was always going to be a tough climb for Ruth McClung, but her defeat rankles a little. Glad I don't live there. Sure, Californians elected Jerry Brown again, but those Arizonans are really crazy.
A concered friend wrote me a cryptic, funny e-mail yesterday: "How far is the Arizona border? And how quickly can you pack?"
My reply, I think, sums up my take on why Tuesday's Red Tide barely made a ripple in California (which, incidentally, is the subject of the Scripps-Howard column this week.)
You're talking about California? I'm not too worried. Oh, sure, it's going to be a disaster, but it will be a great show. If I had my druthers, the entire GOP establishment in this state would be exiled or put on a barge and set adrift in the Pacific. They're worse than useless. But Jerry Brown is a politician and an opportunist par excellence. He'll surprise us, I think. (Maybe not pleasantly, but he'll surprise us just the same.)
Everyone needs to understand just how lame Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina were. Brown in the last week was airing a brilliant ad that put Schwarzenegger's statements and Whitman's statements side-by-side. They were practically word-for-word. I voted for her, God knows, only because I could never vote for Brown. But I had no doubt I was voting for Arnold in a pantsuit.
Fiorina constantly sounded a defensive tone, and a few days ago told a reporter she would probably have a voting record similar to Dianne Feinstein's. Way to close the deal, Carly!
What may be said of the candidates for governor and U.S. Senator may be said with even greater force about the down-ticket races, with the possible exception of Tony Strickland, who had no money or exposure in his race for controller. Lt. Governor Abel Maldanado sold out on taxes. Mike Villines, the former assembly leader running for Insurance commissioner, also sold out. Steve Cooley, who is still locked in a death struggle with Kamala Harris, the liberal Democrat D.A. of San Francisco, talked out of both sides of his mouth. The only solid stand he took during the one televised debate he had was to say he would happily accept two state pensions if elected. Naturally, Harris used that in an ad. Damon Dunn, the GOP nominee for Secretary of State, had never voted in an election in his adult life prior to May 2009. (By all accounts, by the way, Dunn is an affable fellow -- a former pro athlete and successful businessman -- with a future in state politics. Perhaps he should have picked a different race to run.)
I was disappointed with one, and only one, outcome on Tuesday night and that was the defeat of Prop. 23. What can I say? I did my best. But I'm glad Prop. 25 won. That one lowers the budget voting threshold from the two-thirds supermajority to a simple majority. (Tax increases will remain at two-thirds; and voters Tuesday approved a measure applying the supermajority to fees, too -- which may blunt Prop. 23's defeat in the long run.) But I doubt the current (dwindling) crop of Republicans will know what to do with the gift they've been given.
I don't think anything is certain here. The dynamic will change a bit in the aftermath of these elections. Now all we need are some Republicans with the skill and foresight to take advantage of it. What could go wrong?
Over at the L.A. Times, the Mighty Arnie Steinberg explains why Meg Whitman lost. Bottom line: "The vulgarity of Whitman's spending trumped any real connection with the voters."
Ladd Ehlinger at Film Ladd offers a 10-point answer to the question "What Went Wrong in California?" I don't agree with every word of it, but he makes some perceptive points and it's a fun read.
Meantime, Lance Williams at California Watch observes how "not all of the victors and the vanquished from California’s state election Tuesday were apparent from scanning the returns."
The Republicans will pick up 70 seats in the House, but fall just short of taking the Senate as Carly Fiorina, Dino Rossi and John Raese lose their contests narrowly. That's right, friends, get ready for six more years of Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray lighting up the World's Greatest Deliberative Body. Joe Manchin seems to have some good instincts on education reform, even if he's a flip-flopper on health care and no good on cap-and-trade. Take victories where you find them, and sometimes even where you don't.
Speaking of which, Jerry Brown will win in California. His first act will be to order the immediate deportation of all uncool nieces. Brown will resolve California's budget problems in a couple of months, leaving him plenty of time next summer to visit Iowa and New Hampshire in order to mount a 2012 primary challenge against Obama.
Prop. 19, the marijuana legalization initiative, will lose. I'm afraid Prop. 23 will meet the same fate. But I'm hopeful Prop. 26, which would extend the state's supermajority vote requirement for taxes to fees, will squeak through. In any event, this is no way to run a republic.
