Ben and Joel are joined this episode by Dan Weintraub, a newly independent journalist and columnist for the Bay Area edition of the New York Times. Weintraub, who's covered California politics for more than 20 years, is author of Party of One: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of the Independent Voter (Polipoint Press). And until about a month ago, Dan was a senior editor and columnist for the Sacramento Bee -- where he and Ben briefly (very briefly) crossed paths. He's currently working on a nonprofit health care policy news site, which is scheduled to launch in February 2010.
Among the questions we discuss:
• Is nonprofit journalism the future, or a future, of journalism?
• What can a nonprofit news site do that a traditional media organization cannot?
• What is the New York Times doing in the Bay Area?
• Is Arnold Schwarzenegger a failed governor?
• What's the deal with Jerry Brown?
• Is California governable?
• Does California need to be governed so much?
Music heard in this podcast:
• "Land of Soul" - Shawn Lee
• "We're Not Gonna Take It" - Twisted Sister
• "California Dreamin'" - The Bald Eagles
• "California Uber Alles" - Iquattrocentocolpi
• "California Here I Come" - Al Jolson
• "Chancer" - The Von Bondies
We love elections in California. The more special the election, the better. The SacBee reminds us:
The battleground du jour is the 72nd Assembly District, where several candidates are vying to replace ex-Assemblyman Mike Duvall. That would be the Duvall who stepped down in September after a tape surfaced of him describing dirty details of sexual flings with two women (the married Republican has since said his resignation isn't an admission that he had an affair).
There's been no shortage of mudslinging and money spending by supporters of the two frontrunners for the seat, GOP rivals Chris Norby, an Orange County supervisor, and Linda Ackerman, a Republican National Committeewoman who's married to former Senate GOP leader Dick Ackerman.
Democrat John MacMurray, Green Party candidate Jane Rands and GOP newcomer Richard Faher round out the cast of pols competing in this "old-fashioned Orange County family feud."
Assuming no candidate is able to snag more than 50 percent of the vote, the top vote-getter from each party moves on to a January 12 runoff election, meaning either Ackerman or Norby will likely face MacMurray and Rands.
Norby has earned the love and respect of property rights advocates -- and the undying enmity of many of his peers -- for his outspoken opposition to eminent domain abuse. If I lived in Anaheim, Fullerton, Yorba Linda or thereabouts, I have a pretty good idea of how I'd vote today.
Some pages of Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue" leaked ahead of next week's publication date and pundits are in a frenzy. The excerpt deals with Palin's interview with Katie Couric and efforts by the McCain campaign to keep her out of the media spotlight. Of the critiques I've read so far, Ann Althouse is perhaps the most unsparing. A sample:
"I really didn’t have a say in which press I was going to talk to, but for some reason Nicolle seemed compelled to get me on the Katie bandwagon."
Why didn't you have a say? There's that "really" hedging: You didn't really have a say. You're pleading passivity and impotence but you want us to think you have what it takes to be President of the United States?
Bottom line: "If these 2 pages of 'Going Rogue' are any evidence, she is displaying her weaknesses all over again, and she is still too dumb to be President. And, most scarily, she doesn't know how dumb she still is."
Ouch. There is plenty more where that came from -- including some interesting reader comments. The book lands in stores on Tuesday.
Have you ordered your copy of Sarah Palin's memoir yet? I wasn't planning to, but with Amazon selling the $28 book for nine bucks plus shipping, I really couldn't pass it up. (By the way, how can HarperCollins possibly afford that deep of a discount?) In any case, I'm sure the book will provide fodder for the column, the podcast and, well, this here blog.
Time's Mark Halperin clues curious readers to what is and isn't in store for them. My favorite detail:
Once source who has seen “Going Rogue” says it does not include an index. That would give Palin a subtle revenge on the party's Washington establishment, whose members tend to flip to the back pages and scan for their own names. If they want to know what Sarah Palin has to say about them, they will have to buy the book—and read the whole thing.
I'm not head over heels for Palin, but I'm looking forward to reading the book, which is scheduled to land in stores -- and on my front porch -- on Tuesday.
So the House today debated an amendment (Update: The amendment passed) to Nancy Pelosi's abominable 2,000-page health care bill that would bar federal funding of elective abortions. Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak offered the amendment as a compromise to protect Blue Dog Democrats from the wrath of their constituents after they vote for this legislative nightmare.
Here is an interesting response on Twitter from a certain Duncan Black:
Stupak (n) - The sepsis commonly experienced after unsafe back alley abortions
A new word! How charming.
(Earlier, Black tweeted that Stupak is "ripe for santoruming, dan savage style." What does that mean, you ask? Click here for an explanation and here for a definition, but be advised that neither is the least bit polite. Oh, no, not polite at all.)
All of this just goes to show -- yet again! -- that Atrios was right.
You'll notice we haven't had much to say around here about Thursday's massacre at Fort Hood. We do not honor the dead by wildly speculating about the motives and the background of their killer, although the we're learning more by the hour. It's usually a good idea to assess the facts before venturing an opinion, especially about an event such as this one.
