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."
The Orange County Register editorializes Wednesday on Jerry Brown's official entry into the 2010 governor's race:
In his announcement video, Mr. Brown spun his age and experience – he has also been California secretary of state and mayor of Oakland and currently is the state attorney general – as an advantage during a time of crisis. The question of the day is: which Jerry Brown will show up?
In the 1970s he acquired the moniker Gov. Moonbeam for his advocacy of sometimes utopian, or just plain eccentric, projects. He had a strong environmental record (as these matters are understood in conventional political terms) and railed against Big Oil. He also ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976 and 1980. In 1982 he lost a U.S. Senate race to Republican Pete Wilson, who later became governor.
Jerry Brown's experience as mayor of Oakland – a position in which people can see readily whether potholes are being filled or the fire and police departments show up when called – may have tempered his eccentric utopian streak with some fiscal realism. In his announcement he promised no new taxes and a downsizing of state government.
Actually, what Brown promised was no new taxes without the approval of the electorate. That could be interpreted in all sorts of mischievous ways, and I'm sure we'll see a ballot initiative or two, and a tax hike or two with or without the people's endorsement. Brown is shrewd -- very shrewd -- and all of Meg Whitman's (or Steve Poizner's) money may not be enough to overcome old Jerry's savvy.
I have to believe this book, brought to you by the same guy who wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, will be terrible. (These mash-up books featuring classic characters or historical figures battling supernatural creatures are sort of annoying, aren't they?) But the book's "trailer" looks fun. I will probably skip the novel and wait for the feature film. Incidentally, movie version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which stars Natalie Portman, is in production now and is scheduled for release in 2011.
(Hat tip: Gamma Squad)
Jerry Brown has been running for governor of California for about three years, but he'll make it official today. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
The announcement by the 71-year-old state attorney general sets up what will be one of the nation's most expensive, high-stakes and potentially combative contests in the 2010 elections.
The move means that Brown - who is also a former California secretary of state, Oakland mayor and U.S. Senate candidate, as well as a three-time presidential candidate - will now face one of two wealthy Republicans in the November general election.
In other news, I just ordered a raft of books on Brown's first couple of terms as California governor, because it's 1978 all over again. Since the protean sage of Oakland is serenely content to let the records of his governorship remain locked up, voters will have to relive those glory days through contemporary accounts, flawed though they may be.
Update: Here's Brown's announcement video. Note his three principles. He's running as a moderate.
I've been writing lately about the centralization of education under the Obama administration. Nothing is available online at the moment, but it should be real soon now. The problem is, centralization and bureaucratization -- two horrible words -- lead to rigidity and... well, stupidity.
Joel Kotkin, writing in Forbes, offers a trenchant critique of Barack Obama's centralizing tendencies:
From health care reform and transportation to education to the environment, the Obama administration has--from the beginning--sought to expand the power of the central state. The president's newest initiative to wrest environment, wage and benefit concessions from private companies is the latest example. But this trend of centralizing power to the federal government puts the political future of the ruling party--as well as the very nature of our federal system--in jeopardy.
Kotkin, who currently teaches at Chapman University, still considers himself a "social democrat." He would rather see government foster economic policies that work to the benefit of the lower and middle classes. Inasmuch as that requires government to get the hell out of the way, it's tough for me to disagree. Kotkin's latest book is "The Next Hundred Million: America at 2050."
As a sucker for lost causes, I'm a Chuck DeVore guy pretty much all the way. But when I read that Mickey Kaus mounting a challenge against Barbara Boxer for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, I'm sorely tempted to pull the donkey lever in the primary. At least Kaus can feed and dress himself without assistance. I'm not so sure that's true of Boxer.
Unfortunately, switching party allegiances would preclude me from voting for John Eastman for attorney general in the GOP primary, and I can't have that.
Sorry, Mickey. I hope you can give Boxer a run for her money, though.
Update: From Kaus's blog:
This isn't the place to make an electioneering spiel--I don't want to be a test case of campaign finance law if I can help it. But the basic idea would be to argue, as a Democrat, against the party's dogma on several major issues (you can guess which ones). Likeminded Dem voters who assume they will vote for
Sen. BoxerThe Incumbent in the fall might value a mechanism that lets them register their dissent in the primary.
