(Cross-posted at RBJonesPhotography.com)
I remember watching Floyd’s amazing Stage 17 performance in the 2006 Tour de France live on television. I was dumbfounded and thrilled. When my wife got home, I showed her the entirety of the stage’s television coverage, watching along with her. We even sat on the couch together afterward as I read aloud the live-blogging entries of a writer for VeloNews whose blow-by-blow account of Landis’s shocking recovery and devastation of his opponents on that epic mountain stage. We laughed and reveled in the unexpected and unorthodox moves and the bewildered descriptions they elicited from commentators on tv and online.
Well… we probably all knew this day was coming. Not all of us, certainly. There were those who either wanted to believe bad enough, or who knew just enough about chemistry or medicine to be able to see a glimmer of possibility in the explanations that the test(s) [that showed his two types of testosterone levels to be too far apart] were a result of his body’s conversion of medication for his ailing hip. Alas. I had my strong suspicions, particularly since reading David Walsh’s book From Lance to Landis. Since then, I’ve considered everyone who had ever been a part of the US Postal team to have been part of a systematic doping program with Johan Bruyneel at its helm.
Much more after the jump. Click below...
As ABC's "Lost" hurdles toward its thrilling Sunday night series finale, Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis discuss the show and its meaning with Macworld's Jason Snell. The podcast was recorded over the weekend, before Tuesday's episode, "What They Died For."
Among the questions we explore:
• Where does "Lost" rank in the science fiction pantheon?
• Are showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof giving their fans the finger?
• What do creators owe to their fans, anyway?
• What do "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica" have in common?
• What do "Lost" and "Twin Peaks" have in common?
• Is the music in "Lost" like another character in the show?
• How should "The End" end?
Music heard in this podcast:
• Selections from Michael Giacchino's scores to "Lost," seasons 2 through 5.
As ABC's "Lost" hurdles toward its thrilling Sunday night series finale, Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis discuss the show and its meaning. But...something is missing. It's almost as if this podcast was recorded in a parallel timeline. (Or maybe Jason Snell forgot what time we were scheduled to record...) The podcast was recorded over the weekend, before Tuesday's episode, "What They Died For."
Among the questions we explore:
• Are the Others really the good guys?
• What do "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica" have in common?
• Are showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof giving their fans the finger?
• Is Ben Linus a metaphor for George W. Bush?
• Is the music in "Lost" like another character in the show?
• How should "The End" end?
Music heard in this podcast:
• Selections from Michael Giacchino's scores to "Lost," seasons 2 through 5.
Joseph Wesley Postell, assistant director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for American Studies, has a pretty good piece in the Washington Times today on the decline of constitutionalism and the rise of the administrative state:
The Founders confronted a basic problem: How to vest government with sufficient power to get things done without giving it the instruments to exercise tyrannical control? To protect individual liberty and rights, they established (among others) two basic principles at the center of our constitutional order: representation and the separation of powers. To assure that government operated by consent, they provided that those responsible for making laws would be held accountable through elections. Moreover, legislative, executive and judicial power would be separated so those who made the laws were not in charge of executing and applying them.
Our modern administrative state violates these principles. That also is by design, courtesy of the progressives - the original architects of the administrative state. Progressives such as Woodrow Wilson disdained the idea of government "by the people" and sought to replace it with government by the experts. Wilson complained of America's "besetting error of ... trying to do too much by vote." "Self-government does not consist in having a hand in everything," he argued.
Postell argues, in brief, that conservatives need to do a better job explaining to the public the evils of the administrative state and develop a roadmap for restoring representative government and separation of powers, rightly understood.
"The question is not necessarily how to make government smaller," Postell writes, "but how to get it back under popular control and accountability."
(Hat tip: Julie Ponzi at No Left Turns.)
(Cross-posted at Freedom Pub.)
I have an op-ed in Investor's Business Daily on Thursday making the case for tenure reform and merit pay. I argue that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's veto of a sweeping and ambitious tenure reform bill in the Sunshine State two week's ago has national implications. But so does the bill currently being debated in Colorado.
I also suggest that tenure reform alone isn't enough. You need real choice and competition if you want lasting reform.
Greg Sargent reports that Democrats are amassing "bipartisan support" for legislation aimed at limiting the Supreme Court's small but vital affirmation of free speech in Citizen's United v. FEC. "The bill that Dems are planning will have more bipartisan support than expected, a Dem leadership aide confirms," Sargent writes at the Plum Line.
How much more support? "[A] Dem leadership aide says it will be introduced tomorrow with at least one more GOP sponsor in addition to Mike Castle, though the aide wouldn’t reveal who. This will allow Dems to push back by pointing out that the measure has GOP support." So at least two moderate-to-liberal Republicans will sign on. That's nice.
And what would this bill do? "The legislation seeks to increase transparency and disclosure of political spending, including provisions forcing heads of organizations spending big money on elections to reveal their personal involvement," Sargent writes. "It also seeks to prevent foreign money from influencing elections, and ensures that recipients of Federal money — contractors, TARP recipients — can’t spend cash in elections."
