The government-school establishment has said the same thing for decades: Education is too important to leave to the competitive market. If we really want to help our kids, we must focus more resources on the government schools.
But despite this mantra, the focus is on something other than the kids. When The Washington Post asked George Parker, head of the Washington, D.C., teachers union, about the voucher program there, he said: "Parents are voting with their feet. ... As kids continue leaving the system, we will lose teachers. Our very survival depends on having kids in D.C. schools so we'll have teachers to represent."
How revealing is that?
Public schools are supposed to exist for reasons other than simply to provide a jobs program for ed-school grads. The point of public education is to educate the public in the requirements of good citizenship. Who says the government alone is qualified to carry out that mission? And if it is in the public interest to ensure we teach our children well, why not give parents options to send their kids to the school of their choice?
Study after study shows that private schools tend to perform better than government-run schools; that more funding does not automatically equate to higher quality (because if you spend millions on shoddy ideas, you get shoddy results); that private school voucher programs in Wisconsin, Cleveland, Florida and Washington, D.C. are popular and, what's more, they're successful at giving "at-risk" and low-income kids first-rate educations. As Stossel writes: "Choice works, and government monopolies don't. How much more evidence do we need?"
Stossel will be discussing school reform tonight at 8 pm and 11 pm on his Fox Business Channel program with Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform and Kevin P. Chavous. Should be interesting.
(By the way, all of this relates to my new job, but I'm not speaking for my employers here. Just popping off on the subject as I've done for years and years.)
I retweeted this link to a brief post by John Stossel: Education Is Too Important for a Government Monopoly
It wasn't a big thing, just a quick retweet of something I found interesting (and, of course, that supported my biases!) It sparked a minor flurry of tweets between Joel, Rick, and myself. It is reproduced here for your comment/amusement:
joeldermole: @robbl I don't think parents send their kids to private schools purely because of the teachers. He lost me there.
robbl: @joeldermole Agreed. At the same time, what's the justification for public education if the quality isn't demonstrably higher?
robbl: @joeldermole i.e., parents may not choose private over public ONLY due to quality but quality appears to be the core of the counterargument.
joeldermole: @robbl Fair enough. But once they start taking public funds, private schools won't be private in the same way anymore.
joeldermole: @robbl They'll have to take all the poor kids and kids from broken families who are a big part of the reason pub schools seem worse.
robbl: @joeldermole Agreed, but coming from a state that's busting at the seams with charter schools, I'd say that's not a bad thing, either.
robbl: @joeldermole I have a few friends who teach at charters, including lots of "at risk" kids, and the metrics still beat public.
deregulator: @joeldermole @robbl Dont have stats at my disposal, but I recall seeing where charters in some states were more diverse than reg pub skuls
joeldermole: @deregulator @robbl You guys know more than I do. I'm not prolly not a good liberal on this issue, in that I'm not wedded to current system.
robbl: @joeldermole I oppose govt. funding on principle, but from practical standpoint I believe 100% voucher-based would be superior to current.
joeldermole: @robbl You opposed govt funding of schools? I don't think I can go with you there, necessarily. But I'm not opposed to vouchers.
robbl: @joeldermole Well, seeing as I oppose GOVERNMENT on principle, you should've seen that coming. :-)
[and then there was this side conversation]
robbl: @deregulator @joeldermole I suppose I should've just InstaMonkey'd this. Who knew?
deregulator: @robbl @joeldermole InstaMonkey! shd be a great discussion
robbl: @deregulator @joeldermole I'll think about it, but I'm hesitant to bump "Rock Sugar" off the top of the blog. :-)
joeldermole:@robbl You should know that wasn't even the worst Rock Sugar song.
joeldermole: @robbl You're right. In any case, THIS was a worse Rock Sugar song
Update: Reference from the title:
I mean: Really wanna be irritated?
Some mashups work because they're awesome. Some mashups work because they're funny. And some mashups, while technically proficient, suck. This is one of those.
The rumors are true: Prince Frederic von Anhalt, Zsa Zsa Gabor's eighth husband, is officially an independent candidate for governor of California. Prince Frederic announced his candidacy in January, but didn't make it official until today.
Here's the candidate's Web site. Would-be voters will quickly discern that this is a highly eccentric campaign.
Indeed, von Anhalt, 65, seems an especially odd character in an election as serious as this one (even though, as I've said before, 2010 sometimes feels more like 1978). Although apparently sincere, his candidacy perhaps would have been a better fit during the recall follies of 2003. Then again, perhaps the erstwhile "Duke of Saxony" would have not been able to break through the cacophony of porn stars, heavyweight party hacks, and Gary Coleman.
Who knows? After putting up with dysfunctional democratic government for more than a decade, perhaps Californians are ready once again for the firm guiding hand of a benevolent despot.
Update: In case you were wondering, Sen. Dianne Feinstein isn't running for governor, which means unless my old friend Daniel Watts can raise about 40 million bucks, it's Brown by acclamation. But the only reason I'm linking to this SF Weekly item about Feinstein's decision is the following quote from our new friend, the Prince:
"I will stay at home and promote California products," said the prince of his governing strategy. "We have the best avocados, oranges, wine, weather, beaches and marijuana."