Next phase: Lowering expectations!
Apparently some nutty Argentinians tried to kill themselves -- and their baby -- over fears about global warming. It's crazy, crazy stuff that clearly doesn't represent mainstream environmentalism; how many global warming suicide pacts have you seen?
Still, making distinctions between the mainstream and a few troubled souls is an ability that eludes folks like Jim Hoft, the "Gateway Pundit" at the First Things website.
Someone should sue Al Gore. He played on their fears and now a whole family is dead.
What an ugly -- and dumb -- cheap shot. Jim Hoft is a jerk who clearly seeks political advantage in the ugliest of situations. Given that First Things is devoted to advancing "a religiously informed public philosophy," I've got to say: Keep me away from whatever religion he's advancing. I had, until tonight, respected First Things as a locus of thoughtful and humane conservatism. Apparently I was wrong.
Let me slow down, though.
These days, we're all having a hell of a time telling our political opponents from the lunatic fringe. I look at the Tea Party folks and see birthers and racists and militia types lurking around the edges and wonder how much Republicans are willing to pander. I see the murder of an abortion doctor in Kansas and wonder how much Bill O'Reilly is to blame. I see a suicide attack on an IRS building and wonder how much over-the-top anti-government rhetoric is to blame.
Maybe all of us need to take a step back and take a very deep breath. Because we're all so busy -- and so loudly -- pointing out the craziness on the other side that we're sounding a little crazy ourselves. And that makes it more difficult, not less, to accurately identify where the militants and the kooks really are penetrating the mainstream. We're starting to think that every idea that is dissimilar to our own is dangerous: It means that everybody else in the world is crazy. And if that's the case, nobody's crazy.
The parents in Argentina were obviously troubled souls. They did something extreme and unwarranted and tragic. To put such brokeness to the task of advancing our political squabbles isn't just unwise; it's very nearly inhuman.
That's the scuttle, according to Fox News.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday President Obama will soon propose a health care bill that will be "much smaller" than the House bill but "big enough" to put the country on a "path" toward health care reform. A senior administration official told Fox Obama's proposal will be introduced Wednesday.
"In a matter of days, we will have a proposal," Pelosi said, pointing to Obama's forthcoming bill. "It will be a much smaller proposal than we had in the House bill, because that's where we can gain consensus. But it will be big enough to put us on a path of affordable, quality health care for all Americans that holds insurance companies accountable."
Melody Barnes, a top Obama domestic policy adviser, did not dispute Pelosi's characterization of the new plan as smaller in scope - and quite possibly in cost - than either the House or Senate health care bills.
"It's going to be matter of drawing on these different ideas and coming up with the right proposal," Barnes said in an exclusive interview with Fox. "That's what my colleagues are working on. That's what they're talking with Congress about. We'll see what it looks like when the proposal is sent forward."
Asked how White House staff is putting the new proposal together, Barnes said they are "borrowing" from conversations at Thursday's health care summit.
"We're going to be borrowing from those conversations ... to come up with a bill that we hope can receive bipartisan support," Barnes said.
When asked if White House staff, as Press Secretary Robert Gibbs indicated Friday, would work on GOP ideas for health reform over the weekend, Barnes identified two: tort reform and allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines.
Well, it's about time. Obama could have saved himself a wasted year — and perhaps saved Ted Kennedy's Senate seat for the Democrats — by doing this sometime in early 2009. That's what president's normally do when they'd like to enact major reforms: They submit a bill that lays out clear priorities, and then lets Congress mess around with it, but not too much. Instead, he let Pelosi and Reid come up with a plan from scratch that turned into the monstrosity that polls show the American people are overwhelmingly against.
Time will tell if this last-ditch effort to save his No. 1 domestic priority will bear fruit. But if Obama is expecting this bill to be "fast-tracked," he's kidding himself. If Obama really wants what he presents Wednesday to be passed, it has to start winding its way through the legislative process all over again — which means it needs to be taken up by several relevant committees in both chambers, get debated, marked up, sent to the floor, debated again, voted on, and, if passed, have the differences reconciled in a conference committee. Oh, and it would have to survive a filibuster in the new 59-41 Dem/GOP ratio in the Senate.