Foreigners are already barred from contributing to U.S. elections, not that they don't try. Prohibiting recipients of taxpayer largesse from spending on elections has visceral appeal, especially where I'm sitting.
An earlier New York Times story notes that Democrats are indeed pushing for more disclosure: "One provision would require the chief executive of any company or group that is the main backer of a campaign advertisement to personally appear in television and radio spots to acknowledge the sponsorship, the officials said." Sounds like fun.
Disclosure is controversial, of course. I tend to favor more disclosure rather than less in conjunction with fewer limits on who can give what to whom. Politics is a public business, after all. Here's what I wrote in the Scripps-Howard column in September:
The cure for campaign finance reform is fewer rules, not more. There should be little or no restriction on money in politics. There should be no limits on what a candidate can raise and spend. Political parties, corporations, unions... let them all in. The only exception should be for foreign contributions.
Transparency and instant Internet disclosure make most of the old objections and warnings about quid pro quo corruption irrelevant. If a political candidate receives the financial aid of large corporations, and public knows about it, then the question of undue influence falls to the voters to resolve. As it should be.
I realize, of course, there are strong arguments against more government-mandated disclosure rules. As Bradley Smith, the former federal elections commissioner, argued recently in City Journal: "Disclosure has resulted in government-enabled invasions of privacy—and sometimes outright harassment—and it has added to a political climate in which candidates are judged by their funders rather than their ideas." Justice Thomas dissented from part of the majority in Citizens United on that very basis.
We'll see what other odious provisions appear in the new legislation. I'm sure there will be plenty of nasty surprises. Congress has a rather elastic reading of the First Amendment. It says "make no law," ladies and gentlemen. "Make NO law."
(Cross-posted at Freedom Pub.)
After a hiatus, the podcast returns at the tail-end of tax season and tea party mania. Ben Boychuk and Robb Leatherwood last month interviewed John O'Hara, author of A New American Tea Party: The Counterrevolution Against Bailouts, Handouts, Reckless Spending, and More Taxes. We very much wanted to post this sooner, but paying work got in the way. Our apologies to O'Hara, who gave a great interview here.
Among the questions we explore:
• Who's running these tea parties?
• Are the tea parties really creatures of the Republican Party?
• Is there a coherent tea party platform?
• Aren't tea parties really just astroturf?
• Can the tea party movement move beyond street protests to shape political reform?
Music heard in this podcast:
• "Anarchy X," Queensryche
• "Gun Battle," (From the "Billy the Kid" Ballet Suite), Aaron Copland/London Symphony Orchestra
• "New Avengers-Raw Deal Mix," Snowboy
• "Tax Free," Jimi Hendrix
• "Traitors (Verräter)," Peter Thomas
• "Always Tomorrow," The Shazam
• "Eyes of a Stranger," Queensryche
My friend and colleague, Zack Christenson, has produced a great video for The Heartland Institute about the Tea Party movement. Not only is it packed with historical references, it's also very well-produced.
Mike Fumento recounts what happened on Good Friday in 1992, when he, his then-girlfriend Mary, and his brand new Toyota MR2 took a fateful drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. He writes:
When it comes to any report of miracles, I’m highly skeptical. The vast majority can be debunked in an average of two minutes and 37 seconds. And I’m sorry, but I’ve heard too many stories about Jesus appearing on a taco shell and thousands of the faithful lining up for a peek. I’ve also known too many famous miracles that have been debunked. But it must be admitted that the ones most likely to be real are the ones you never hear about — the ones that don’t lead to best-selling books or inspire tourist centers that sell plastic figurines of the saints.
It's a powerful, astonishing story. By all means, read the whole thing.
I'm not a Catholic, but I can't help be fascinated (and horrified) by the unfolding sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. I don't really know how much Pope Benedict is directly responsible for allowing horrific situations to continue and how much the self-protecting bureaucracy of the church -- like any bureaucracy -- is to blame. I strongly suspect that any of the former has its roots in the latter.
That said, I appreciate what Peggy Noonan has to say about the matter in today's Wall Street Journal:
In both the U.S. and Europe, the scandal was dug up and made famous by the press. This has aroused resentment among church leaders, who this week accused journalists of spreading "gossip," of going into "attack mode" and showing "bias."
But this is not true, or to the degree it is true, it is irrelevant. All sorts of people have all sorts of motives, but the fact is that the press—the journalistic establishment in the U.S. and Europe—has been the best friend of the Catholic Church on this issue. Let me repeat that: The press has been the best friend of the Catholic Church on the scandals because it exposed the story and made the church face it. The press forced the church to admit, confront and attempt to redress what had happened. The press forced them to confess. The press forced the church to change the old regime and begin to come to terms with the abusers. The church shouldn't be saying j'accuse but thank you.
This seems exactly right to me. But watching from the outside, it has appeared to me that the response of the Church has been largely to A) lash out at the "bias" of journalists who have uncovered the story and B) defend the Church by noting that other sectors of society have also had problems dealing with child abuse. As though the Church shouldn't be held to a higher standard. I'm reminded of a saying about removing the log from your own eye before telling your brother to remove the speck from his. Who said that again?