And that's not the only reason for the link. As Josh Treviño noted on Twitter, it also features the greatest photograph of DiFi ever taken.
Sean Penn was on Larry King Live the other night talking about Haiti. And Penn certainly knows more about what's going on over there than me because he showed up to help after the earthquake hit. Penn warrants praise for lending his celebrity to the cause and physically helping the always poor and now horribly devastated people of Haiti. (There's video evidence on Fox News, of all places). We should all tip our hats to him for that.
But King, to his credit, challenged Penn on what appeared to the host to be a newfound appreciation for the United States military — which, predictably, proves to be Johnny-On-The-Spot when a natural disaster hits while the United Nations is still debating on whether to put on its shoes.
PENN: We work in strong collaboration with the 82nd Airborne, who have been extraordinary. To see the United States military with all its skill and discipline and most importantly the quality of human beings that there are doing this when it's a human aid effort is unparalleled.
KING: You were so praiseworthy of the military, and normally you're not a big fan of military.
PENN: That's not true. If anyone looks back at the things I've written, I've always been a supporter of the troops. I think that we have a responsibility to only deploy our troops constitutionally and responsibly.
In this case, there's no question. I think this is the most noble mission likely that the United States military has been involved in since World War II, but I support the military in right wars or unright wars.
The problem is the use of the military and the misuse of it at times. In this instance, this is the most efficient force in the country. And I would plead to our president that he keeps the United States military there for longer than I understand is currently planned.
Stop the presses! I agree with Sean Penn. Our forces should remain deployed there for longer than currently planned. (The people of Haiti would be better off today if we long ago invaded the country or won it as a prize in a war with France ... but let's put that aside.) As long as our troops can help, and our efforts there do not negatively affect our ability to respond to the war on terror, I'm all for it. But it's time to call bullshit — of which Penn's comments have tons.
As Tim Graham at NewsBusters notes, it was just last year that Penn won the Best Actor Oscar — and used his moment in the international spotlight to rip the kinds of people who join the military. And Penn was even less charitable toward those people in a 2006 HuffPost screed. So it's pretty rich for Penn to pretend he's "always been a supporter of the troops" in "right wars or unright wars." That's a joke.
Penn is among those liberals (especially among the Hollywood set) who only really love our men and women in uniform when they don't shoot anyone — when they act as an International Red Cross response team in fatigues. Of course, this is not the purpose of any nation's military. It would be nice if the "global community" that people like Penn so admire could dedicate itself to creating a rapid-response force with the "skill and discipline and most importantly the quality of human beings" found in the U.S. military. Alas, we are stuck with the incompetent, yet expensive, blue helmets of the United Nations — who occasionally rape the subjects of their humanitarian care.
I'm also intrigued by Penn's view that he's OK with military deployments when it's done "constitutionally." Funny. I don't remember a Congressional authorization for the U.S. military's deployment to Haiti. But I remember one for Iraq. Guess Penn's memory is sketchier than mine.
There's a by now old saw that liberals support military deployments when they are not in the national interest, but are all for them when they are for some sense of the "global interest." I recall Hollywood Hero Bill Clinton deploying troops to depose Slobodan Milosovic in the Balkans. Some conservatives growled, but nothing like the left did toward Bush. Personally, I supported it — but not enthusiastically, because I didn't see the vital U.S. interest in the endeavor. But it's a good thing that Milosovic is gone (dead, even). I'd like to hear Penn and his like-minded liberals say it's a good thing that Saddam is gone (dead, even) — without qualification. Still waiting.
Haiti is a military deployment that is justified for humanitarian reasons. No doubt. The "global community," and even Sean Penn, smiles upon our efforts. Which is nice. (Though, it should be noted, that Penn's good friend Hugo Chavez, calls America's humanitarian effort in Haiti a nefarious occupation. If Penn has weighed in publicly to correct his friend, I've missed it.) And it would be great to accept those well-wishes at face value.
But the left's historic hatred of the proper use of American military might on the global stage (Penn and his like-minded Hollywood friends opposed Reagan's stance in the Cold War, too) make Sean Penn's newfound appreciation for the troops — not to mention who sends them and how they are deployed — a little hard to stomach.
Traffic lights are an unnecessary government encroachment on our freedoms. Not only is this objectionable on a philosophical level, but the installation and maintenance of the lights are a fiscal burden and lead to less efficient traffic flow.
I was going to throw this item to Ben for more sober coverage, but I'm not sure sobriety is the right response to uniformed thugs assaulting an older man whose son's life is in danger. No, I think outrage and disdain are probably more appropriate.
Eating at the Red Fox (an old-school steak joint) in San Diego with my honey for Valentine's Day tonight, and I feel like the Least of the Monkeys to be going there. The missus craves a steak, so we'll be alright on that score, but I hear the cocktails are "stiff" and cheap and -- here's the rub -- we tend to be teetotalers, except for the occasional wine and beer.
Also, I don't have my short-brimmed fedora with me! Very sad. But I will let the rest of you primates know if da joint is worth a gander.