Yes. Important legislation can be passed in a matter of a few weeks. The Patriot Act comes to mind, but that's hardly a model Democrats can defend considering they've complained for years that it was passed and signed into law too quickly (while nonetheless passing up nearly every opportunity to correct the abuses and errors they say are in the law). One could argue that The Patriot Act was an "emergency," necessary to equip the federal government to respond to the threat of international terrorism that hit home on 9/11. What's the emergency here to get health care reform passed? That Democrats might lose their majority in eight months? No sale.
Also, the devil will be in the details. While I'm encouraged to see that Obama appears to be on board with malpractice insurance reform and allowing interstate health insurance sales, those proposals have to be substantive. Allowing a Californian to purchase health insurance plans that people in Arizona buy is meaningless if California's rules for what must be covered in a plan still hold. And we must also see what is in Obama's plan. A lot of it could still be objectionable (in fact, I'm counting on it).
Will Obama's plan be honest in its cost, free of the trick of "scoring" it with 10 years of tax increases but six years of benefits to make it "revenue neutral" but phony? Will the Medicare "Doc Fix" be included so it reflects the real cost of "reform"? Those are key questions. And if it also includes the vast federal bureaucracies to micromanage the health insurance market from Washington, I don't see Republicans getting on board. Not now.
The irony is that if Obama proposed his own "much smaller" bill in February 2009, he'd probably have his "health care reform" already — and with enough Republican support to truly call it bipartisan. But only now, in an incredibly weak position, is Obama reaching his hand up toward Republicans asking to be saved — the same Republicans he treated with contempt for 12 months. I would not be surprised if Republicans decline to pull him up and save his political bacon ... and take their chances with voters in November while carrying the label of "obstructionists."
(HT: The Corner)
As we no doubt all know, yesterday President Obama and several lawmakers spent more than seven hours talking past each other at the Blair House. Probably the most dramatic thing to come out of the meeting was the (renewed) Democratic threat to use Budget Reconciliation to push a HCR bill past a threatened filibuster. This isn't the first time this idea has been bandied about, but the threat carries more weight now that Democrats only hold 59 seats in the Senate. Republicans countered, predictably for the opposition party, that such a move is unprecedented and not appropriate for such sweeping social reform. Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist argued such last night on WSJ online.
Senators of both parties have assiduously avoided using budget reconciliation as a mechanism to pass expansive social legislation that lacks bipartisan support. In 1993, Democratic leaders—including the dean of Senate procedure and an author of the original Budget Act, Robert C. Byrd— appropriately prevailed on the Clinton administration not to use reconciliation to adopt its health-care agenda. It was used to pass welfare reform in 1996, an entitlement program, but the changes had substantial bipartisan support.
Since 1980, Budget Reconciliation has been used (and not vetoed) 19 times. (link is .pdf) Fourteen of those times, or 74% of the time, it was a Republican congress that has done so. The largest uses, in terms of net effect on the deficit, were:
In today's dollars, those are roughly equivalent to $670b, $738b and $398b respectively.
I'm not entirely decided on the Budget Reconciliation idea. I think Frist does have a point that HCR reform is more expansive than Bush's two rounds of tax cuts, Clinton's welfare reform and tax increases/spending cuts, and Reagan's tax and welfare/spending cuts. On the other hand, the Republican's complete refusal to participate in the process leaves the Democrats without many alternatives. Both McCain and Boehner have said they want to scrap the bill and start over from scratch. This could be shrewd political strategy. Another 9+ months of debate will probably help the Republicans this fall.
Yesterday, as the meeting was going on, I heard a congressman (Democrat I think - I wish I had caught his name) on the radio talking about the 3 legs of the Health Care Reform stool. The first was coverage for preexisting conditions. There seems to be broad bipartisan support for this idea. The congressman's point was that mandating that insurance companies cover preexisting conditions necessarily requires mandating universal coverage, which in turn necessitates government subsidies (the second and third legs of his stool). I wonder what the Conservative or Libertarian response to this is? Do they not want coverage for preexisting conditions? Or are they willing to mandate universal coverage? And if so, are they willing to subsidize insurance for the poor? Or are there other solutions to these two problems? These seem like deal breakers to me, which lends credence to the thought that Health Care Reform (that includes coverage for preexisting conditions) will not be possible without resorting to Budget Reconciliation.