Citizen-war correspondent Michael Yon set just the right tone last night at the Corner:
First reports are notoriously wrong. The shooter already has been killed then resurrected by the media. Some media are in a frenzy and so the reports are particularly untrustworthy at this time. Now is not a time to psychoanalyze the attacker by using a media-supplied telescope that already said he was dead, and that there were multiple attackers. Media: STOP, please. There will be time to pursue answers and justice after Christmas. We must remember that family members lost loved ones just before the holidays. Justice and answers will come with time.
Most important is to remember that we have just lost a dozen people. Others are wounded. Children and other family members will need care and thoughtful attention.
And over at Right-Wing Nuthouse, Rick Moran helps clear the air a bit. Although I would take issue with a small part of it, this is a post I would have loved to write:
The rationalizations for Major Hasan’s rampage -- his motives, his state of mind, even the environment in which he carried out his horrific attack -- are being tossed about the blogosphere on both sides as if everything that can be known about the circumstances has already been revealed.
This must be the case because without any definitive word from authorities, from his friends and associates, or from Hasan himself, both lefty and righty blogs have already “solved” the mystery of motive and any argument to the contrary is “racist,” or “pro-jihad,” or “hate speech,” or “political correctness.” ...
News flash: Everyone can’t be right. In fact, it is likely everyone is wrong. Was it an example of Muslim extremist terrorism? Or a reaction to bullying and name calling by brother officers? Or the prospect of being deployed to Iraq? A combination? None of the above?
Moran goes on to criticize two bloggers in particular -- Pam Geller of Atlas Shrugs and Digby of Hullaballoo -- for their over-the-top speculations. (Moran also throws elbows at Robert Stacy McCain, with whom he's been feuding lately, and Andrew Sullivan, who still attracts an audience for some reason.)
Moran sums up:
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.
We'll know more in due course what drove Nidal Malik Hasan to murder 13 fellow soldiers and injure 28 others. These stories always turn out to be more complicated than they may appear at first. To reiterate what Michael Yon wrote: There will be plenty of time to assess causes and effects and to debate policies and responses. For now, Americans would simply do well to remember Hasan's victims and their families.
A debate between former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush was canceled, according to the New York Post, after the event's promoter advertised it as "uncensored, unedited and unpredictable."
"This event ... was supposed to be a discussion between the two former presidents, and has been canceled because it was not being billed as such by an overeager promoter," said Matt McKenna, a spokesman for Clinton.
You know what's sad? I first heard about this twist in the story from Craig Ferguson's monologue.
This sounds at once fascinating and idiotic:
Former President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will square off on the same stage at Radio City Music Hall in February as part of a series pitting liberal and conservative thinkers.
The event is part of MSG Entertainment's third annual "Minds That Move The World" speakers series.
The event -- billed as "The Hottest Ticket in Political History" -- will take place on Feb. 25, 2010, at 8 p.m., according to organizers.
Tickets range from $60 to a whopping $1,250. Tickets go on sale this Sunday.
Past speakers have included Bill Maher and Ann Coulter, so you know this is real Lincoln-Douglas stuff.
I've said it before, but I guess I'll say it again (because it amuses me so): Atrios was right.
Ashbrook Center President Peter Schramm shares his trenchant analysis of today's elections in New York, New Jersey and Virginia at No Left Turns:
This New York Times article on Iowa and the "sense of disappointment" that has settled in regarding Obama may be more revealing of the true problem. The Dems will lose in Virginia and NY23, and if they can't get the vote out in NJ--where Corzine has attached himself to Obama rather explictly--then Corzine will lose and today's votes will have to be seen as a referendum on the Obama administration. This is why we don't study physics.
Well, that, and the fact that most political philosophy students are terrible mathematicians. But let that pass.
I haven't followed the New York congressional race as closely as some. Jonah Goldberg made what I took to be a sensible observation about the meaning of that race at the Corner earlier today:
NY-23 is definitely a historically Republican district, that doesn't mean it's a historically conservative one. More and more I hear analysts and pundits talk about what a conservative district it is (Bill Hemmer on Fox just said that it's been "conservative" for more than a century). It voted for Obama by a wide margin. The seat is empty precisely because Obama thought he could flip if he got the incumbent out. The point is important because a lot folks (though probably not Hemmer) want to write off the importance of a Hoffman victory by saying "Well, the district's always been conservative." No, it's always been Republican, but it threw aside the liberal Republican and supported (if he wins) the avowed conservative. That's significant.
If Hoffman wins, chalk one up for the Tea Party people. (You know, the sore losers.)
And that's what worries me. Maybe it's because I haven't followed NY-23 as attentively as I've been following other news from upstate New York, but I have some nagging doubts about Doug Hoffman. By now everyone knows what erstwhile Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava is and isn't. I'm less certain who Hoffman is and what he stands for. (This HuffPo piece -- I know, I know -- picking apart Hoffman's literature didn't help him in my estimation.)
Hoffman is not a professional politician, which has advantages and disadvantages. If he wins, I hope he has the principles to guide him through the maelstrom.