Sharron Angle will win in a nailbiter in Nevada. Christine O'Donnell will lose in Delaware, but it won't be the self-immolation the press expects or dreams about.
That's about it! Add your picks to the comments. And don't forget to vote.
(Cross-posted at Somewhat Reasonable.)
I have an op-ed appearing in Sunday's Los Angeles Times under the slightly ambiguous headline "A conservative's guide to the propositions."
It certainly is a conservative's guide -- my own. I'm not really telling anyone how to vote, just offering a somewhat eccentric perspective on this Tuesday's slate of ballot measures. I suspect I'll be hearing from my Republican friends about my take on Prop. 25, for example. And my libertarian pals won't like my equivocation on Prop. 19. Oh, well... you can't have nice things.
Keeping with my usual schtick these days, the Times presented my piece alongside a liberal's point of view -- namely, that of the estimable Harold Meyerson from the American Prospect and the Washington Post. Enjoy!
The timing may not have been expected, but the outcome certainly was: Michelle Rhee, the controversial chancellor of Washington, DC’s public school system, announced her resignation this morning. I wrote about Rhee’s impending departure this morning at School Reform News, with comments from policy experts at Reason, the Pacific Research Institute, and the Foundation for Educational Choice. I also published an op-ed in Investor’s Business Dailya couple of weeks ago examining Rhee’s record and likely legacy as a reformer that’s worth revisiting, if I do say so myself.
Was Rhee overhyped? In IBD, I wrote:
Nobody is indispensable, and Superman lives only in comic books…
Rhee’s likely ouster shows the perils of placing the mantle of change in the hands of one person, however capable. Her charisma earned her plenty of fans among reformers—and the lasting enmity of the education establishment. Their money brought down the mayor who appointed her.
That view is echoed in the story today:
“Rhee was overhyped in the sense that reformers need to put broad systemic reforms in place, like the DC charter law, in addition to strong leaders,” says Matt Ladner, vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix. “Rhee lasted approximately the average tenure for an urban superintendent. Leaders come and go, but the struggle for reform goes on.”
But Greg Forster, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Educational Choice, disagreed with Ladner slightly.
“Rhee was not overhyped,” said Forster. “What was overhyped was the whole heroic reformer model that says the system can work as long as we put the right people in charge of it.”
“Now we know that if you ever really do get the right people in charge of it, the unions just pull out all the stops to destroy those people,” he said. “We need to change the system in a way that breaks the unions, and only universal school choice can do that.”
Lisa Snell at the Reason Foundation described Rhee’s tenure in DC as “a cautionary tale” of what happens when a supposedly strong leader attempts to reshape powerful bureaucratic institutions. Reform is sometimes easier said than done. Explained Snell:
“Charter schools are a case in point. While there are many charismatic charter school leaders, these schools still only thrive in states where the laws make it easier to open a charter school.”
Over at Cato’s @ Liberty blog, Adam Schaeffer calls Rhee’s resignation the “least shocking news of the year.”
“No man or woman, mayor, chancellor or superintendent can significantly and permanently reform the government education monopoly,” Schaeffer writes. “It is unreformable.” He goes on to say, “Only systemic reform that creates a market in education will bring sustained, continual improvement.”
Meanwhile, at Heritage’s Foundry, School Reform News contributing editor Lindsey Burke delves into Rhee’s reform legacy:
Since taking office [three] years ago, Rhee has fired hundreds of ineffective teachers and administrators, closed poor-performing schools, and reworked contracts to include performance pay. Not surprisingly, union opposition to Chancellor Rhee’s reforms has been strong.
In the nation’s capital and throughout the country, education unions have worked to thwart attempts to reform the failed status quo, seeing any opening for children to escape monopoly public school systems as a threat to their power. While Washington, D.C. still has a long way to go to improve the school system, Chancellor Rhee has worked to place the well-being of children ahead of the demands of special interest groups such as the education unions.