At its best (which isn't always) the Church has offered a powerful moral example even for those of us who do not share in its communion. I suspect it can retain that moral authority only if it follows Noonan's advice -- and its own teachings -- and offer up a full, real confession accompanied by appropriate penance. Such activities, I understand, usually take place in private. The Church doesn't have that luxury.
Joel's computer has been a bit balky today — lots of mysterious viruses, strange things showing up on his screen, and whatnot — but he urged me to relate this big news to the Monkey Community. In fact, it's big news for the both of us. Joel was hesitant to post this himself, but I think it's too important to keep secret anymore.
I repeat Joel's proposed announcement verbatim — that he emailed to me earlier today — whether he likes it, or not:
As many of us have heard, Dr. Zaius will soon be leaving the sunny hills of Southern California to be Communications Director of The Heartland Institute in Chicago. And, out of the goodness of his heart, Jim has agreed that this jobless bloke could use a "hand up." So, beginning in July, I will take my place at the Good Doc's right hand, as Assistant Communications Director of the free-market, libertarian think tank.
The job requires that I leave behind the political viewpoints I have long defended around here, but desperate times require desperate measures. And since Jim had long assured me that many libertarian Heartlanders were against the War in Iraq and Bush's power-grab in the War on Terror, I should be a pretty decent fit.
So, goodbye liberalism! Nice knowin' ya. But duty to family, my career — and a nice paycheck — calls.
P.S. That means you're on your own, Khabalox. Sorry.
I'm sure we all would like to congratulate Joel. But let me be the first to do it here at Infinite Monkeys.
(The official announcement, is here.)
Although I mailed back the form a couple of weeks ago, today is technically Census Day. Stories about low response rates might have been premature, especially if people read the form literally and waited until today before actually filling it out. But I somehow doubt it.
I've been half-listening to talk radio this afternoon. Michael Medved spent about an hour taking calls from people who refuse to answer the form. There is a word for these people (and if you are one of them, I do not apologize for this): Morons.
Listen, conservatives. The census is in the Constitution. It's an original duty of citizenship. Either you're a constitutionalist, or you aren't. This isn't a game.
There is a political angle to the Census, too. Never mind those insulting ads about making sure everyone gets their goodies. Conservatives who resist filling out the form are helping Democrats gerrymander congressional districts in their favor for the next decade. As Ed Morrissey points out:
I’m always a little suspicious of questionnaires on ethnicity, but the Census has a Constitutional mandate — and it has far-reaching consequences. People in states where conservatives outstrip liberals could be committing political suicide if a boycott effort results in shortchanging those states in Congressional representation to the benefit of states like California, New York, Washington, and Massachusetts. It seems better to ensure that an accurate count gets taken by a concerted effort to count conservatives than the results a boycott or a “slowcott” would produce.
Fill the damned thing out, as the Constitution requires, or be content to languish in the minority for years to come. Your call.
I expect this essay in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal will have people animated. Here's the crux:
A historic figure making history, this is emerging as an over-arching theme—if not obsession—in the Obama presidency. In Iowa, a day after signing health care into law, he put himself into competition with history. If history shapes men, "We still have the power to shape history." But this adds up to one thing: He is likely to be the most liberal president in American history. And, oddly, he may be a more effective liberal precisely because his liberalism is something he uses more than he believes in. As the far left constantly reminds us, he is not really a true believer. Rather liberalism is his ticket to grandiosity and to historical significance.
Of the two great societal goals—freedom and "the good"—freedom requires a conservatism, a discipline of principles over the good, limited government, and so on. No way to grandiosity here. But today's liberalism is focused on "the good" more than on freedom. And ideas of "the good" are often a license to transgress democratic principles in order to reach social justice or to achieve more equality or to lessen suffering. The great political advantage of modern liberalism is its offer of license on the one hand and moral innocence—if not superiority—on the other. Liberalism lets you force people to buy health insurance and feel morally superior as you do it. Power and innocence at the same time.
It's not just about Obama, then. It's about what Obama's America will look like after the man is out of office. Is freedom really in tension with the "good" society? Or is this a narrow understanding of what is "good" and just?
The title of this series is a work-in-progress. Perhaps intended consequences is better. Or predicted consequences. We might have to work on that, because President Obama and Congress are quickly proving to be either charlatans or fools (and it's just as likely they are both.)
As I noted here Wednesday, the negative reaction of the private sector to the schemes of the America's new health care central planners did not take long to materialize. In fact, reacting to Verizon's notice to employees that the regulatory and tax burdens of ObamaCare will result in a decrease in benefits due to increased corporate costs, I wrote:
[This] story will be repeated thousands of times in the coming months.
"Months" is turning out to be a slow-walk prediction. According to Bloomberg News, AT&T "will book $1 billion in first-quarter costs related to the health-care law signed this week by President Barack Obama."