As Big Government's Capitol Confidential noted the other day, net neutrality is an issue that that is dear to the left, but has flown under the radar of most Americans. It's a rather technical and arcane subject, but can be summed up rather simply: Net neutrality rules enforced by the Federal Communications Commission would allow government bureaucrats to micromanage the Internet — thus sucking out the lifeblood of the digital economy and threatening the dynamism and freedom we've come to take for granted online.
Proponents of net neutrality claim that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) abuse their position as "gatekeepers" to the Web, and the public needs government to establish strict "rules of the road" to protect us from their scheming. Trouble is, the evidence of abusive practices by ISPs is anecdotal and thinner than an iPod mini. The digital economy is currently so dynamic and cutthroat that free-market forces work quickly to correct any undesirable hiccups that arise — all without any micro-managing of the tech industry by government.
Net neutrality advocates insist we need government to preserve an "open" and "free" Internet and claim the market has failed. But they cannot point to any market failures that make the Internet less open or free. In short, the Internet isn't broken. And it doesn't need a government fix. No matter. The left presses ahead, because the facts are irrelevant. The goal is to put government in charge of digital policy, taking away your freedom as a consumer to shape the Internet with your own choices.
This would stifle the enormous private investment and innovation that has created the modern Internet — in part, because industries would be relegated to playing "Mother May I?" with the FCC before releasing its latest innovation. And that's the best-case scenario. The Reason Foundation's Steve Titch argues that if government-enforced net neutrality rules were in place five years ago, the iPhone as we know it wouldn't exist. But on a more basic level, only a committed leftist could believe that more government involvement in ... well ... anything results is more economic dynamism and gains in personal freedom.
As noted in the video below, produced by The Heartland Institute, government isn't in the business of preserving freedom, but of exercising power to regulate industries and control people. And this is an important thing to keep in mind — especially since President Obama recently reiterated his commitment to have government enforce a net neutrality regime on your Internet.
The video takes apart Obama's statements on the subject in his Feb. 1 YouTube interview, and attempts to take the broader view so what's at stake can be better understood by non-techies.
Many Americans think the American Revolution was fought over excessive taxes. Not true. When Bostonians held their famous "tea party" 237 years ago, the tax in question amounted to a couple of pennies per pound of tea. The real issue was consent, the rallying cry "no taxation without representation," because "if we are not represented, we are slaves."
Today, Americans do not lack the opportunity to consent in the same way that colonial revolutionaries did. For the 21st century tea partier, the "Intolerable Acts" are years of profligate spending by a Republican Congress that hypocritically wore the fiscal conservative mantle culminating with George W. Bush's multibillion-dollar bailout of the banks under the despised Troubled Asset Relief Program. Then came the stimulus bill, which most tea party protesters rightly derided as a "porkulus" bill. The automaker bailout soon followed, along with revelations about AIG's sweetheart deal, news of government mismanagement of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, Cash for Clunkers, cap-and-trade, and, of course, health care reform. Obama's multitrillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see make George W. Bush's spendthrift ways look parsimonious by comparison.
Talk to any tea partier, and that's what they will tell you. That was what made part-time volunteer Laura Boatright and countless others like her into full-time activists.
...What tea parties represent is a revival of good, old-fashioned constitutionalism and the idea that government needs to get back to basics. There is a great yearning for a return to first principles. Millions of Americans, but perhaps not yet a majority, would very much like to restore the principles of the American Founding Fathers to their rightful and pre-eminent place in our political life. Or, as O'Hara put it to me, "Americans are realizing that more freedom, not more government, is both the principled and practical ingredient for prosperity."
Joel and I continue to argue whether the tea party people are nothing more than a bunch of sore losers. Even if that was true a year ago -- and I don't believe it was -- it's certainly not true now. These people are energized. They're active. They're trying to wrest the levels of power from an entrenched establishment at every level of government -- federal, state and, most important, local.
I don't know whether they will succeed, but I admire and respect the effort.
Joel and I discuss the tea parties in the new podcast with Eric Boehlert of Media Matters, which should be posted soon. We will revisit the tea parties in a couple of weeks, when John O'Hara, author of A New American Tea Party, joins us.
Well, this is awkward:
The United Nations climate panel faces a new challenge with scientists casting doubt on its claim that global temperatures are rising inexorably because of human pollution.
In its last assessment the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the evidence that the world was warming was “unequivocal”.
It warned that greenhouse gases had already heated the world by 0.7C and that there could be 5C-6C more warming by 2100, with devastating impacts on humanity and wildlife. However, new research, including work by British scientists, is casting doubt on such claims. Some even suggest the world may not be warming much at all.
“The temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change,” said John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a former lead author on the IPCC.
But if the globe isn't warming, could the climate be changing anyway? Maybe. And couldn't humans still have a hand in both causing that change and reversing its effects? Who knows? I mean who really knows? Because it's pretty clear to me at this point that the people who claim to know with metaphysical certainty are just trying to sell something.
That's why I made such a big fuss the other day about California's cap-and-trade scheme. Doubtless certain well-connected firms will do well. But a lot of people are going to be thrown out of work as a result. And for what? Politics -- obviously not "science."