Conservative impressario Andrew Breitbart was held up recently as an intellectually honest conservative, of sorts, for his stand at the National Tea Party conference against Joe Farah's "birther" speech against Barack Obama.
“It’s self-indulgent, it’s narcissistic, it’s a losing issue,” Breitbart said. “It’s a losing situation. If you don’t have the frigging evidence — raising the question? You can do that to Republicans all day long. You have to disprove that you’re a racist! Forcing them to disprove something is a nightmare.”
Good stuff. But if he's serious about that stance, why on earth is he publishing Frank Gaffney's Big Government blog post suggesting that Obama is putting missile defense under the control of the Muslim hordes?
Now, thanks to an astute observation by Christopher Logan of the Logans Warning blog, we have another possible explanation for behavior that — in the face of rapidly growing threats posed by North Korean, Iranian, Russian, Chinese and others’ ballistic missiles — can only be described as treacherous and malfeasant: Team Obama’s anti-anti-missile initiatives are not simply acts of unilateral disarmament of the sort to be expected from an Alinsky acolyte. They seem to fit an increasingly obvious and worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam and the theo-political-legal program the latter’s authorities call Shariah.
What could be code-breaking evidence of the latter explanation is to be found in the newly-disclosed redesign of the Missile Defense Agency logo (above). As Logan helpfully shows, the new MDA shield appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo.
This is paranoid nuttiness of the first order. And it does exactly what Breitbart suggested was exactly the wrong thing to do: It "raises the question" of Obama's loyalties without any evidence -- only speculation -- of intent.
Breitbart clearly wants to have it both ways: He gets to stay somewhere in the vicinity of respectable opinion by taking down the clearly nutty Joseph Farah. But he's also happy to let writers on his site continue to plant baseless "Manchurian Candidate" seeds of doubt among his readers. The proof, I'd say, is in the publishing.
Many of the claims about the Tea Party Movement seem to me based more on a Garry Trudeau or Tom Tomorrow cartoon caricature than on reality. I summed up this view in the poll the other day, "I think the tea parties are appalling/racist/astroturf/icky." I don't doubt there are icky and appalling people involved with the Tea Parties -- I mean, look at Glenn Beck. I think the astroturf charge is bogus.
Doubtless there are a few racists in the ranks, too. But, again, the argument is racial animus against the first black U.S. president is a prime motivation for the movement. I think that's wholly unsupported by the evidence.
Keith Olbermann thought he was making a powerful point recently when he accused the tea parties of being lily white and lacking "diversity." Some clever Tea Party folks in Dallas have called Olbermann out with good humor and not a smidgeon of smugness...
I can already hear the responses to this: "What? Only one black guy?"
And: "That Spanish-speaking lady is mean!" (Mean and cute!)
And: "Where's the homosexual?"
That should just about cover it.
Update: I soooooooo called it.
From Olbermann's comment Tuesday night:
While I'm not exactly in charge of this, and I'm not going to drag people into this by name when they were not the ones attacked, that will probably be a surprise to one of our regular daytime news anchors and one of our nighttime newscasters, and the two part-time newscasters, and the dozen minority anchors and reporters who often join us from the broadcast NBC network, and the seven salaried contributors to MSNBC, to say nothing of the regular guests. So the Dallas Tea Party has one representative of diversity on its steering committee, and there appears to be six minority people besides her speaking or shown in its own video. And a diarist at Daily Kos examined photos of the Dallas Tea Parties, and identified three others. This mind you is out of the hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands the Dallas group claims to represent. So, once again, this time directed to the Dallas group: Where are the people of color? And instead of worrying about inviting me, shouldn't you be inviting them?
I'm sure Joel will have something to say about John Yoo's commentary in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, which begins thus:
Barack Obama may not realize it, but I may have just helped save his presidency. How? By winning a drawn-out fight to protect his powers as commander in chief to wage war and keep Americans safe.
Ooooh, that's a thrown gauntlet if ever I've seen one. Have at it, comrades!
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday has a magnificent editorial on Congress's efforts to undo the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC. (See posts here and here and from Joel here.)