American industry giants John Deere ($150 million), Caterpillar Inc. ($100 million), AK Steel Holding Corp. ($31 million), Valero Energy (up to $20 million), and 3M Co.($90 million) have also come out with their legally mandated earnings and costs estimates, and they ain't pretty. Overall, consulting firm Towers Watson estimates health-care costs may shave as much as $14 billion from U.S. corporate profits. Based only on AT&T's estimate — and the fact that corporations try to give the sunniest "negative" numbers legally possible to stockholders and the Securities Exchange Commission — I'm guessing Towers Watson will be upping that estimate down the line.
Why all the gloom and doom? Well, the corporate tax increases are one reason. Another, especially for Verizon and AT&T, is that the tax break those corporations got for crafting their own prescription drug plans for retirees was immediately eliminated in ObamaCare. So, without that tax break to the eeeeeviiiil corporations, they'll have to dump those folks into the inferior government-backed Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. Multiply those actions by AT&T and Verizon by thousands and we'll get a "donut hole" blown through the rigged and sunny CBO ObamaCare cost projections. Why?
The Employee Benefit Research Institute notes that the tax break would have "cost" taxpayers $665 per person next year, but dumping them into Medicare will cost $1,209 per person. Nice going. This is what happens when you don't read the bill, or — more to the point — don't care what's in it as long as it centralizes government power.
This was all predicted by ObamaCare opponents, such as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — most prominently at Obama's ballyhooed "Health Care Summit" a while back. Ryan said the cost curve would not bend downward, but upward. Obama blew him off. Reality now laughs in the president's face, and it's not at all funny.
But now Congressional Democrats are childishly stamping their feet. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has fired off a nasty letter to those companies. He's demanding they appear before his committee on April 21 to answer for answering to fiscal reality. The legal obligation of these companies to immediately and publicly estimate the fiscal impact of new legislation, Waxman says, "appears to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs."
"The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers from leading U.S. companies, asserted in November 2009 that health care reform could reduce predicted health insurance cost trends for businesses by more than $3,000 per employee over the next 10 years," Waxman wrote.
That's the thing about "independent analyses." They are hard to control. As Bruce McQuain notes at the libertarian Q&O blog:
You’ve got to love it – Waxman’s strongest case is an association comprised of some CEOs who “asserted” – got that? “asserted” – that health care reform “could” – again, “could” – reduce cost trends.
In other words, instead of actually doing the work of checking with authoratative sources that could have actually run the numbers and vetted the requirements of the law, he, Waxman, went with the assertions of a bunch of CEOs because they said what he wanted them to say. Reminds you a bit of the IPCC, doesn’t it?
Actually, it reminds me of government bullying — the kind the left decries as McCarthyism. Waxman is going to haul these CEOs before his committee and berate them for telling the fiduciary truth they are required by law to tell. He'll be, in essence, bullying them to lie about what the real-world impacts of ObamaCare will be on American companies — and, naturally, the Americans who work for those companies ... otherwise known as us.
What Waxman will actually be doing, however, is highlighting the kind of fraudulent and fantastical accounting that only government can get away with. How dare these corporations defy the word of Obama and Pelosi and Reid and Waxman that the laws of economics are what the government says they are! If we say ObamaCare will reduce costs, they will. THEY WILL!!!! Who are you to say different?! And I'm going to use the power of government to set you straight.
Awesome. This is today's America: The private sector dragged before Congress and berated to agree they believe in the Tooth Fairy.
I'd love one of those CEOs to ask Waxman what color is the unicorn he rides to work each day. I'll settle for: "Have you no sense of decency, sir."
This week's RedBlueAmerica column for Scripps-Howard delves into the question we've argued here at great length. (For the record, I don't particularly care for the headline, but neither Joel nor I have the last word on those matters.)
Here's Joel's take, in brief:
Many conservatives are no doubt sincere, if a bit hysterical, when they warn that the health reform law impedes the liberty of Americans. But they're working from a curiously abstract notion of "freedom." They believe that a larger government inevitably leads to a less-free citizenry -- and they can, in many cases, be correct. The new law, however, will liberate millions of Americans from the threat of illness and bankruptcy that makes them less able to escape debt, leave bad jobs or start new businesses.
If the Congress can command Americans to buy health insurance -- making insurance a condition of citizenship, equivalent to registering for Selective Service -- then there is nothing the government cannot command or restrict. Whatever one thinks of the draft, which the United States ended four decades ago, at least national defense is a clear, enumerated constitutional duty of government. Providing access to health care is not.
The bill Congress passed and President Obama signed on March 23 undercuts Americans' freedoms in other ways, both overt and insidious.
Turns out, this is a running theme among the commentariat this week.
Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times:
In September, Obama got into a semantic argument with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who noted that requiring all Americans to pay premiums for a government-guaranteed service sounds an awful lot like a tax. "No. That's not true, George," Obama said. "For us to say that you've got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it's saying is . . . that we're not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you." Stephanopoulos invoked a dictionary definition of a tax: "a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes." Obama laughed off the idea that a dictionary might outrank him as the final arbiter of a word's meaning.