The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder muses on what the future might have in store for Rhee, and sums up what made her such a lightning rod:
It appeared at times as if Rhee was dismissive of her real audience: the educational bureaucracy. She seemed indifferent at times to the emotions of teachers, parents, and students, most of whom were black and didn’t trust her, initially, because she was just different. This sounds like a small point, but had Rhee kept her disdain for the current system and its leaders to herself, she might have built stronger and more lasting relationships with the constituencies she had to deal with. But Rhee doesn’t self-censor. That’s part of who she is.
It’s worth remembering that the American Federation of Teachers’ Randi Weingarten wasn’t Rhee’s only opponent. Diane Ravitch, who’s strange intellectual course has been widely documented, criticized, and speculated about, leveled some pointed criticism at Rhee’s management of DC’s schools after last month’s mayoral primary:
Rhee believed that mayoral control gave her the power to work her will and to ignore dissenters or brush them off as defenders of the status quo. Mayoral control bred arrogance and indifference to dialogue. She didn’t need to listen to anyone because she had the mayor’s unquestioning support. Mayoral control made democratic engagement with parents and teachers unnecessary. It became easy for her to disparage them and for the media to treat them as self-interested troublemakers.
… If D.C. had had an independent school board, Rhee would have had to explain her ideas, defend them, and practice the democratic arts of persuasion, conciliation, and consensus-building. We now have an “education reform” movement which believes that democracy is too slow and too often wrong, and their reforms are so important, so self-evident that they cannot be delayed by discussion and debate….
There may be a kernel or two of truth in this. Fact is, Rhee was not an effective communicator of her reform plans. She gave the Washington Teachers Union and the AFT ample ammunition to use against her. Consider it a valuable lesson in politics. But, as Matt Ladner told me earlier, “I suspect that Rhee and her allies and admirers are sadder, wiser and undeterred.” Indeed.
(Cross-posted at Somewhat Reasonable.)
Joel Mathis and I tackle the question of whether a multi-million dollar judgment against the contemptible Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church is an affront to the First Amendment. Joel elaborates on this post, in which he sides with Phelps and flatly asserts: "Either you believe in the First Amendment... or you don't." And Joel worries that "silencing Fred Phelps might be a step down the slippery slope to silencing us all."
This is simply hyperbole, I'm afraid. It's not a matter of merely "believing in" the First Amendment, because nothing is ever that simple. And while we should be ever mindful of slippery slopes, we should take care to avoid slippery slope fallacies.
But it's certainly fair to say Joel's position is shared by the American Civil Liberties Union, UCLA libertarian law prof Eugene Volokh, University of Chicago liberal law prof (and two-time podcast guest) Geoffrey Stone, the Cato Institute's Ilya Shapiro, and the editorial pages of most major newspapers, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal -- a lot of smart people who just happen to be wrong.
"Hard cases make bad law," Joel writes in the column. "Albert Snyder deserves our sympathy. But his hard case shouldn't lead the Supreme Court to make bad law for the rest of us."
Here's my take:
This isn't a hard case at all.
Fred Phelps and his congregation have the right to believe anything they please. They have a right to assemble peaceably and exercise their religious beliefs freely. They have a right publish newspapers and weblogs preaching against homosexuality. But the Westboro Baptist Church has no right to impose itself on a private funeral.
Context is crucial. When a group of people stands outside a military funeral -- even if it is 1,000 feet away -- holding signs saying "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and worse, you needn't be an Ivy League constitutional scholar to get the point.
As Sean Summers, Snyder's lawyer, explained: "(Phelps and family) turn funerals into a circus. They send out fliers in advance. There were... state, local, county police. There were ambulances. There were fire trucks. There was a SWAT team." Police even rerouted the funeral procession so the Snyders wouldn't see the protest.
In short, Phelps turned a private event into a massive public nuisance.
Phelps's broader message may be a sinful and unrepentant nation brings such calamities upon itself. But if you're the grieving family of a dead Marine, why should you have to entertain that idea for even one moment? What makes the case "hard" is the amazing logical contortions the Supreme Court has performed over the decades in the realm of First Amendment law. Fact is, the freedom of speech is not unlimited. We make exceptions for libel, slander, and "fighting words," for instance.
When free speech collides with the right to privacy, privacy should prevail. Phelps has a right to be "outrageous." But his outrageous speech in this particular context -- the context of a family privately mourning the death of a son -- is a breach of the peace, an assault.