Here's the Journal:
It didn't take long for Congress to try an end-run around the Supreme Court's landmark January decision in Citizens United v. FEC. With a campaign finance bill due to be introduced this week, Democrats are proposing to repeal the First Amendment, at least for some people.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland want to prevent any company with more than 20% of foreign shareholders from spending money in U.S. elections, ban TARP recipients and government contractors from campaign spending, and require CEOs to pop up at the end of television commercials to "approve this message" just like politicians.
Maryland Democrat Donna Edwards and Michigan Democrat John Conyers are going further and proposing to amend the Constitution so it bars corporate free speech. John Kerry and Arlen Specter are also on board for a First Amendment rewrite. At least these Constitutional amenders are honest about their goals and what it requires to be legal.
I don't object to barring TARP recipients from contributing to campaigns, actually. The idea has great potential for extension to other interests that rely almost exclusively on the government dole. (We can hope.) But the rest of it is foolish and would only be a genuine outrage if a constitutional amendment had any hope of ratification.
It's funny how people in power despise would-be challengers. The legislative reaction to the Citizens United decision is so transparently self-serving, it's hard to believe that voters would be dumb enough to buy in. As the Journal concludes:
Citizens United blew a huge hole in the campaign finance rules, and there is no Constitutional way to refill it. The campaign-finance restrictionists should give up their misbegotten and illegal regulatory model and try deregulation and transparency instead. States like Virginia and Utah have no contribution limits but require disclosure and are among the best-run states in such traditional hallmarks of good government as economic health and development. The First Amendment has worked pretty well for 230 years. We don't need a rewrite.
Not that legislators and other do-gooders won't try.
Daniel Weintraub's new, independent and nonprofit news site is up and running. The mission of HealthyCal.org, which is funded in part by the California Endowment, is "to inform Californians about public health and community health issues, to engage readers in an ongoing conversation about matters ranging from health care policy to land-use, transportation, environment, criminal justice and economic policy, and to show how all of these things are connected."
Joel and I talked to Weintraub about the project back in November. Congratulations and best of luck to Dan, who is a very fine journalist. I hope HealthyCal.org is hugely successful.
Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't think much of the Tea Party people:
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was dismissive of the Tea Party movement in a “This Week” exclusive interview with Terry Moran. "The Tea Party is not going to go anywhere,” Schwarzenegger told Moran. “I think the Tea Party is all about just an expression of anger and dissatisfaction.”
There's video, naturally.
Governor Schwarzenegger ran for election and reelection on a platform of fiscal restraint. He failed. Schwarzenegger last year backed an ambitious slate of ballot initiatives that would have extended tax hikes on Californians. The voters crushed those initiatives utterly. Schwarzenegger doesn't think the Tea Party is going anywhere? The Tea Parties are likely to go much further than Schwarzenegger's agenda in his final year in office.
David Rivkin and Lee Casey, both veterans of the Justice Department under Reagan and Bush, explain the virtues of divided government in Monday's Wall Street Journal:
When the country is fundamentally divided over an important issue—such as health-care reform—the necessary consensus may not be achieved. Moreover, disputes about one issue may well pour over into another, making compromise and consensus even more difficult. But that is simply human nature.
All of this may well mean that change, even necessary change, is postponed or permanently thwarted. But that is the price of the remarkable stability of government we have.
Despite the perpetual griping about Washington's political gridlock, the American people appear instinctively to understand and accept the Constitution's consensus-based architecture and support the very sort of compromises the system is designed to secure.
What I love about this piece is that Rivkin and Casey write it in a way that seventh graders and congressmen could understand.
The John Birch Society was a sponsor of CPAC. Thoughts from my conservative friends?
Two pieces of note in Friday's Wall Street Journal.
"Even six months ago, when the president's growing problems with the public were becoming apparent, the commission and its top appointees might have been received as fresh and hopeful—the adults have arrived, the system can be made to work," Noonan writes. "Republicans would have felt forced to be part of it, or seen the gain in partnership. Now it looks more as if the president is trying to save his own political life. Timing is everything."
Meantime, the Journal's editors look at the commission and render a far less charitable verdict:
Having proposed peacetime records for spending as a share of the economy—more than 25% of GDP this year and next—Mr. Obama now promises to make "the tough choices necessary to solve our fiscal problems." And what might those choices be? "Everything's on the table. That's how this thing's going to work," Mr. Obama said.