The academic at the centre of the ‘Climategate’ affair, whose raw data is crucial to the theory of climate change, has admitted that he has trouble ‘keeping track’ of the information.
Colleagues say that the reason Professor Phil Jones has refused Freedom of Information requests is that he may have actually lost the relevant papers.
...Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now – suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.
And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.
The admissions will be seized on by sceptics as fresh evidence that there are serious flaws at the heart of the science of climate change and the orthodoxy that recent rises in temperature are largely man-made.
The reason for skepticism has little to do with an "anti-science" mentality and everything to do with a healthy suspicion that the people pushing the policies based on "science" care less about liberty and more about control of the minutiae of every day life.
Erick Erickson, the Daily Beast's number 13 most important journalist on the right, tells birthers and 9/11 truthers to stay away from RedState.com. "Birfers and Truthers are not welcome here. Period. End of Story," he writes -- before spending another 476 words explaining why:
The tea party movement is in danger of getting a bad reputation for allowing birfers and truthers to share the stage. At the National Tea Party, Joseph Farah treated the birfer issue as legitimate. In Texas, tea party activists have rallied to Debra Medina who, just yesterday, refused to definitely dismiss the 9/11 truther conspiracy as crackpot nonsense. If a candidate cannot do that, we cannot help that candidate. It’s that simple.
So we arrive at one of those moments where I am fully prepared to part ways with the individuals and groups willing to share the stage and treat as legitimate the crazies who believe the President was born in Kenya, the crazies who believe our government was complicit September 11th terrorist attacks … two groups, incidentally that increasingly overlap.
This sets us up for attacks from the left and from within that we must anticipate. It is one thing to separate ourselves from these individuals and groups. It is quite another to know that these people are among us. We should be careful. All of us have an obligation to vet those who we ally with. Just because someone is stridently against the size of government does not make him an ally if he also believes the U.S. Army blew up the World Trade Center. Such a person brings disrepute on us all, deservedly so.
Erickson is correct that mainstream conservatives need to not only keep their distance from the kooks, but state clearly and unequivocally why. But then Erickson goes on to complain about the double standards of the press, and here he loses me a little bit:
The media never runs stories about the Communist Party USA’s routine pronouncements in favor of Barack Obama. The media has never run legitimate stories about Barack Obama’s ties to the communist oriented New Party in Chicago. Obama gets a pass even on radicals whose support he personally solicited and those he personally befriended for years. But the moment a birfer opens his mouth and spouts his stupidity from the stage of a tea party rally it becomes headline news on every news network. Complain all you like that that’s not fair, but it’s the world we live in.
All of that stuff was reported before the 2008 election, and it made no headway with voters. It's pointless to keep harping about it. Obama's policy prescriptions and his inept record governing from the Oval Office is the story now. I think Erickson gets that, but even though he acknowledges the double standard as a fact of life, the digression is too distracting from the larger point to be worthwhile.
I have an editorial feature set to appear in Sunday's Sacramento Bee on the Tea Party phenomenon and what it all means. Although I'm somewhat allergic to transitory populist political enthusiasms and... well... the insane, I'm generally predisposed to liking the Tea Party people, for reasons that should be made clear in the piece.
This has been quite the week for tea party analysis and opinion, coming as it does roughly a year after the first real protests in Seattle and Denver and just a few days after the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville.
Here is a round-up of the tea party commentary from this past week:
• Richard Brookhiser explores tea parties and the American political tradition (The Wall Street Journal):
A political revolution is different from a political revolt and takes a lot more leg work. The postwar conservative movement's takeover of the GOP began with the nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964, led through the false dawn of Richard Nixon, and bore fruit only with Ronald Reagan's third run for the nomination.
The tea parties have made history, though. They stopped a monster of social engineering, stole a president's halo, enraged their enemies, and made a fashion statement.
• The Economist surveys "scenes from a counter-revolution" in Nashville:
One thing that became clear in Nashville however was that the 600 or so solid conservative types, mostly middle-aged and many of them women, who shelled out $549 for a ticket to attend were not interested in minor modifications of Mr Obama’s health plan, budget or cap-and-trade legislation. As a name that harks back to the Boston Tea Party suggests, they see themselves as revolutionaries, or counter-revolutionaries. They want to “take back” an America which they say has been going wrong for generations as successive administrations have bloated the federal government and trampled on the constitution and the rights of states and individuals. Many of those attending said that Mr Obama’s election and big-spending, deficit-expanding first year had been a sort of negative epiphany. “Suddenly I’m awake,” said Kathleen Gotto from Colorado Springs, who had not previously been involved in politics.
• David Broder saw Nashville as Sarah Palin's party and praised "her pitch-perfect populism" (Washington Post):
This is a pitch-perfect recital of the populist message that has worked in campaigns past. There are times when the American people are looking for something more: for an Eisenhower, who liberated Europe; an FDR or a Kennedy or a Bush, all unashamed aristocrats; or an Obama, with eloquence and brains.
But in the present mood of the country, Palin is by all odds a threat to the more uptight Republican aspirants such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty -- and potentially, to Obama as well.
...Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good.
• Reason's Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie argue that the independent-minded tea partiers' thirst for limited government is more than just some marginalized shouting (Honolulu Star-Bulletin):
As long as there are politicians in both parties who preach "fiscal responsibility" while delivering the opposite, who "punish" bad banks by saying mean things about them while handing over billions, and who treat capitalism as a process that begins with government benevolence, there will be both a Tea Party movement and broader political tendency underneath it. Americans have ridden these two worn-out husks of political parties since the 19th century; it's no wonder that voters are defecting in droves.
• Mark Davis explained what the tea party movement is -- and isn't (Dallas Morning News):
The Tea Party movement is not "anti-tax." It is against confiscatory taxes, outlandish taxes, excessive taxes – choose your adjective. But this "anti-tax" nonsense is the same kind of obnoxious slander as calling people who favor strong borders "anti-immigration."
The Tea Party movement is not driven by social conservatism. That doesn't mean you won't find plenty of tea partiers who are devout advocates of protecting the unborn and traditional marriage – it's just that the Tea Party engine is driven first and foremost by a desire to return government to its proper constitutional limits and run it with a lot less money. Anyone driven by that passion is welcome in any roomful of tea partiers, no matter what views they may hold about God and gays.
• E.J. Dionne thinks he knows "what fuels the grass-roots rage" (Washington Post):
Anti-statism, a profound mistrust of power in Washington, dates all the way to the Anti-Federalists who opposed the Constitution because they saw it concentrating too much authority in the central government. At any given time, perhaps 20 to 25 percent of Americans can be counted on to denounce anything Washington does as a threat to "our traditional liberties."
This suspicion of government is not amenable to "facts" -- not because it is irrational, but because the facts are beside the point. For the anti-statists, opposing government power is a matter of principle.
Dionne makes it sound like that's a bad thing.
So this musician John Mayer gave an interview to Playboy in which he discussed sexual intercourse with Jessica Simpson without using a negro dialect. Or something. I really don't know much about what he said or much about the man's body of work, for that matter.
(Oh, "Your Body is a Wonderland"? That guy? Jeeeeee-ZUS.)
John Mayer's Nashville fans were treated to more than just a rock concert last night. They also got a lengthy, tearful apology, delivered mid-song, and the promise -- or threat, depending on how one feels about the musician -- that he'd be quitting what he referred to as "the media game."
There's more, including a video. Because this is 2010, Mayer apologized first on Twitter before blubbering on stage. It's a brave new world, brothers and sisters.
Now, this may sound a bit odd, contradictory or perhaps even hypocritical coming from somebody who pays the mortgage "doing journalism" -- though certainly not celebrity journalism -- but I think anyone who deals with the press should always keep these two maxims at the very front of his or her mind:
First, journalists are untrustworthy bastards. They're quote hunters -- the juicier and more embarrassing the better. Even I've been burned by reporters before.
Second -- and this one is really important -- never say nothing to nobody about nothing. Ever.
There are caveats and exceptions to both rules, of course. (Obviously, don't think twice about talking to me.) I don't understand why a guy like Mayer, who is evidently a gossip and tabloid magnet, didn't learn to keep his yap shut years ago. Could be it's all an act; he's really just generating controversy for the sake of publicity; and this latest stunt got out of hand. "It was arrogant of me to think I could intellectualize using it," Mayer tweeted, "because I realize that there's no intellectualizing a word that is so emotionally charged." An understatement if ever there was one.
Or maybe Mayer thought people were only kidding when they say they just read Playboy for the articles.
It will be interesting to see whether the ad actually sells cars. The premise only works if you take it as a given that this Gorewellian nightmare is inevitable. The commercials arrive at precisely the moment when that inevitability is unraveling like an old pair of hemp sock.
Read the rest; but, yeah, that's about right.
The global-warming thrill ride looks to be coming to an end, undone by the same politically motivated serial exaggeration and moral preening that discredited previous apocalypses. On the heels of the East Anglia University “Climategate” scandal have come a series of embarrassing retractions from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regarding some of the most loudly trumpeted signs and wonders of global warming, such as the ludicrous claim that Himalayan glaciers would disappear within 30 years, that nearly half of the Amazon jungle was at imminent risk of destruction from a warming planet, and that there was a clear linkage between climate change and weather-related economic losses. The sources for these claims turned out to be environmental advocacy groups — not rigorous, peer-reviewed science.
There is much more, of course. And if you haven't listened to our recent podcast with Hayward, now would be as fine a time as any.
I know what you're thinking: "Arnold's worst idea? Is it possible to pin down just one?" Well, I make the case at the Manhattan Institute's City Journal on Wednesday that Governor Schwarzenegger's stubborn insistence on implementing AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, deserves that dubious distinction.
I think Dr. Zaius has tried to argue -- a couple of times -- that George W. Bush wasn't really unpopular in the rest of the world: He was unpopular only among the "global left." But Dr. Zaius is wrong.
Perceptions of U.S. leadership worldwide improved significantly from 2008 to 2009. The U.S.-Global Leadership Project, a partnership between the Meridian International Center and Gallup, finds that a median of 51% of the world approves of the job performance of the current leadership of the U.S., up from a median of 34% in 2008.