Barring the Phelps circus from future funerals does no harm to the First Amendment whatsoever.
Given the space constraints of the column, some elaboration is in order here. (Click "Read More" below the icons.)
What can we say? How about: Thanks.
Via Jon Favreau's Twitter Feed comes the most adorable, geek movie parody I have ever seen...
Appearance-related bias... exacerbates disadvantages based on gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and class. Prevailing beauty standards penalize people who lack the time and money to invest in their appearance. And weight discrimination, in particular, imposes special costs on people who live in communities with shortages of healthy food options and exercise facilities.
So why not simply ban discrimination based on appearance?
Yes, why not? A beautiful idea. What could possibly go wrong?
(Via John Miller at The Corner.)
Sarah Pulliam Bailey echoes and amplifies the point I made in our podcast with Jason Snell, except she did it for the readers of the Wall Street Journal (of which there are considerably more than the, er,...select audience listening to Joel and me):
The show's writers have hooked an invested group of about 11 million viewers, and these devotees want to believe some larger purpose exists in the storytelling, something meaningful that makes six seasons of watching worthwhile. Each week, however, every answer seems to lead to more questions, leaving enthusiasts with grave angst.
Yet this is how all of life unfolds. In the end, we may find only an approximation of the truth. The viewers' search for meaning in "Lost" exemplifies a microcosm of that experience. If we give the writers a little grace and extend some patience, the suspense leading up to the finale of this television show could teach us something about faith in general.
"I wish you had believed me," Parallel-Universe Locke says as he lies in the hospital. Later, Jack says the same thing to Locke. I've come around to the view that "Lost" won't answer every single question when it ends Sunday night. It might even leave open some big ones. That's okay with me. We don't call them "mysteries" for nothing. Not all mysteries can be solved.
Arlen Specter is OUT.
Your politics are finished. You will not be missed.
Northhampton (Mass.) police say a woman "has been cited for running down a man named Lord Jesus Christ as he crossed a street... on Tuesday."
According to the Associated Press: "The 50-year-old man is from Belchertown. Officers checked his ID and discovered that, indeed, his legal name is Lord Jesus Christ. He was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor facial injuries."
The woman is being charged with "failure to yield." Seems to me they might want to add "attempted deicide" to the indictment.
Joseph Wesley Postell, assistant director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for American Studies, has a pretty good piece in the Washington Times today on the decline of constitutionalism and the rise of the administrative state:
The Founders confronted a basic problem: How to vest government with sufficient power to get things done without giving it the instruments to exercise tyrannical control? To protect individual liberty and rights, they established (among others) two basic principles at the center of our constitutional order: representation and the separation of powers. To assure that government operated by consent, they provided that those responsible for making laws would be held accountable through elections. Moreover, legislative, executive and judicial power would be separated so those who made the laws were not in charge of executing and applying them.
Our modern administrative state violates these principles. That also is by design, courtesy of the progressives - the original architects of the administrative state. Progressives such as Woodrow Wilson disdained the idea of government "by the people" and sought to replace it with government by the experts. Wilson complained of America's "besetting error of ... trying to do too much by vote." "Self-government does not consist in having a hand in everything," he argued.
Postell argues, in brief, that conservatives need to do a better job explaining to the public the evils of the administrative state and develop a roadmap for restoring representative government and separation of powers, rightly understood.
"The question is not necessarily how to make government smaller," Postell writes, "but how to get it back under popular control and accountability."
(Hat tip: Julie Ponzi at No Left Turns.)
(Cross-posted at Freedom Pub.)
I have an op-ed in Investor's Business Daily on Thursday making the case for tenure reform and merit pay. I argue that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's veto of a sweeping and ambitious tenure reform bill in the Sunshine State two week's ago has national implications. But so does the bill currently being debated in Colorado.
I also suggest that tenure reform alone isn't enough. You need real choice and competition if you want lasting reform.
I really can't get enough of stories like this:
An alleged ill-timed potty break has landed a man accused of robbing a Suffolk convenience store behind bars. Police said 43-year-old Sean Almond was found urinating behind a Kangaroo Mart minutes after a clerk reported the store had been robbed Thursday night. Police said Almond was carrying the stolen cash.