Update: At RealClearPolitics' Horse Race Blog, Jay Cost explains why the outcome of the NY-23 election means "Nothing, nothing, and nothing!" You will notice how he has little to say about Hoffman, except to note his good fortune to live in a particular part of New York and to have faced a terrible candidate in Dede Scozzafava.
Dan Weintraub, late of the Sacramento Bee, currently of the New York Times's Bay Area edition, wrote over the weekend about the emergence of Jerry Brown as the de facto Democratic nominee for California governor in 2010:
(W)ith Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco’s departure from the race Friday, the Democrats now have no major candidates officially in the running for the job in 2010.
But then that ignores Jerry Brown. And you never want to ignore Mr. Brown. Even if you tried, he would not let you.
Mr. Brown, California’s attorney general, has instantly moved from front-runner to presumptive nominee, presuming that he officially enters the race as expected.
Jerry Brown, 71, is now the Grand Old Man of California Democratic politics. He can be wily and he can be charming, often in the same conversation. (I have fond memories of interviewing him when he was running for attorney general in 2006.) No one dare challenge him. It's unlikely any Democrat will, though the progressive wing remains hopeful. Every so often the name "Dianne Feinstein" floats through the din. Feinstein, who owns a coveted lifetime membership in the United States Senate, is 76 and sits on many powerful committees. Despite her busy schedule and notwithstanding the daily rough and tumble of Beltway political life, Feinstein is unlikely to leave relative calm of the Senate for four years of guaranteed Hell in Sacramento.
Recently, two other names have emerged: Rep. Jane Harman, the Democratic congresswoman from L.A.'s South Bay area, and the current first lady, Maria Shriver. Harman is generally considered -- or tarred as -- a more moderate Democrat and therefore would have problems with liberal voters in the primary. Shriver is the glamorous wife of a wildly unpopular governor and a member of the Kennedy family. So her odds may not be quite as bad.
But much depends on -- what else? -- money.
Weintraub notes the main reason for Newsom's departure from the race: fundraising. A serious bid for governor in the Golden State now requires a minimum of $40 million. (It may be lower, but that's about what Schwarzenegger spent against Phil Angelides last time.)
"By many accounts, Mr. Newsom lacked the will to" raise that kind of money, Weintraub writes. "Mr. Brown is a different story. His deep and longstanding ties to the party’s interest groups, especially organized labor, allowed him to raise far more money than Mr. Newsom while hardly trying. Once a campaign finance reformer, Mr. Brown has morphed into a campaign finance machine."
Yes, remember when Brown ran for president in 1992? That was a glorious campaign. Progressives would nearly faint in his presence. (I know; I covered one of his campaign rallies in San Diego for the UCSD Guardian.) His gimmick that year (and it was a gimmick) was to limit his campaign contributions to no more than $100. Brown has mellowed in his dotage -- at least on that "iron-clad principle." With Newsom out, Brown is sitting pretty.
But what about the Republicans? Well, that's only just beginning to take shape. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman is running lame, dishonest radio ads. Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner is likely to take flack from conservatives for his past support of liberal causes and candidates. He's also trailing in the polls. Tom Campbell is a cerebral moderate with a head for budget politics -- the one thing that matters in California right now. So he's clearly doomed.
And, in any event, if the election were held today, Brown would utterly crush every one of those Republicans.
Jerry Brown... governor... again? The mind boggles.
*My original headline was going to be "If it's Brown, flush it down," which was an anti-Brown bumper sticker slogan I remember from when I was a kid. Then I remembered I used that line in a post I wrote in March. Brown was governor during the last big state drought. One water-saving mantra for flushing toilets at the time was: "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." Funny how history repeats. And by "funny," I mean, "Oh, dear God, please, make it stop!"
Update: Turns out there is a Monty Burns insurgency in New York City to upset Michael Bloomberg's campaign for a third-term. Inverted Soapbox asks: "Will an anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes cost him the election?"
As we often liked to say in the editorial writing business: One thing's for certain, it's too early to tell.
Joe Queenan has some tough words for Barack Obama's liberal critics in Monday's Wall Street Journal:
In demanding that the president man up and do the will of the people—as defined by last night's polls—critics are insisting that the president dance with the one who brung him. Well, he is dancing with the one who brung him. Barack Obama got elected president in large part because an awful lot of blue-collar Democrats in Pennsylvania and Ohio and the border states voted for him. He didn't get elected simply because of liberals in Malibu and Massachusetts. So, in reality, Mr. Obama already has manned up. He's told the left wing of the Democratic Party that he's running the show, not them. Not comfortable with that? Go blog about it.
Er... over to you, Joel?
Update: Here's the prepared text of Alexander's "enemies list" speech.
Update 2: And here's a good point from Jennifer Rubin at Commentary. What must the independents think of such shenanigans?