Now I'm not arguing it's a president's job to be popular outside America's borders. There are certainly actions that any American president -- Democrat or Republican -- would take that might prove unpopular elsewhere.
On the other hand: If America is really at war against stateless terrorists, then having fewer people angry at its leader and its policies might help drain their foundation of support. And if America aspires to "global leadership" -- and no major politician, right or left, really argues against that* -- then it's more helpful if people want, you know, to follow.
Does this poll mean that Barack Obama is a good president? Not necessarily. But it almost certainly re-affirms what even many conservatives and Republicans concede: George W. Bush was a really awful president.
*Robb, you want to weigh in here?
Placer County's Republican establishment is critical of the representative from California's 4th Congressional District because -- get a load of this -- he opposes earmarks in all their forms.
If I had the money, where would I send my contribution? Here.
Barack Obama made a joke the other day -- again -- about blowing money in Las Vegas. Harry Reid just about died. The savvy ex-mob lawyer Oscar Goodman -- who has probably forgotten more about "the Chicago Way" than Obama could ever hope to know -- said the president "is a real slow learner."
Who cares about a magician losing money? Not even me. I'll be fine. My children will go to college if they want.
But, when people cancel trips to Vegas, I'm not the one who gets laid off. A few less people go to the Penn & Teller Theater, and we still do fine, but the hotels lay off other people. It's the people downstream of me who get punished for the president's joke.
Everybody knows, Penn says, what Vegas is all about. The problem is, "when the president of the United States of America makes his jokes about Vegas -- he costs real people real money."
There's more. Read the whole thing, as the sages say.
Turns out that of the weak lot of pricey commercials that aired during Super Bowl XLIV, the most politically charged and polarizing wasn't the Focus on the Family spot featuring Tim and Pam Tebow. (By the way, does anyone take the National Organization for Women seriously anymore? Anyone? Really?)
No, it was that Audi "Green Police" commercial.
I thought the ad was cleverly written and produced (the anteater was a cute touch)... and utterly horrifying. Two bits in particular really bothered me: The part where the Green Police put some hapless homeowner in the back of a squad car as a news reporter explains the perp was caught using incandescent lights; and the Cops-like scene where the bewildered couple is rousted for setting their hot tub's thermostat too high.
My first reaction watching the YouTube was entirely visceral. I've watched it three more times however, and I still don't like it. But I'm aware this may be an overreaction. (Maybe.) Steve Hayward's pithy analysis is perhaps among the more sensible from my comrades on the right:
Is it mocking environmentalism? Um. . . yeah. Your moral authority is pretty thin when a major advertiser finds it safe to take this approach. Think anyone would ever try something like this about the civil rights movement? Or the feminist movement?
Hayward suggests that Republicans could successfully exploit the part of the ad I hated most in the fall: "I'm guessing a winner will be a repeal of the forthcoming ban on incandescent lightbulbs. I know I'm running out of space stocking up on them for 2012 or whenever the ban goes into effect." (It will be phased in between 2012 and 2014, FYI.)
I wish I shared Hayward's optimism. Sure, arresting a guy for installing incandescent lights or raiding a house because some schlub committed a "composting infraction" might be over-the-top now. But how about fining and jailing people for not maintaining proper pressure on their car tires? California's Air Resources Board proposed to do precisely that, for real, but quickly backpedaled once the public got wind and started making ugly noises.
Certainly, some environmentalists viewed the ad the same as Hayward did -- to their great consternation. Our friend Lisa Schmeiser tweeted how she was "bugged by the demonization of environmental measures. Seemed counterintuitive to the sales pitch." And Audi itself appears to be unsure whether the ad is wholly irreverent or maybe just a little bit serious.
The Green Police are a humorous group of individuals that have joined forces in an effort to collectively help guide consumers to make the right decision when it comes to the environment. They’re not here to judge, merely to guide these decisions.
Right. They're "guiding" the guy who chose plastic over paper at the beginning of the ad where exactly? (Incidentally, the lyrics of Cheap Trick's Dream Police redo, which are basically identical to the 1979 hit single but for one word, say the Green Police are "judge and jury." So put that in your carbon-loaded pipe and smoke it, Audi ad geniuses!)
The Audi Green Police page goes on to helpfully explain how
there are numerous real Green Police units globally that are furthering green practices and environmental issues. For example, Israel's main arm of the Ministry of Environmental Protection in the area of enforcement and deterrence is called; you guess it, the Green Police. New York has officers within the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation that are fondly called the "Green Police". The Green Police is also the popular name for Vietnam’s Environmental Police Department and the UK has a group who dresses in green as part of the Environment Agency’s squad to monitor excessive CO2 emissions.
Oh, and there was one other Green Police force that the German-owned carmaker doesn't mention, probably because... well, go and read for yourself.
Pains me as it does to link to it, if you can get past the "teabagger" guff, I think Grist's David Roberts discerns perfectly the message Audi is trying to get across in the spot:
The ad only makes sense if it's aimed at people who acknowledge the moral authority of the green police -- people who may find those obligations tiresome and constraining on occasion, who only fitfully meet them, who may be annoyed by sticklers and naggers, but who recognize that living more sustainably is in fact the moral thing to do. This basically describes every guy I know.