"George, the fact that you looked up . . . the definition of tax increase indicates to me that you're stretching a little bit right now. Otherwise, you wouldn't have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition."
OK, put aside your dictionaries. The legislation allocates $10 billion to pay for 16,500 IRS agents who will collect and enforce mandatory "premiums." Does that sound like the private sector at work to you?
David Harsanyi in the Denver Post:
Surely it is inarguable that the debate over a national mandate epitomizes the central ideological divide in the country today.
In broad terms, there is one side that believes liberty can be subverted for the collective good because government often makes more efficient and more moral choices.
Then there is the other side, which believes that people who believe such twaddle are seditious pinkos.
And judging from nearly every poll, the majority of Americans disapprove of President Barack Obama and his defining legislation. Whether they understand the mugging of freedoms in legal terms or in intellectual terms or only in intuitive ones doesn't matter.
Richard M. Esenberg, professor of law at Marquette University, explained the consequences of Obamacare like this: "If Congress can require you to buy health insurance because of the ways in which your uncovered existence (affects) interstate commerce or because it can tax you in an effort to force you to do (any) old thing it wants you to, it is hard to see what -- save some other constitutional restriction -- it cannot require you to do -- or prohibit you from doing."
Andrew Busch at the Ashbrook Center:
The leftist infatuation with Ben Franklin is abruptly over. Franklin’s warning that "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security"—quoted incessantly during the war on terror, back when there was one—has been conveniently forgotten. Apparently, the security of the nation against foreign attack is not sufficient reason to forego the "essential liberty" of affording habeas corpus to paramilitary forces engaged in war against the United States, but to degrade the liberty of the whole people, which is assaulted in a myriad of ways by Obamacare, is acceptable (even commendable) when the prize is the security of government-subsidized band-aids for people with incomes four times the poverty level.
Suffice to say, I'm pessimistic.
"King of the World" director James Cameron is holding a grudge over Glenn Beck making a joke about him when Beck had a show over on the unwatched CNN Headline News network three years ago. Beck said the man who foisted "Titanic" on the world — especially Celine Dion's awful "My Heart Will Go On" upon the culture — must be at least in the running for election to become the Anti-Christ.
It was a joke. Did I mention it was three years ago?
But, apparently, a mantle full of Oscars and a few billion dollars worth of box office receipts can't heal the wounds Beck inflicted — in jest. Cameron unleashed a profanity-laced tirade Tuesday against Beck, and even The Hollywood Reporter is too dense, biased, or lazy to correctly place the easily discerned reason for Beck's "offensive" quote. Hint: It has nothing to do with Cameron's 2007 documentary, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," which (1) no one has heard of, (2) didn't air until March of 2007, and (3) aired after Beck's comments of February 26, 2007.
We'll let the rest of the story be filled in by Beck's reaction to the flap on his show Wednesday night:
Why is James Cameron so certain he'd come out on top in a gunfight against a "global warming denier?" I think maybe he has been seen too many movies and thinks of himself as Gary Cooper.
The Obama administration has set back relations with Israel to perhaps its lowest point in decades. Go to Commentary's Contentions blog, read for 30 minutes, hit "Previous Entries," repeat as necessary, and Google some other stuff for details. (This is an Instamonkey post. Get your own damned backstory! But I need to provide just a bit ...)
Jackson Diehl at The Washington Post describes the Obama policy towards Israel as appearing "ideological" and "vindictive." Proof: Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has had to bascially sneak in and out of town for meetings with the president. No joint press conference. No public, quickie sit-down in front of the Oval Office fireplace, as is the minimal standard for other world leaders calling on the White House. No post-meeting statement. Even news photographers were banned. If we get any images at all (unlikely), they'll be ones taken by White House staff.
Jackson is not happy, and in his must-read piece, I was taken aback by this bit:
Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arms length.
At this point, I think the leader of America's most vital ally in the Middle East wishes he could get Obama's brand of "arms length" treatment toward a Third World dictator who is not "needed for strategic reasons."
Isn't there just something wrong with the fact that Obama has no qualms about yukking it up with the likes of Chavez, but doesn't seem to have time to display even routine public respect and decorum with allies like Israel and Great Britain? As Diehl says: "That is something the rest of the world will be quick to notice and respond to."
And not favorably toward America's interests.
Richard Adams makes a very good point at NoLeftTurns:
Every bill has unintended consequences. That does not mean one can't predict what that are likely to be, if one pays attention. People don't like being told what to do, and will, if possible try to find ways to avoid laws.
He goes on to suggest what one such predictable consequence might be. Who says nationalizing health care won't be good for the economy? It just depends on what sector of the economy you're talking about...
My boss Sam Karnick, from his perch at The American Culture, examines the cultural implications of health care reform. They aren't pretty:
(A) public without a strong understanding of what individual freedom really means and the reasons why it is precious has little defense against the ever-increasing encroachments of government—until something as obviously grotesque, wrongheaded, and overweening as this health care bill comes along.
That’s what makes this fundamentally an issue of culture, and it’s why those stubborn souls who persist in believing in individual rights must engage the culture, especially by wresting control of the public schools from the hands of the progressive myrmidons who have debauched it.