And as a style of politics, over the long haul, this sort of hyper-partisan nastiness takes its toll. Independent voters, already disenchanted with the president’s Left-leaning agenda, tend not to approve of such tactics. Indeed, it was the promise that Obama would rise above Clintonian tit-for-tat politics and leave behind past baggage that made candidate Barack Obama so attractive. The American people are quickly learning that candidate Obama — the model of dignified calm, moderation, and bipartisanship — bears little resemblance to the Obama in office.
(Welcome Corner readers by way of No Left Turns. It's a long interview, but worthwhile. Download the file, pour a cup of coffee and enjoy.)
Steven F. Hayward, author of The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution, 1980-1989 and a stirring op-ed in the Sunday Washington Post, "Is Conservatism Brain-Dead?" joins Ben and Joel for this edition of the podcast.
Among the Big Questions we discuss:
• Who are we? What do we stand for? What's it all about, man?
• Is conservatism brain dead?
• Can constitutionalism save the country?
• Was George W. Bush a superficial Reaganite?
• Could Reagan pass a conservative purity test?
• Is Sam Tanenhaus all wet about Edmund Burke?
• Is Glenn Beck just a high-brow Morton Downey Jr.?
Music heard in this podcast:
• "1976" - RJD2
• "Shot in the Dark" - RJD2
• "Clean Living" - RJD2
• "Disconnected" - RJD2
• "Making Days Longer" - RJD2
• "A Beautiful Mine" - RJD2
John Fund guts ACORN like a mackerel in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal.
(That's right... I compared a nut to a fish. Sue me.)
You've been reading about the ongoing exposé of ACORN, I hope? Andrew Breitbart's latest venture, BigGovernment.com, launched amid real fanfare last week with journalist James O'Keefe's explosive video of a fake prostitute and pimp getting advice from ACORN workers in Baltimore on how to skirt tax and immigration laws to set up a brothel using underage El Salvadoran girls.
The organization of "community organizers" receives hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars every year from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Commerce, and other federal and state government sources. ACORN is even receiving money from the $787 billion stimulus bill President Obama signed in February.
ACORN officials said the Baltimore case was an "isolated incident."
Then O'Keefe and his collaborator, Hannah Giles, went to Washington D.C. and pulled the same pimp-and-prostitute stunt.
The U.S. Census Bureau, which planned to use ACORN volunteers next year as canvassers, cut ties with the group on Friday.
Then O'Keefe and Giles went to New York and did it again.
The United States Senate on Monday voted to strip ACORN of its HUD funding.
Then O'Keefe and Giles came here to California -- just down the road apiece in San Bernardino, as a matter of fact -- and did it again.
Meantime, House Republican Minority Leader John Boehner on Tuesday called on Congress to cut all federal funding to the group. Tax dollars aren't just ACORN's bread-and-butter... they're the group's very lifeblood.
O'Keefe, Giles, Breitbart and Fox News, which has been airing the videos, are going to be sued, of course. There are the usual questions about what O'Keefe may have edited out of his videos. I, for one, can't wait to see what comes out during the discovery phase of the lawsuit. But ACORN likely won't escape state scrutiny in all of this, either, in the form of criminal investigations. That's investigations, plural.
Live by Alinsky, die by Alinsky. Ironic, isn't it?
Update: ACORN is pushing back hard on the San Bernardino video. The San Bernardino Sun is reporting that "the head organizer for California ACORN says a new video that appears to show a staffer at the organization's San Bernardino office is fake journalism."
Also, the ACORN people are saying the crazy Berdoo lady, identified on the video as Tresa Kaelke, "was messing with" the would-be journalists.
From the Sun story:
"In this video, there are two actors who come into our office and who were messing with us. And our employee was messing with them," (California ACORN head organizer Amy) Schur said.
She said that the complete and unedited video needs to be released to the public.
Schur said that in a moment not shown on the edited video, Kaelke asked the undercover "pimp" if he was joking and then proceeded to play along with the joke.
Furthermore, Schur said that Kaelke will sign an affidavit stating that she was not seriously entertaining the idea of cooperating with an apparent attempt to establish a house of prostitution.
"She (Kaelke) asked if they were joking and asked if they were reporters. They said they weren't reporters and they aren't. This is not legitimate news," Schur said.
I don't believe a word Schur says. But I'm forced to agree with one thing: BigGovernment and James O'Keefe should post the unedited videos. There will always be questions, and Lord knows an editing job can paint a skewed or unreal picture. Releasing the videos would allay many doubts, answer many questions, and stop pro-ACORN spin cold.
Economic illiteracy among the journalistic class is hardly new. Journalists were usually the people with higher verbal than math scores on the SAT. (I speak from personal experience.)
Economic illiteracy among the political class is fairly widespread, too. I'd wager that four out of five congressmen of either political party, if asked, couldn't explain the law of supply and demand and would probably vote against it if they could.
But economic illiteracy among presidents is a much more consequential affliction.
The shape and scope of Barack Obama's economic illiteracy becomes more manifest with each passing day. Three examples from just the past week suggest the president and his team of economic advisers know little about the big plans they wish to foist upon the American public.
Obama visited Wall Street on Monday to mark the anniversary of Lehman Brothers' collapse with plans to enact sweeping new regulations over U.S. financial services.