Ah, yes. What's a little loss of liberty for a life of contentedly "green" servitude?
The ad's payoff, don't forget, is that the guy in Audi's new clean diesel roadster gets to drive off when the Green Police wave him through their preposterous eco-roadblock. So if you want to keep the Green Police off your back, you can start by switching back to partially recycled paper bags, installing mercury-filled compact fluorescent lights, and driving a imported car. Brilliant. And, as I say, horrifying. It's just a commercial. Yep. Got it. I still hope the campaign blows up in Audi's face.
Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., has died, according to reports:
Congressman John P. Murtha died Monday at 1:18 p.m. at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, VA.
Murtha, 77, was Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
Murtha had been hospitalized last week due to complications from gall bladder surgery.
Pennsylvania's longest-serving congressman was a lightning rod. In the past few years, he was the subject of numerous ethics investigations. Murtha was also a bete noire of conservatives, who particularly loathed the former Marine's reckless comments about the 2006 incident that left 15 civilians dead in the Iraqi city of Haditha.
There will be more commentary about that and Murtha's legacy in Western Pennsylvania in the coming hours, days, and weeks to be sure. For now, however, my condolences to Murtha's family.
As Allahpundit at Hot Air writes, today we "accentuate the positive" (quoting the Washington Post story):
He entered the Marine Corps in 1952, during the Korean War period, and served until 1955. He returned to Johnstown to run the family car wash and finish his undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1962, and he joined the Marine Corps Reserve. During the Vietnam conflict, he volunteered for combat and served near Da Nang in 1966 and 1967.
In 1955, he married Joyce Bell. She survives, along with their daughter, Donna Murtha ; twin sons, Pat Murtha and John M. Murtha ; and three grandchildren…
Rep. Murtha, whose military decorations included the Bronze Star and two awards of the Purple Heart, was one of the first Vietnam veterans to sit in the House. His district returned him regularly to office, and after 10 years, Rep. Murtha had quietly established himself as a key Capitol Hill player who could woo lawmakers of divergent views to join forces.
A special election will be called within 60 days to fill Murtha's seat for the remainder of the year.
I'm movin' on up!
To the East Side (of LA ... where I already live.)
To a deluxe apartment in the sky. (A modest rental home actually.)
Movin on up,
To the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie. (Or a little piece of Breitbart's Empire.)
Your humble super-genius orangutan is now a contributor to the New Media Giant Andrew Bretibart's Big Government. Have a username and password and everything. How did I score this gig? I shared my reporting at the Energy & Environment Conference (EUEC) in Phoenix Feb. 1-3.
I was the only dude with a video camera recording the presentation of climatologist William A. Sprigg — who gave his fellow global warmists a stern lecture on the folly of ignoring the damage inflicted by ClimateGate. Sprigg received polite applause for his 24-minute presentation, but I heard a lot of murmurs among the silence from a shocked audience that was expecting to hear a denunciation of the scandal when they saw it on the agenda.
In short, Sprigg — who led the technical review of the first United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1990 — said it's a huge mistake for his colleagues to defend the likes of "Hide the Decline" emailers Phil Jones and Michael Mann, keep raw climate data a secret, and blackball contrarian scientists out of "peer-reviewed" journals. A remarkable speech that was unexpected considering the venue.
So let's recap what we know about the National Tea Party convention in Nashville, shall we?
• Tom Tancredo opened the convention with a speech falsely asserting that President Obama was elected by non-English speaking foreigners and urging the reinstement of Jim Crow era voting rules.
• Joseph Farah, proprietor of the truly nutty World Net Daily site, followed up with a Friday night speech propounding "birther" accusations against President Obama.
• And on Sunday, Sarah Palin, the Republican Party's most recent vice presidential nominee, will be the convention's keynote speaker on Sunday.
Whenever liberals point out some of the nuttier stuff at the Tea Party gatherings -- the racist signs, the comparisons of Obama to Hitler or the talk of revolution and secession -- Tea Party sympathizers offer a couple of excuses: The nutty stuff is at the fringe, not really representative of the group as a whole and it's not fair that you focus on that! Or that the whole thing amounts to political theater, not to be taken that seriously.
But this convention is making it harder for a reasonable observer to distinguish between the nuts and the mainstream. They're all on the same stage together. That's a problem for the Tea Party folks -- but it's also a problem for the Republican Party that's tried to harness the Tea Party wind. Because if Sarah Palin -- vice presidential nominee and somebody who is still talked about as the GOP's presidential nominee in 2012 -- isn't a "mainstream Republican," who is? And if she's taking the same stage where Tancredo and Farah have been propounding their foolishness, why should the rest of us not believe that the birther and nativist nuts aren't welcome in polite Republican circles?
Palin, I suppose, could shock us on Sunday with a speech that decries the conspiracy theories that have taken the stage before her. Something like: "My friends, we are all united in our love of America, our belief in small government and the need for low, low taxes. But we cannot allow paranoia and falsehoods to be the foundation of our case. That's what's gone on here this week, and for the sake of our movement and our country it must stop."