I don't want to give criminals any advice, but really, robberies as in road trips, you really should remember to go before you go.
Note to would-be fugitives: Turns out, a manure pit is not a good place to hide out from the cops:
Police said that officers searching for a man wanted on methamphetamine charges found him hiding neck-deep in a liquid manure pit at a northeastern Indiana farm. Noble County sheriff's deputies thought they'd lost the man until an officer spotted him in the tank beneath an outbuilding floor on the farm near Albion.
Chief Deputy Doug Harp said the man, 52, had been neck-deep in the combination of hog and dog feces for at least an hour Tuesday evening. He later became combative and had to be shocked twice with a stun gun.
Oh, and after all that, the moron had to be treated for hypothermia, too.
...crazy women blasted on wine, meth, pot and downers kill people:
An Australian woman who ran down and killed a man who threw cheese-flavoured snacks at her car was jailed Thursday for 25 years.
Sydney woman Sarah May Ward intended to injure Eli Westlake for throwing the snacks at her vehicle, judge Roderick Howie told the New South Wales Supreme Court, describing the 21-year-old's murder as "a senseless act of anger."
"She clearly wanted to teach the young men a lesson," the Australian Associated Press quoted judge Howie as saying as he sentenced Ward to jail for a minimum 18 years.
The jury was told Ward, 39, had drunk two bottles of wine and used cannabis, amphetamine drugs and anti-depressants before getting into her car in Sydney's northern suburbs on June 7, 2008.
She decided impulsively to use the vehicle as a weapon after Westlake threw the snacks at her car as a joke while walking home with his brother and a group of friends.
It's a horrifying story, and I'm glad the woman is going away. Yet I cannot help but think of this.
Greg Sargent reports that Democrats are amassing "bipartisan support" for legislation aimed at limiting the Supreme Court's small but vital affirmation of free speech in Citizen's United v. FEC. "The bill that Dems are planning will have more bipartisan support than expected, a Dem leadership aide confirms," Sargent writes at the Plum Line.
How much more support? "[A] Dem leadership aide says it will be introduced tomorrow with at least one more GOP sponsor in addition to Mike Castle, though the aide wouldn’t reveal who. This will allow Dems to push back by pointing out that the measure has GOP support." So at least two moderate-to-liberal Republicans will sign on. That's nice.
And what would this bill do? "The legislation seeks to increase transparency and disclosure of political spending, including provisions forcing heads of organizations spending big money on elections to reveal their personal involvement," Sargent writes. "It also seeks to prevent foreign money from influencing elections, and ensures that recipients of Federal money — contractors, TARP recipients — can’t spend cash in elections."
Foreigners are already barred from contributing to U.S. elections, not that they don't try. Prohibiting recipients of taxpayer largesse from spending on elections has visceral appeal, especially where I'm sitting.
An earlier New York Times story notes that Democrats are indeed pushing for more disclosure: "One provision would require the chief executive of any company or group that is the main backer of a campaign advertisement to personally appear in television and radio spots to acknowledge the sponsorship, the officials said." Sounds like fun.
Disclosure is controversial, of course. I tend to favor more disclosure rather than less in conjunction with fewer limits on who can give what to whom. Politics is a public business, after all. Here's what I wrote in the Scripps-Howard column in September:
The cure for campaign finance reform is fewer rules, not more. There should be little or no restriction on money in politics. There should be no limits on what a candidate can raise and spend. Political parties, corporations, unions... let them all in. The only exception should be for foreign contributions.
Transparency and instant Internet disclosure make most of the old objections and warnings about quid pro quo corruption irrelevant. If a political candidate receives the financial aid of large corporations, and public knows about it, then the question of undue influence falls to the voters to resolve. As it should be.
I realize, of course, there are strong arguments against more government-mandated disclosure rules. As Bradley Smith, the former federal elections commissioner, argued recently in City Journal: "Disclosure has resulted in government-enabled invasions of privacy—and sometimes outright harassment—and it has added to a political climate in which candidates are judged by their funders rather than their ideas." Justice Thomas dissented from part of the majority in Citizens United on that very basis.
We'll see what other odious provisions appear in the new legislation. I'm sure there will be plenty of nasty surprises. Congress has a rather elastic reading of the First Amendment. It says "make no law," ladies and gentlemen. "Make NO law."