By "everything," Mr. Obama means in particular tax increases. The President vowed in 2008 that he wouldn't raise taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000 a year, but that's looking to be as forlorn a hope as peace in Palestine.
The Journal suggests that Republicans should appoint "the most antitax members they can find in the hope that they will file a dissenting report." Beyond that, the burden is on Obama to cut spending.
Anything you can think of, the Internet provides.
As long as I'm on a Reason kick today, Nick Gillespie's hilarious takedown of Keith Olbermann is must reading.
Veronique de Rugy explains in the March issue of Reason how government always underestimates the cost of programs. Always. What's more, these aren't simply innocent mistakes or methodological errors. These are straight up fabrications:
Federal entitlement programs have grown far beyond the original promises of limits or budgets. Medicare hasn’t merely cost far more than originally expected. Data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show how the scoring office’s long-term projections of Medicare spending have steadily increased, even in recent years and over short periods of time. In 2005, for example, CBO projected that Medicare would cost $1.5 trillion in 2050. Two years later, in 2007, the same CBO projected that this cost would reach $2.8 trillion in 2050. And in 2009, it projected that the cost would be $3 trillion instead. In other words, the program’s projected cost doubled in four years.
This upward revision of projected costs comes even in spite of CBO’s allowances for ‘excess cost growth.’ Furthermore, the actual expenditures exceed projections—in 2008, federal outlays for Medicare exceeded most recent projections by $63 billion; in 2009, federal outlays for Medicare exceeded projections by over $148 billion.
According to the Danish study, such inaccuracies aren’t just errors. They reflect widespread, deliberate lying on the part of public officials. “Project promoters routinely ignore, hide, or otherwise leave out important project costs and risks in order to make total costs appear low,” the authors conclude.
At a time of acute political anxiety over government spending and high federal deficits, the politicians behind the latest health care legislation are relying on the same modus operandi. President Barack Obama has repeatedly asserted that he wouldn’t sign a bill that cost more than $900 billion over 10 years, and the CBO has certified that the plan fits this constraint. Yet the true costs for the first 10 years of the Senate bill should be closer to $1.8 trillion. Democratic legislators got the CBO score they wanted by using an old gimmick: They crafted the legislation so that only 1 percent of the first 10 years’ expenses occur in the first four years, backloading costs so the price tag would look smaller than it really is.
It’s hardly surprising that politicians lie so routinely. Voters let them get away with it. When programs go over budget, fail to deliver on their creators’ promises, or simply do not work at all, taxpayers rarely punish those responsible. So lawmakers keep making unreliable promises of low costs, and we keep on accepting those promises at face value. Indeed, voters generally reward legislators who bring more federal funds to their states or districts.
(Hat tip: Chad at Fraters Libertas)
Looking for ideology or philosophical consistency in the actions of a madman is folly and a waste of time. But that hasn't prevented a chorus of know-it-alls from applying their favorite, prefabricated templates to "explain" Joseph Stack's final plane trip into the side of an Austin office building Thursday morning. So why not me, too?
It's the zeitgeist, I suppose. Stack had a long-standing beef with the Internal Revenue Service, so he must be a "teabagger" and a "domestic terrorist." Duh.
Joel noted on Twitter this morning the unseemliness of using Stack's attack for partisan gain. He also wondered whether it was, in fact, terrorism. I sympathize with Monkey Brad's view that Stack's name should be blotted from memory and that to discuss his "manifesto" is to somehow legitimize it. But it's too late now. Besides, Joel asks a good question. I think the answer is "no."
Stack's grievances, while deeply political, were also quite personal. As a legal matter, I suppose Stack could be charged with any number of crimes, including perhaps terrorism. (Assuming he weren't dead and roasting, of course.) But that doesn't help us make sense of his senseless act. Stack himself wrote: "Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well." In the context of the present United States' fight against an international conspiracy of Islamic jihadist terror, what Stack did would be better described as "revenge" than "terrorism."
But why make sense when you can score partisan points in this age of toxic instant punditry? Here's Steven Spreiull at The Corner:
There is absolutely zero doubt in my mind that we are T-minus fifteen seconds from Mr. Joseph Andrew Stack being renamed "The Tea-Bag Terrorist!" or some such by the media and his crime being laid at the feet of the Right, but I thought it might be worth mentioning anyway that his political views don't fit comfortably into any category I'm aware of, if he really is the author of this manifesto.