...(I)t’s clear that the real concern was that the option of personal choice was being taken away from individual citizens in this vital area of life. The power to control people’s health care, in addition to the hegemony over the one-sixth of the economy which it represents, conveys to the government an enormous amount of control over individual lives, a level of control surely unprecedented in this nation.
This is not regulation; it is rule. And the public finally realized that the current government does not intend to be gentle in its rule.
I don't really have much to add, except to say that the health care reform debate casts in stark relief, perhaps more than most people would like to admit, how there really are two Americas -- one that believes in the relative benevolence of the state and one that believes in its relative malevolence. One needn't be an anarchist to hold the view that the size of the state is inversely proportional to the size of the citizen. Bigger state, smaller citizens. Bigger machine, smaller cogs.
The legal challenges to ObamaCare are sure to come, on many grounds. It is not wise for opponents of this monstrous usurpation of liberty to get their hopes up — though I find it interesting that the list of state Attorneys General lining up to challenge the mandate to purchase health insurance continues to rise.
However, Ed Morrissey over at HotAir has unearthed an interesting memo that the sacrosanct Congressional Budget Office issued in 1994, the last time government-run health care was a hot political topic:
A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States. An individual mandate would have two features that, in combination, would make it unique. First, it would impose a duty on individuals as members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would be heavily regulated by the federal government.
Federal mandates typically apply to people as parties to economic transactions, rather than as members of society. For example, the section of the Americans with Disabilities Act that requires restaurants to make their facilities accessible to persons with disabilities applies to people who own restaurants. The Federal Labor Standards Act prohibits employers from paying less than the federal minimum wage. This prohibition pertains to individuals who employ others. Federal environmental statutes and regulations that require firms to meet pollution control standards and use specific technologies apply to companies that engage in specific lines of business or use particular production processes. Federal mandates that apply to individuals as members of society are extremely rare. One example is the requirement that draft-age men register with the Selective Service System. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is not aware of any others imposed by current federal law.
Note the CBO said a mandate on conditions of citizenship, such as what ObamaCare would impose, are "extremely rare," not unprecedented. Yet other than Selective Service registration, the CBO cites no other examples. If they are so rare, one would also think them memorable, and perhaps another example or two would have come up in the evaluation. Interesting. And, of course, one difference between the Selective Service registration and the forced purchase of health insurance is that the former is cost-free.
Yes, I've anticipated the argument that American citizens are forced to pay income taxes — with the targets of the tax and the amount dictated by ever-changing statute. And I'm sure that will be a counter-argument we'll hear in court from ObamaCare defenders. But one may note that the income tax itself was not instituted by mere statute, but by a constitutional amendment. So the people, in a manner enormously more difficult than the way ObamaCare was rammed through, approvingly validated the income tax by making submission to the tax a constitutional requirement of citizenship.
Alas, that was a different time, when even the progressives understood that epochal proposals remaking America and the relationship between the citizen and the state required overwhelming public validation. Today's progressives are of a different breed.
(HT: Daniel Foster)
Ken Thomas at No Left Turns offers some words of admonishment -- followed by encouragement -- to conservatives angry about Sunday's health care vote:
Impeach Obama for signing an executive order he knows is unconstitutional? What about Bush signing McCain-Feingold into law, while saying he believed it unconstitutional? Republicans need to convince themselves about the Constitution before they can preach it to others.
Republicans will find it easy to demagogue health care when it becomes clear that conservatives' warnings about the costs to Americans' freedom and the nation's fisc were not overblown after all. But the easy way isn't always the right way.
Breitbart TV has posted a helpful video outlining a promise Obama made about his health care plan no fewer than 20 times. And it's quite the specific promise: "We're going to work with your employer to lower your premiums by $2,500 per family, per year."
I don't know what's more ridiculous/frustrating: (1) the idea that Obama believes it's the role of government to "work with your employer" on bringing down the cost of the health insurance plan your boss chose from countless plans; (2) the idea Obama can figure out a way to bring costs down by such a specific amount; or (3) the people who voted for him believe the government should do this and/or it is possible.
Mark Steyn laughs to keep from crying:
Longer wait times, fewer doctors, more bureaucracy, massive IRS expansion, explosive debt, the end of the Pax Americana, and global Armageddon. Must try to look on the bright side . . .
Well, I mean, I assume he was laughing when he wrote that.
Update: Really? Really?
Crooks and Liars explains the "10 Immediate Benefits of (Health Care Reform)." Here's the first: "Adult children may remain as dependents on their parents’ policy until their 27th birthday."
Kill yourselves. Seriously. Just kill yourselves, you miserable parasites.
And, by the way, that C&L post lists only nine benefits... well, 10 if you're especially naive. I assume that's federal math.
Robinson Jeffers (1941)
I know, I know: Who cares about the Constitution when millions of people don't have health insurance? After all, as George W. Bush said, "When someone is hurting, government must move." And we all know what Bush thought about the Constitution.