"Under the Treasury reform blueprint," write the Wall Street Journal's editors today, "any financial company, whether a regulated bank or not, could be rescued or seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation if regulators believe it poses a systemic risk."
Much hinges on the term "systemic risk," but the president didn't elaborate much about that on Monday. Instead he hauled out a few hoary clichés from last Winter.
"We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess that was at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses," Obama said. "Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences, and expect that next time, American taxpayers will be there to break their fall."
Obama's visit to Wall Street follows an announcement Friday that the United States would impose a 35 percent tariff hike on Chinese-made tires. Now, the tariff is a complicated issue. Phil Levy attempts to explain the nuances at Foreign Policy's Shadow Government blog. The bottom line, however, is that the tire tariff was a choice, not a necessity -- an act of protectionism, not of free trade.
Yet here's what President Obama had to say about the tire tariff on Monday: "Enforcing trade agreements is part and parcel of maintaining an open and free trading system."
That's true -- when a trading partner breaks an agreement, you enforce the rules. And the Chinese have not been good partners when it comes to intellectual property, for example. But the tire tariffs have more to do with appeasing unions and other special interests in the United States, not punishing Chinese malefactors abroad. Naturally, China filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization.
Now, I might feel less anxious about Obama's high-stakes gambits with China and other prominent trading partners -- including Japan and Mexico -- if he didn't say things that would make a freshman econ major blush.
In the middle of his address to Congress last week, Obama dropped this little stink bomb:
I've insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits and excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers, and would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better, the same way public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students without in any way inhibiting a vibrant system of private colleges and universities.
Profits aren't overhead and overhead isn't profits. Profits are what you're left with after overhead, salaries, benefits and taxes are paid. That's elementary economics -- so basic even a freelance journalist knows it.
(There are actually two stinkers in that passage. Perry Glanzner noticed and discusses the second one.)
Possible objections: That's just one gaffe! Bush made a million of them and gave us TARP and committed a million other sins, shredded the Bill of Rights, and all the rest of it. Yes, yes, that's fine. But Obama is president right now and it's his economy to ruin by virtue of his words and deed.
In fact, Obama's public displays of economic ignorance are extensive, if not particularly well documented. And they aren't always gaffes. Sometimes, Obama will speak in vague platitudes that suggest maybe he's just trying to B.S. his way through a economic policy discussion or making stuff up. From little slips like "profit and earning ratios" to howlers such as comparing the stock market to a "tracking poll," it's clear that the president is simply not in his element when it comes to questions of finance and economics.
Take a look at the transcript of the president's July 22 press conference. In his opening remarks, he says, "we passed a Recovery Act that has already saved jobs and created new ones." The administration predicted the $787 stimulus -- most of which has not been spent, by the way -- would hold unemployment at 8 percent. The official unemployment rate in August was 9.7 percent.
The point is, making economic predictions is tricky and making economic policies is trickier still. Having a president who doesn't know much about economics in the Oval Office wouldn't be so alarming if he had advisers who could check his worst impulses and correct his errors and temper his anti-market instincts. But instead Obama's surrounded by people, with the exceptions of Ben Bernanke and possibly Tim Geithner, who think and act just like him.
It's worth noting that the president's Wall Street audience gave him a standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks Monday morning. Praise, like currency, can be easily inflated. Obama's job is to do no harm to the economy. So far his efforts, while expensive, have been of little help.
But the president can only get by on wit and ridiculous federal expansion for so long. For while those stockbrokers were cheering the president, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 23 points on sluggish trading. The market, it seems, is immune to the president's charms.
Here is L. Gordon Crovitz, writing in Monday's Wall Street Journal on the campaign finance "reform" case currently pending before the Supreme Court:
How can any regulation based on an assumption of information scarcity be justified in an era of information abundance?
Whatever the arguments for blocking direct contributions by corporations and unions, McCain-Feingold goes beyond this and directly limits First Amendment speech. The Constitution doesn't promise "equal" speech, just the freedom to speak.
Technology now makes it possible for everyone to share their views, so why shouldn't companies and unions be able to make political arguments? Companies and their shareholders are on all sides of issues, depending on who benefits from which government policy, from health-care rules to environmental regulations to industry bailouts.
Here's what I wrote in this week's Scripps-Howard column:
Eliminating the corrupting influence of money from politics has been the stated goal of campaign finance reforms for at least a century. The reforms Congress passed in the wake of the Watergate scandal and again with the McCain-Feingold law of 2002 have, of course, done no such thing. Instead, campaign finance reform has empowered bureaucrats, courts and political incumbents.
The cure for campaign finance reform is fewer rules, not more. There should be little or no restriction on money in politics. There should be no limits on what a candidate can raise and spend. Political parties, corporations, unions... let them all in. The only exception should be for foreign contributions.
Transparency and instant Internet disclosure make most of the old objections and warnings about quid pro quo corruption irrelevant. If a political candidate receives the financial aid of large corporations, and public knows about it, then the question of undue influence falls to the voters to resolve. As it should be.