Call in Palin's "Sister Souljah" moment. It would make folks like me stop and reconsider who Sarah Palin is and what she's all about.
Personally, I don't think Palin will do any such thing. She's done her own bit to whip up paranoia about the president and his policies. She and the Tea Party fringe are made for each other. And the Republican Party, it seems ever more clear, is OK with that.
Peggy Noonan in today's Wall Street Journal:
The biggest historic gain of this administration may turn out to be that Democrats in the White House experienced leadership in the age of terror, came to have responsibility in a struggle that needs and will need our focus. It wasn't good that half the country thought jihadism was some little Republican obsession.
Oh, what utter, irredeemable bullcrap.
Liberals, like conservatives, had a pretty good view of what happened in Washington, New York and Pennsylvania on 9/11. We were horrified by it every bit as much as conservatives were, too. Many of us dropped our dovishness to support the overthrow of the Taliban, and a few of us -- by no means all, and certainly not me -- even supported the invasion of Iraq because of the attacks.
I was watching Meet the Press the Sunday after 9/11, the famous interview where Dick Cheney told Tim Russert that America might have to work "the dark side" in order to fight terror. And I'll admit that I thought this: "Well, yeah." I backtracked from that over time as the implications of what "the dark side" actually entails.
Liberals, like conservatives, have always wanted to protect this country from terrorism. Always. Where we've differed from conservatives, though, is in our willingness to compromise longstanding American laws and values on torture, eavesdropping and the rule of law. We've wondered if the conservative rush -- and in some cases, the conservative glee -- to proclaim a "clash of the civilizations" didn't actually give Osama bin Laden and his ilk exactly what they wanted. We've suspected that certain methods of demonstrating American toughness have actually created more terrorists than they eliminated. And yes, we've had a fair amount of contempt for Republican politicians who wielded 9/11 like a battle-axe in the efforts to secure political gains for themselves. Most of all, we've wanted to apply a restraining hand on those who would have us become the evil we seek to defeat.
We've tried to find balance, knowing that Dick Cheney's "one percent doctrine" is, ultimately, untenable -- that we have to live with some risk in our lives and that crushing out everything that made America America might make us feel safer, but wouldn't ultimately eliminate the risk.
I'm certain that if you look hard enough, you can find groups and people who think that any American armed response to 9/11 was too much. Those people don't represent me, and I doubt they represent the mass of folks who make up the left, center-left and other Democratic voters who make up half the country.
I hate terrorism. I know the risks are real. But I also value American freedom and traditions. I don't blame Republicans for being very focused on terrorism; I blame them for doing it wrong.
They might have sent a video "Declaration" like this one to King George III. And we would all still be British subjects today.
(Hat tip: Ben Domenech on Twitter.)
Our friend Lisa Schmeiser, SFGate's "Dollars and Sense" blogger and occasional podcast guest, explores a subject that's weighed heavily on me since May 2008: How to stay soused on a budget. She was kind enough to ask me for a few tips and even linked to my Summer of Gin post on "decent gins."
Lisa praises BevMo, but I want to put in the good word for a chain that recently arrived in California called Total Wine and More. One opened a few months ago across the street from my local BevMo in Rancho Cucamonga. The store's prices are extremely competitive and often better than BevMo's. Also, their selection in certain cases is better. When the day arrives that I can afford to buy Vya vermouth again, I'm pleased that I can buy it at my local Total Wine instead of schlepping all the way to Glendale or Costa Mesa. BevMo doesn't carry it.
So, if I understand this Carly Fiorina ad correctly, Tom Campbell is a demon sheep or something. Yeah, well, you better watch out. There may be dogs about.
Update: Mary Katherine Ham predicts that people will one day ask where you were when the demon sheep made the American political scene. Meanwhile, Chuck Devore's media man, Josh Treviño, is quietly shelving "all client proposals for unholy human-animal-machine-hybrids-as-policy-metaphors." Good call.
Rather than pick one biased news source, I found all the biased sources for you.
From the Dallas Morning News:
Abdulmutallab . . . has been providing FBI interrogators with useful intelligence about his training and contacts since last week, Obama administration sources said Tuesday.
U.S. investigators flew members of Abdulmutallab's family from Nigeria to the United States on Jan. 17, a senior administration official said. The family members have proved vital in getting Abdulmutallab to talk, he said – indicating that it would have been counterproductive to interrogate him under military rules, as some have suggested.
Well, that bolded part is a small leap of faith. We don't know for certain what we would have learned from Abdulmutallab had we waterboarded multiple times a day since his arrest, but I think this does count as one more piece of evidence showing that "non-enhanced" interrogation can work.
There are those, such as Kit Bond (R-MO) who say that "Abdulmutallab gave terrorists a six week head start to cover their tracks." But I wonder if we would have gotten this same information within that time had we tortured him instead. I doubt it. How long did it take to get actionable intelligence from the detainees in Gitmo who we did torture? Even if we were to "break" him, what is the chance that the information would be accurate?