Yes, well, be that as it may, a few of us still hold some regard for the Constitution as written. Perhaps a few judges do, too. Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett writes in Sunday's Washington Post about some of the constitutional problems with health care reform, and notes possible remedies.
On the "Individual Mandate" and the Commerce Clause:
The individual mandate extends the commerce clause's power beyond economic activity, to economic inactivity. That is unprecedented. While Congress has used its taxing power to fund Social Security and Medicare, never before has it used its commerce power to mandate that an individual person engage in an economic transaction with a private company. Regulating the auto industry or paying "cash for clunkers" is one thing; making everyone buy a Chevy is quite another. Even during World War II, the federal government did not mandate that individual citizens purchase war bonds.
On the the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, Gator Aid and other legislative horse-trades:
Congress can always argue that, say, an Air Force base in Nebraska benefits the United States as a whole. But the deals in the Senate bill are different. It is really hard to identify a benefit to all the states from exempting one state from an increase in Medicare costs or allowing only the citizens of Florida to get Medicare Advantage.
On the defunct 'Slaughter House rule':
The whole purpose of the "deem and pass" procedure -- which was advocated by Rules Committee Chairman Louise Slaughter -- was to avoid a separate vote on the Senate bill, which many House members find objectionable, and instead vote on the reconciliation bill and simultaneously "deem" the Senate measure passed. Although Democrats cited prior examples of deem and pass, "the Republicans did it" is not a recognized constitutional argument -- especially if the public and the justices have never heard of such a thing. This constitutional objection seems to have succeeded, as House leaders decided on Saturday to take a separate vote on the Senate version, rather than "deeming" it passed.
On 10th Amendment objections:
Under the 10th Amendment, if Congress enacts a law pursuant to one of the "powers . . . delegated to the United States by the Constitution," then that law is supreme, and nothing a state can do changes this. Any state power to "nullify" unconstitutional federal laws has long been rejected.
On constitutional amendments:
Ultimately, there are three ways to think about whether a law is constitutional: Does it conflict with what the Constitution says? Does it conflict with what the Supreme Court has said? Will five justices accept a particular argument? Although the first three of the potential constitutional challenges to health-care reform have a sound basis in the text of the Constitution, and no Supreme Court precedents clearly bar their success, the smart money says there won't be five votes to thwart the popular will to enact comprehensive health insurance reform.
But what if five justices think the legislation was carried bleeding across the finish line on a party-line vote over widespread bipartisan opposition? What if control of one or both houses of Congress flips parties while lawsuits are pending? Then there might just be five votes against regulating inactivity by compelling citizens to enter into a contract with a private company. This legislation won't go into effect tomorrow. In the interim, it is far more vulnerable than if some citizens had already started to rely upon its benefits.
Barnett suggests there is a clear, if unexpected, Supreme Court precedent here. Read the piece to find out what it is.
Update (Monday, March 22): Barnett participated in an online Q&A at the Washington Post today. Here's the transcript. He elaborates on several points in Sunday's piece, and makes several important observations. Of particular note is this exchange, given news today that at least 11 states are preparing legal challenges to the law:
Princeton, N.J.: A Professor Jost of Washington and Lee Law School was on C-SPAN this morning. He claims the states have no standing in this issue. He also says that since the individual mandate does not go into effect for 4 years, nobody has any standing until then.
He also said that the interpretation of the commerce clause has been so broad that any case likely to be thrown out. He gave many examples; the one I thought was striking was the partial birth abortion ban relying on the commerce clause.
Randy Barnett: Professor Jost has a very broad reading of federal power! I am not a big expert on "standing," but agree that states may not have standing to contest the individual mandate. They could contest the Cornhusker Kickback, etc. I also think that once the bill is signed any person who will be subject to its mandate could bring an immediate "facial challenge," but I could be wrong about this. As for why previous cases do not justify this extension, I may be able to explain this more as discussion proceeds.
Also: For more on why Barnett argues the individual insurance mandate is unconstitutional, see this Heritage Foundation legal memorandum.
That's the headline the Boston Herald put on my op-ed, which casts a cold eye on the recent mass-firings at a Rhode Island high school:
It’s true that some schools are so hopeless and the teachers so inept that mass firings and shutdowns are the only solution. But isn’t that for local authorities to decide?
Firing every teacher from a struggling Rhode Island high school is a spectacular display of what passes for accountability in education these days. But the controversial decision by a New England school superintendent has more to do with buckling under unforgiving federal mandates than bucking the status quo and boldly asserting local control.
Kindly read the whole thing.
It's almost getting tiresome to me, this picking on Peggy Noonan for her naivete concerning Barack Obama. Almost. She's coming around to the truth of Obama's hard leftism and the phoniness of his HopeyChange campaign rhetoric slower than my quest to lose that extra 20 pounds I've been carrying around for five years. At some point, I expect Noonan's BS meter to finally redline, and read a column in which her great talents are righteously unleashed on Obama. But no matter The One's transgression, so far, Noonan never takes on the persona of a woman scorned. And scorned she has been.