Joel worries that letting corporations contribute unlimited funds to political campaigns would let "big corporations... overwhelm political debate in this country." Well, certain big corporations already have a prominent voice in the political debate. They're called media companies, and they happen to be exempt from McCain-Feingold. Yet, by every measure, their influence on the political debate has diminished over the past decade.
I'd rather err on the side of free speech, with full disclosure, than regulation and red tape.
The New York Times mainstay casts his lot with the "enlightened" tyrants of Beijing in today's column. Key paragraph:
One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.
Jonah Goldberg replies:
So there you have it. If only America could drop its inefficient and antiquated system, designed in the age before globalization and modernity and, most damning of all, before the lantern of Thomas Friedman's intellect illuminated the land. If only enlightened experts could do the hard and necessary things that the new age requires, if only we could rely on these planners to set the ship of state right. Now, of course, there are "drawbacks" to such a system: crushing of dissidents with tanks, state control of reproduction, government control of the press and the internet. Omelets and broken eggs, as they say. More to the point, Friedman insists, these "drawbacks" pale in comparison to the system we have today here in America.
As it happens, Goldberg wrote a book about just this sort of thing.
Update: Read Kenneth Anderson's lengthy but thoughtful take at the Volokh Conspiracy:
Let me just say for the record that this is a monstrous column. When faced with American public defection from elite-preferred outcomes on certain policy issues that involve many difficult tradeoffs of the kind that democracies, with much jostling and argument, are supposed to work out among many different groups, Friedman extols the example of ... China's political system, because it's both enlightened and autocratic? Who among us knew?
The headline is funny, too: "Thomas Friedman, For One, Welcomes Our New Chinese Creditor Overlords"
In a follow-up post at the Daily Kos, Olbermann writes:
To clarify something I obviously didn't previously, I'm not talking about letting up on criticism of Lonesome Rhodes' work here. I am talking about calling off the Baker Street Irregulars -- while reserving the right to reactivate them. Trust me, I'm going after him tonight on the tweet to his masses that precipitated this, the "find out everything you can" about three Obama appointees.
Yay! A urination contest! With Arthur Conan Doyle references! As it turns out, it's really just about thin-skinned Olbermann sticking it to his former paymasters at News Corp:
In 2006 or 2007, Glenn Beck responded to something I said about him by going on his HLN show and ranting about me. He described how I write my show, how my research copy is delivered to me, and how the technical issues of handling and ordering questions are handled in my script. This came from a staffer or ex-staffer, directly or otherwise.
NewsCorp has been playing this game since I left its employ in 2001 mostly in Page Six of the New York Post (and 90% of what was printed hasn't even been true). The Post once printed my then street address, sent somebody over to terrify my neighbors, and mocked the fact that I (and Letterman, and Sumner Redstone, and others) had received fake anthrax, and that the police had ordered me to go to the hospital to make sure it was fake anthrax. Later the Post staked out my home, so a goober of theirs could shout insults at me about three-figure tax disagreements I'd had with the state of California seven years previously (which had been resolved five years previously)....
Blah blah blah blah blah... who gives a crap? Well, I only mention it because Olbermann offers a splendid opportunity to expound once again on the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Olbermann points to a post by David Carr, who asks:
What might Mr. Olbermann do if someone digs up dirt on his intended targets, who, like him, work in the infotainment industry and have been elected by no one? Once the game of oppo research on the press begins, it’s hard to tell where it might stop, no?
Olbermann's post is intended partly as a reply and a rationalization to Carr. Evidently, he sent a separate reply to Carr, who dutifully appended it to his blog post. Neither piece is persuasive. Does Olbermann not realize he sounds like a complete lunatic? Is he so blinded by his fanaticism? Does the sun rise in the east?
Here's the first, last and best profile I've ever read about Keith Olbermann. Although it appears in a generally sympathetic venue -- the New Yorker -- it pretty much tells you what kind of man he is. When Olbermann self-destructs on live TV in a few years, you'll know why.
My son Benjamin heard President Obama's speech at school this afternoon. Here is his after-action report, by way of a Q&A with your humble servant:
Me: So, Benjamin, you heard the president speak today. What did you think?
Benjamin: Mmmm. Naw.
Me: What do you mean? You didn't hear it or...?
Benjamin: I didn't like it.
Me: Why not?
Benjamin: Well, I couldn't really understand most of the words, and there was a lot of talking.
Me: So it was noisy? You couldn't hear the speech?
Benjamin: I couldn't hear it, and my neck started to hurt.
Me: Why did your neck hurt? Was it because you couldn't see?
Benjamin: No. It was because I've been holding up my neck all day! And I was bored.
Me: So was there anything about the speech you could hear that you thought was interesting or you actually liked?
Benjamin: No, I already said I didn't like it.
Me: Nothing at all?
Me: Did your teacher talk to your class about the speech after the president finished talking? Did she ask questions?
Benjamin: No, because it was almost the end of the day, near the bell.
Me: If you had a chance to hear the speech again, would you be interested?