(Cross-posted at Freedom Pub.)
"Murrieta police spent hours Monday night searching for a man who lost his pants in a bizarre botched carjacking, but the half-naked fugitive escaped capture, authorities said," reports Sarah Burge in the mighty Press-Enterprise.
I know what you're thinking: Aren't pants-less carjackers a dime-a-dozen in Southern California? Believe it or not, no. But the story probably wouldn't be worth sharing if not for this glimmering nugget of detail:
About 8 p.m., a passer-by flagged down officers to report a pants-less man running through a field. A police bloodhound sniffed out a pair of bloody boxer shorts that officers suspect the would-be carjacker snagged scaling a fence.
Of hacks, the mainstream media has no shortage. Few journalists or pundits are as irresponsible or as partisan as Time's Joe Klein (although Paul Krugman would give Klein some serious competition). Klein over the weekend told Chris Matthews he believes Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are dabbling in the dark, unpatriotic arts of sedition.
"I did a little bit of research just before this show -- it's on this little napkin here," Klein said. "I looked up the definition of sedition, which is conduct of language inciting rebellion against the authority of the state. And a lot of these statements, especially the ones coming from people like Glenn Beck and to a certain extent Sarah Palin, rub right up close to being seditious."
Not to be outdone, New York Magazine's John Heilemann, appearing on the show with Klein, added Rush Limbaugh to the sedition list.
"Joe's right and I'll name another person, I'll name Rush Limbaugh who uses this phrase constantly and talks about the Obama administration as a regime," Heilemann said. "That phrase which has connotations of tyranny. And what's so interesting about it to me...what is the focus, what is the cause of this? You think back to 1994, there was Ruby Ridge. There was Waco. There were triggering incidents. There's been nothing like that. The only thing that's changed in the last 15 months is the election of Barack Obama. And as far as I can see, in terms of the policies that Obama has implemented, there's nothing."
But Klein has been singing this tuneless sedition song now for months. I first noted it in October. Back then, Klein wrote a column for Time.com criticizing the White House for attacking Fox News Channel that began: "Let me be precise here: Fox News peddles a fair amount of hateful crap. Some of it borders on sedition. Much of it is flat out untrue." He hauled out the trope again in December.
Did it really take Klein six months to look up the dictionary definition of sedition? I doubt it. But I do not doubt for a moment that Klein is peddling some flat-out untruths of his own.
First, although Klein says he's worried about what Beck, Palin, et. al, say, the fact is that United States doesn't have a seditious libel law anymore... thank God. The federal sedition statute covers seditious acts--as the prosecution of the Michigan "Hutaree" reminds us.
As I noted back in October, Klein is much too careless with his casual if qualified use of the term "sedition" -- even if he now has the lofty authority of his desktop dictionary to fall back upon. In reality, of course, sedition is a notoriously subjective "crime" that has been wildly abused for partisan advantage in the United States. It could be that Klein doesn't know what he's talking about, or it could be that he genuinely wants to see the likes of Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly, and Limbaugh hauled away in leg irons. Or it could be some combination of the two. Either way, keep your reactionary "dissent" to yourself.
Klein's dumb commentary was why we had University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone on the podcast in December. Stone is a liberal, but his work on the history of the First Amendment during wartime is simply indispensable. The first question I asked Stone had to do with Klein and other lesser lights. What did he think about these left-leaning pundits cavalierly throwing around charges of sedition at their ideological opponents?
"I'd prefer that they didn't," Stone said. "At present, there is really no meaningful legal concept of sedition or seditious libel." He went on to discuss how there are no seditious libel laws currently on the books, and we had a fascinating conversation about how those laws evolved over the centuries.
I don't think Joe Klein, John Heilemann, or Chris Matthews have read Stone's book, or much else useful. Shame on the preening, censorious, ignorant lot of them. They're a disgrace to their trade and embarrassment to their profession.
Update: Klein digs in:
Let me be clear: dissent isn't sedition. Questioning an Administration's policies isn't sedition. But questioning an Administration's legitimacy in a manner intended to undermine or overthrow it certainly is. A rally like this yesterday in South Carolina is a good example of seditious speech. It's not illegal--unless actions are taken to overthrow the government in question--but it is disgraceful and the precise opposite of patriotism in a democracy.