And here's Spreiull's update: "I was only off by a few thousand seconds." He points to Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart's item at PostPartisan, which includes this little gem:
(A)fter reading his 34-paragraph screed, I am struck by how his alienation is similar to that we're hearing from the extreme elements of the Tea Party movement.
That, by the way, after noting: "There's no information yet on whether he was involved in any anti-government groups or whether he was a lone wolf." I'd wager Capeheart likely doesn't know much about the tea parties beyond what he's seen on cable or heard around the coffee machine. And he clearly didn't read Stack's "34-paragraph screed" too closely. (He's an editorial writer, after all.) If Capeheart had done so, he would have learned some interesting things about Joseph Stack that do not fit easily into a simple left-right narrative.
Ah, but never mind that! Stack allegedly wrote this manifesto and then flew his plane into a building that houses an IRS office; Tea partiers despise taxes; Therefore, even if he wasn't a tea partier in fact, he was surely a tea partier in spirit. QED!
Capeheart isn't the only commentator guilty of using blog logic. David Neiwart, whose work I hold in the utmost contempt, jumped to nearly the identical conclusion before having the good sense to pull back:
UPDATE: The pilot has been identified as a Joseph Andrew Stack, who appears to have left the following suicide note on the Web, titled "Well Mr. Big Brother IRS Man ... take my pound of flesh and sleep well".
It's a classic right-wing extremist rant.
UPDATE2: I'm amending this. Upon giving this a more careful reading, it's clear this is actually much more complex than your typical right-wing rant; it has a lot of standard right-wing features, particularly the fetish about the IRS and the notion that taxes are inimical to freedom; but there's obviously a lot more going on there as well. I'll post more on this later.
Still waiting for his in-depth analysis. In the meantime, though, Neiwart is squealing like a petulant, 20-month-old girl how Fox News (of course) is playing up Homeland Security's statements that, "We believe there’s no nexus with criminal or terrorist activity."
Now would be a good time as any to revisit Rick Moran's observations following the Fort Hood shootings in November. Of course, we have a much better idea now why Major Nidal Hasan murdered 13 of his comrades-in-arms. Stack's post, if legitimate, offers a pretty fair insight into his motives as well. Substitute "Stack" for "Hasan" and "anti-tea party-Glenn Beck-'Faux' News" for "anti-Muslim" in the following excerpt and tell me I'm not wrong:
Trying to glean motive when a madman acts insanely is an exercise in futility. ... This is why the FBI has not ruled out terrorism but is refusing to call it that at the moment. Law enforcement has a little different standard than partisan bloggers; they feel the need to investigate carefully and make a judgment based on the facts and not wild, politically motivated speculation. This may inconvenience those who seek to score political points, or show off their anti-Muslim bona fides. But then, reality is always more boring than what bloggers can come up with to increase their audience, and garner links.
When I read the comments at left-wing blogs about crimes like this, or I read really stupid, tendentious junk from conservatives about "socialist books" in the White House library, I can't help but conclude -- yet again -- that Atrios was right.
Update: ExUrb Jon on Stack's "pathetic manifesto": "After many of these tragedies, the left and the right try to blame the politics of their opponents for the damage. But as usual, this is just another nut who hated everything and everybody."
Update 2: And here is Shannon Love at ChicagoBoyz on "The Rorschach Test for Evil":
That is the key to the political pattern in his rant. At every juncture, he chooses the political view that is the most individually selfish. When he must contribute to the collective via taxes he creates a rationale for why he personally doesn’t have to pay taxes. When he wants help from the collective, he whines that the collective does not take tax money from others and give it to him. He wants the government to leave him alone in business but then he wants the government to protect him from competition. On every issue, it’s always about what he needs right then and there.
These people are the very definition of evil. They often reflect some part of every political belief because every political belief has some piece that can be used to justify being selfish and evil. They take only the bad and none of the good from every ideology.
That is why they become a Rorschach test in which everyone sees evidence of some ideology they despise. Instead of trying to pin them on our political competitors, we might instead take these events as occasions for personal reflection. We shouldn’t just see those we dislike in the faces of these evil people…
… we should see ourselves as well.
Update 3: And then there is this inexplicable comment from Scott Brown. Jeee-ZUS!