Benjamin: What do you mean?
Me: I mean, if you could listen to it without noise or distractions...
Benjamin: Oh, no! No, no, no! Nooooo. Thaaaaank. Yooooooou.
And there you have it. Indoctrination failed.
Tunku Varadarajan's column at Forbes.com about some of the conservative response -- really, the preemptive reaction -- to President Obama's back-to-school speech today is pretty much spot-on.
Call me naïve, but I believe that Americans ought to accord their president a formal, ex officio respect, irrespective of party affiliation. He is, after all, the president of all of us (whether we like him or not), and it is unseemly that we should withhold civility from him on grounds of political disagreement. As things stand, no blow seems low enough, no criticism off limits, if the president happens to be from the other side. The pursuit of happiness has given way to the pursuit of picayune point-scoring. E Pluribus Unum ... Why do we still bother with that silly foreign phrase? Our great nation has become a Manichaean nation.
I might quibble a little with the phrasing of that second sentence ("...the president of us all..."), but the larger observation is entirely correct. Earlier in the piece, Varadarajan makes the rather obvious point that "Overheated sections of the right -- first the 'birthers,' now the 'speechers' -- are meting out to Obama precisely the sort of disrespectful treatment they execrated when it was directed by the left at President Bush."
To that I would only add that conservatives diminish our already tenuous position as a credible opposition when we overshoot like this. Objecting to the Department of Education lesson plans was an excellent fight to pick. Keeping the kids home from school today? That's just stupid.
As James Taranto observes in Tuesday's Best of the Web:
Under normal circumstances, some of the lines in the speech would merit some gentle mocking. ...Drudge amusingly bannered the president's instruction to WASH YOUR HANDS, or, as the speech puts it, "I hope you'll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don't feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter."
But really, the conservatives are more deserving of mockery in this case. Is it really their position that children should have filthy hands?
I think for few, the answer would be yes. And so it's not just their hands that are dirty. Michelle Malkin and others are wiping the egg of their faces today, saying, "it's not the speech, it's the subtext."
Truth is, it's about picking battles wisely. Again: Hammering the Department of Education lesson plans was the right thing to do. It's possible that the ensuing outcry persuaded the White House to adopt a more moderate tone for Obama's remarks. That's entirely to the good.
I hate it when kids are used as political props or human shields. But my objections are minor compared with, say, our friend Duane "Generalissimo" Patterson, who on Saturday wrote: "(I)t's not a matter of parents all over the country being crazy. It's parents not trusting a president who has put together an eight month track record anyone with cognitive skills would deem as a cause for concern when it comes to their children." Sorry, but for most voters, the link between Obama's insane policy schemes, his extremist hires, and his speech urging kids to study hard and stay in school is not at all obvious. And when Malkin, Generalissimo, et. al., are forced to talk about "subtext," then it's clear they haven't made their case very well.
A very big part of the resistance to this speech is the double standard. And this is important, and not mere grousing. All conservatives know that there would not only be an opt-out if, say, President Bush the Younger had given this speech, but that it would (barely) have been shown at all in the first place.
The sensitivities of liberal parents would have been respected. Not just respected -- those sensitivities would have been dominant, blocking out coverage except for in a small fraction of schools.
On the other hand -- Obama.
Now, what the liberal/governmental establishment wants to tell us here is that we are second class citizens. We have some political rights, but not nearly the full panoply of rights enjoyed by liberals.
And we reject that.
We. Reject. That.
And we're not "crazy" or "stupid" to do so. We are simply tired of the liberal/bureaucratic establishment treating us like second-class citizens of no importance and no account, and of arrogantly treating us as children in constant need of their sage wisdom, lecturing, and hectoring.
Not having it.
I'm not having it, either. But I'm afraid it is grousing. And worse, it puts conservatives in the position of playing the victim over and over again. You are a second-class citizen only if you accept the premise. Liberal hectoring is as inevitable as the tides. So what? They hector. They poke and prod and advance their agendas. And we poke and prod and counter their agendas -- presumably with an agenda of our own.
I wrote last night that I would not prevent my 7-year-old from participating in his school's assembly today to hear the president's speech. I presume the problem isn't with the speech but with what the school's instructors choose to do with it. Moreover, I presume that my children will be exposed to a great deal of nonsense in the coming years -- much worse, certainly, than 20 minutes of banalities and clichés from a second-rate chief magistrate. But then so much of life is nonsense. My role as a father is to do everything I can to help my son and daughter distinguish between good sense and nonsense, legitimate and illegitimate, free and unfree, valuable and worthless, right and wrong, virtue and vice, good and evil.
Sometimes I overreact, so I know what overreaction looks like. We're falling into an obvious and foreseeable trap. "Anger is not a platform," I wrote after the election. "Saying 'Obama isn't my president' -- as some liberals insisted that President Bush was "selected, not elected" -- isn't persuasive. It's petulant. The job of the next four years is to check Obama's worst instincts and hold him accountable for his policies -- without anger or malice, but in the spirit of loyal opposition and cheerful patriotism."