At least somebody seems to have clued him in to the law. But he's still wrong. Reason's Matt Welch gives Klein a nice thrashing at Hit and Run:
I am confident Klein's intellect is sufficiently razor-sharp to determine whether someone has crossed the legal threshold of sedition or not. And I would think that if you're a journalist playing the S-card–that is, if you're a free speech practitioner invoking one of the most notorious anti-free speech categories of law–you should at least have the basic stones to state definitively which of the people you disagree with should be locked up.
(Cross-posted at The Freedom Pub.)
Apparently, this has been around for awhile. But I hadn't seen it until a moment ago -- I haven't seen Rush live in probably 15 years, come to think of it -- and I think it's the bee's knees...
(Hat tip: Mick Shrimpton on Twitter.)
So I was going through a drawer today where I absentmindedly tossed a bunch of old Zip disks and CD-Rs containing backed up Word files, e-mail and such. I made some delightful and unexpected discoveries. Among other things, I discovered an ancient cache of writings from my college days, including my senior honors thesis on H.L. Mencken and a journal I kept for about three years.
Anyhow, I also have thousands upon thousands of pieces of e-mail saved. The problem is, the vast majority of it is old, old AOL. The kind of AOL files that would have worked just fine with, say, Mac OS 9.2 or thereabouts. The kind that would be supported in Mac Classic... if Classic were still supported, that is.
Now, I suppose I could look this up, but I was hoping one of my dozen or so regular readers might have an idea of how to recover this material. I expect some trouble. I fear some expense. The question is: How much?
Joel takes a momentary respite from politics to pen a nice little bit of reporting and analysis for Macworld on this weekend's second-most important event. If this were one of our Scripps-Howard columns, I wonder which way Joel would go?
Update: I won't have time today to follow all of the iPad coverage, but I did notice Cory Doctorow's dissenting post at Boing Boing. Doctorow links to another post likening the device to "the second coming of the CD-Rom," slams Marvel's comic app (fair cop), and concludes: "If you want to live in the creative universe where anyone with a cool idea can make it and give it to you to run on your hardware, the iPad isn't for you." Now who's naive? (Via Memeorandum.)
Mike Fumento recounts what happened on Good Friday in 1992, when he, his then-girlfriend Mary, and his brand new Toyota MR2 took a fateful drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. He writes:
When it comes to any report of miracles, I’m highly skeptical. The vast majority can be debunked in an average of two minutes and 37 seconds. And I’m sorry, but I’ve heard too many stories about Jesus appearing on a taco shell and thousands of the faithful lining up for a peek. I’ve also known too many famous miracles that have been debunked. But it must be admitted that the ones most likely to be real are the ones you never hear about — the ones that don’t lead to best-selling books or inspire tourist centers that sell plastic figurines of the saints.
It's a powerful, astonishing story. By all means, read the whole thing.
I have two -- count 'em, two! -- op-eds in two -- count 'em, two! -- newspapers on Friday on massively important subject of education reform.
The Springfield (Ill.) State Journal-Register kindly published my commentary on a bill by Illinois State Senator James Meeks that would establish as pilot voucher program in Chicago. Meeks may seem an unlikely champion of school choice, but it turns out this pastor of the largest black church in Chicago's South Side understands that liberating school kids from the status quo is more important than milking contributions from the teachers union:
School choice has been proven to empower parents, help children excel, narrow the achievement gap among poor and minority students, and save taxpayers money. Yet teachers unions, education bureaucrats and their patrons from the White House on down oppose any reform they cannot stifle with red tape and regulation.
But they cannot kill school choice. Against the odds, choice keeps coming back, in the unlikeliest of places.
A voucher program is one step closer to reality in President Barack Obama’s own home state, despite fierce opposition from the powerful Illinois Education Association and Illinois Federation of Teachers.
Meantime, the Sacramento Bee on Friday publishes my take on the first round of Race to the Top funding. I've written about Race to the Top for the Bee in the past. As it turns out, the program is quite a bit lamer -- and more insidious -- than I initially had thought:
Race to the Top was always too good to be true. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan sold the $4.35 billion stimulus program as education reform’s 21st century “moon shot.” But as this week’s announcement of the first two state grant recipients shows, it’s just another expensive sop to the education establishment, no less beholden to politics and bound by bureaucratic red tape.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia made the list of finalists, but only two applicants—Delaware and Tennessee—made the grade. Delaware will receive about $100 million and Tennessee about $500 million to put their comprehensive school reform plans into practice over the next four years.
Cash-strapped states passed over in the first round are scrambling for a piece of the remaining $3.4 billion in Race cash. Any state that lost out should take a close look at not simply what plans passed muster with the Education Department but why those plans succeeded.
Turns out, those plans succeeded by compromising with the unions. More innovative plans that did not win union support did not win...period. The union often wins, though events in Illinois suggest the public is not with the union at all. We'll see.
Although I mailed back the form a couple of weeks ago, today is technically Census Day. Stories about low response rates might have been premature, especially if people read the form literally and waited until today before actually filling it out. But I somehow doubt it.
I've been half-listening to talk radio this afternoon. Michael Medved spent about an hour taking calls from people who refuse to answer the form. There is a word for these people (and if you are one of them, I do not apologize for this): Morons.
Listen, conservatives. The census is in the Constitution. It's an original duty of citizenship. Either you're a constitutionalist, or you aren't. This isn't a game.
There is a political angle to the Census, too. Never mind those insulting ads about making sure everyone gets their goodies. Conservatives who resist filling out the form are helping Democrats gerrymander congressional districts in their favor for the next decade. As Ed Morrissey points out:
I’m always a little suspicious of questionnaires on ethnicity, but the Census has a Constitutional mandate — and it has far-reaching consequences. People in states where conservatives outstrip liberals could be committing political suicide if a boycott effort results in shortchanging those states in Congressional representation to the benefit of states like California, New York, Washington, and Massachusetts. It seems better to ensure that an accurate count gets taken by a concerted effort to count conservatives than the results a boycott or a “slowcott” would produce.
Fill the damned thing out, as the Constitution requires, or be content to languish in the minority for years to come. Your call.
That's the headline on this week's Scripps-Howard column by Joel and yours truly, in which we tackle the Obama administration's announcement this week of plans to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling -- with some crucial caveats, of course.
My take, briefly:
Fact is, the United States is going to be a petroleum-based economy for some time to come. Rather than rely on volatile supplies from increasingly hostile regimes, Obama should open the Outer Continental Shelf -- and Alaska and California, for that matter -- for American firms to explore and use until better, cleaner and greener technologies are ready to for the market.
Joel's take, briefly:
Politics aside, there's a real danger here: Nobody believes that the world oil supply will last forever. Offshore drilling can be useful only if we intentionally use it as a bridge to our low-carbon alternative-energy future. It should only proceed on that basis. Otherwise, Obama might just be the next in a long line of presidents who deepened our unsustainable addiction to oil, even while deploring it all the way.
Why not read the whole thing and share your take?
Lou Cannon profiles his old nemesis Jerry Brown, the once-and-maybe-future governor of California, at Politics Daily and comes away with a peaceful, easy feeling. Writes Cannon:
"Adaptation is the essence of evolution," he said, in discussing his shifting stances on issues over the years.
But Brown has a sense of the distance he has traveled, an understanding of California political history and a somewhat apocalyptic view of the national economy. "We're not quite the Weimar Republic, but it's close," Brown told me. Even so, he seems different from the man who left the governorship 27 years ago. Jerry Brown has been places, seen poverty and done things. He has been a hands-on mayor. He believes in Earl Warren-style bipartisanship and after all these years seems capable of practicing what he's preaching. Win or lose, he's no longer Governor Moonbeam.
I'm not sure Cannon can say with metaphysical certainty what, precisely, Brown "believes." I am fairly sure, however, that Brown is no longer Moonbeam -- assuming he ever was. But I'd be willing to bet that Brown will be governor again, because too many professional Republicans and nostalgic voters believe he is no different from the Plymouth-driving, Ronstadt-dating caricature who governed the Golden State in the late 1970s. They think Brown hasn't changed. He has. Just not necessarily for the better.