That's even more true today than it was in November.
Do conservatives want to argue that staying in school and studying hard is not a net social good? Really? Really?
Van Jones may be gone, but the coverage of his departure should not be soon forgotten. Ace of Spades points out the New York Times's lame, ambiguous and sloppy reporting on Jones's departure, specifically Jones's Truther affiliations:
If (the Times) had just quoted the highly-quotable language of the petition -- no Deciding, no Gatekeeping, just the actual words -- this misreading wouldn't be possible at all.
Mickey Kaus slices and dices the Times story, leaving little more than a coarse paste.
I had to read this Firedoglake post a couple of times before I realized that Jane Hamsher isn't actually saying what I thought she was saying -- namely, that nearly two out of five Democrats are (or were) Truthers. To my relief, I realized that she's merely dissembling:
Now (Jones has) been thrown under the bus by the White House for signing his name to a petition expressing something that 35% of all Democrats believed as of 2007 -- that George Bush knew in advance about the attacks of 9/11.
Is that really what Jones "innocently" and ignorantly signed his name to? Here's the petition. Read it for yourself. It posits much, much more insidious stuff than simply claiming Bush "knew in advance about the attacks of 9/11."
In context, Hamsher is lamenting how the liberal establishment that feted Van Jones a year ago has abandoned him now in his hour of need. As it happens, Hamsher peddles this falsehood in the service of a larger and much more explosive truth: The left consists of a bunch of money-grubbing, power-infatuated sellouts:
I heard it over and over again -- if you wanted to criticize the White House on financial issues, your institutional funding would dry up instantly. The Obama campaign successfully telegraphed to donors that they should cut off Fund for America, which famously led to its demise.
It wasn't the last time something like that happened -- just ask those who were receiving institutional money who criticized the White House and saw their funding cut, at the specific request of liberal institutional leaders who now principally occupy their time by brown nosing friends and former co-workers in the White House.
And so the groups in the DC veal pen stay silent. They leadership gets gets bought off by cocktail parties at the White House while the interests of their members get sold out.
Yes, yes, I heard the same thing from some conservatives when Bush was president. But what's so weird about Hamsher's complaint, echoed by others among the "netroots," is that she wants these groups and the White House to go to the wall for an avowed Marxist, a 9/11 Truther, and an outspoken defender of cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal.
R.S. McCain observes the irony in the immolation of the left:
The astounding disproportion between the facts -- who Van Jones is and what got him in trouble -- and the Left's perception tells you a lot about the what's gone wrong in Hopeville. For all the recent uproar about Joseph Farah and "Birthers," it is the Democratic Party which suffers most from the influence of its extremist supporters.
Jane Hamsher, Alan Colmes, and Keith Olbermann apparently live inside an echo chamber where a man who was a leader of a Marxist outfit like STORM, and who subsequently signed a 9/11 Truther petition, is not legitimately controversial.
That's more or less right. (I disagree with McCain re: WorldNetDaily.) Hamsher, et. al., see Jones's resignation as a portent of capitulation on a range of "progressive" policy points, from health care to cap and trade and counterterrorism. "If you can't get it together to at least put out a statement of support for Van Jones and condemn the White House for using him as a sacrificial lamb to right wing extremists that will devour us all if left unchecked," Hamsher writes, "it's time to add 'proudly liberal only when it doesn't matter' to your logo and be done with it."
If sticking up for Van Jones is the litmus test for principled liberalism these days, then I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of liberals really do sit out next year's elections -- just not for the reasons Hamsher and her comrades think.
Well...this was to be expected:
Send Me Everything You Can Find About Glenn Beck
by Keith Olbermann
Sun Sep 06, 2009 at 10:14:03 AM PDT
I don't know why I've got this phrasing in my head, but: Find everything you can about Glenn Beck, Stu Burguiere, and Roger Ailes.
No, even now, I refuse to go all caps. [How kind -Ed.]
No, sending me links to the last two Countdowns with my own de-constructions of his biblical vision quality Communist/Fascist/Socialist/Zimbalist art at Rockefeller Center (where, curiously, he works, Comrade) doesn't count. Nor does sending me links to specious inappropriate point-underscoring prove-you're-innocent made-up rumors.
Tuesday we will expand this to the television audience and have a dedicated email address to accept leads, tips, contacts, on Beck, his radio producer Burguiere, and the chief of his tv enablers, Ailes (even though Ailes' power was desperately undercut when he failed to pull off his phony "truce" push).
This becomes necessary after this in order to prove various cliches about goose and gander, and to remind everybody to walk softly and carry a big popsicle, and most particularly to save this nation from the Oligarhy of The Stupid.
I keep wondering if somewhere somebody named Ollie Garhey thinks he's in charge now. Or, even more entertainingly and societally satisfying, if somebody named Ali Garhi does.
Despite the worn-out snark above, I am in earnest here.
The wacky Glenn Beck is a big-time media personality more than capable of holding his own against the likes of Keith "Sports Guy" Olbermann. So I assume he has prepared for what's coming.
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