Alas, much of the right side of the blogosphere that still cares about Noonan's work has been aflutter about this week's column, titled "Now for the Slaughter." One would think such a headline means Hell fire follows. Alas, all we get the flicking of a Bic. Noonan begins by accusing the Obama administration of being "bush league" (small "b") for blowing off a trip to Australia and Indonesia so the president can stay in town to
shepherd through bribe and threaten for passage his health care debacle. After Gibbs made the announcement this week ...
The reporters didn't even provoke or needle in their questions. They seemed hushed. They looked like people who were absorbing the information that we all seem to be absorbing, which is that the wheels seem to be coming off this thing, the administration is wobbling — so early, so painfully and dangerously soon.
Nice of you to notice, Peggy. You noticed that this week? It's not like Obama's approval ratings went south from its great heights just yesterday. And this is your first observation that the press has been merely "absorbing" information from the administration, rather than reporting and questioning? Oh, well. Many of us "absorbed" the wheels coming off this administration for some time. At least Peggy was cogent enough to recognize that Bret Baier's interview with Obama the other night was the exception to the rule of reverential press treatment of our president.
It revealed [Obama's] primary weakness in speaking of health care, which is a tendency to dodge, obfuscate and mislead. He grows testy when challenged. It revealed what the president doesn't want revealed, which is that he doesn't want to reveal much about his plan. This furtiveness is not helpful in a time of high public anxiety.
No kidding. Welcome to the reality based community, which has noticed Obama's tendency to dodge since the campaign days. Noonan was amazed that the excellent Baier, who would not be bullied or filibustered, pressed Obama to concede "that no, he doesn't know what's in the bill right now."
It is still amazing that one year into the debate this could be true.
Really. Really? Has Noonan even read her own newspaper's editorial pages in the last two months? Or even in the last week? Obama has never cared what's actually in the health care bill. That's why for all his talk in the Baier interview of the Congress voting on "his" bill, it's never been his bill. It's been Harry Reid's bill. It's been Nancy Pelosi's bill. It's been the bill of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. All that matters is that the government becomes Master and Commander over 1/6th of the U.S. economy. The rest is merely details down the line — the kind of details that exact how, not why, politicians and bureaucrats exercise the power that comes with this take-over.
Noonan notes that "throughout, Mr. Baier pressed the president."
Author Susan Jacoby, a lively agnostic whose books The Age of American Unreason and Freethinkers are worth engaging even if you're inclined to disagree, offers some rather ill-considered ideas for reforming America's schools in the New York Times.
Jacoby begins with the oft-heard lament that American kids are mediocre in math and science compared to their peers in other countries. She takes a poke at President Obama's proposed overhaul of No Child Left Behind and serves up a heaping ladle of scorn for the Texas State Board of Education. "Each of these seemingly unrelated developments," Jacoby writes, "is part of a crazy quilt created by one of America’s most cherished and unexamined traditions: local and state control of public education."
The idea that the American tradition local and state control of public education is "unexamined" should be the first of several clues that Jacoby is writing from terra incognita. But she sallies forth boldly, arguing her view:
Our lack of a national curriculum, national teacher training standards and federal financial support to attract smart young people to the teaching profession all contribute mightily to the mediocre-to-poor performance of American students, year in and year out, on international education assessments. So does a financing system that relies heavily on local property taxes and fails to guarantee students in, say, Kansas City the same level of schooling as students in more affluent communities.
It's funny she should mention Kansas City, which is an object lesson in how billions of federal court-ordered dollars simply could not buy an excellent education.
The new proposals being offered by the Obama administration will not significantly change a setup that combines the worst of both worlds: broad federally mandated goals and state manipulation of testing and curriculum. Nationwide testing is useless unless it is based on a curriculum consensus reached by genuine experts in the subjects being taught — yes, the dreaded “elites.” That is how public education is administered in nearly all industrialized nations throughout Europe and Asia, whose students regularly outperform Americans in reading comprehension, science and math.
Jacoby is at best half right. It's true that federally mandated curriculum standards are almost certain to fall prey to political pressures to dumb them down. But she omits a major reason why students in Asia and Europe perform so much better on international tests. It isn't merely that elites are administering the schools; the elites -- or, rather, their children -- are also taking the tests. Those other industrialized nations are fairly unapologetic about separating the intellectually gifted wheat from the more trade-oriented chaff. American schools are much more egalitarian and, therefore, much more mediocre.
Jacoby goes on to offer three tentative steps toward meaningful reform. Rather than answer them myself, I would encourage you to read Kevin Kosar, who thoroughly demolished Jacoby in a post earlier today. Writes Kosar:
The notion that our democratic republic is dependent upon government-operated schools is unproven. Walter Lippmann called out this claim 85 years ago; and reams of political science studies indicates that people seldom vote based on reason or deep knowledge of the issues. Before this country had public schools, it had private schools. When Adams and Jefferson lived, there were few public schools. Yet, the Republic endured. And, it is a fact that a disproportionate percentage of private school graduates end up taking leading roles in public affairs.
Here, an old saw seems appro—one is entitled to one’s own opinion, not one’s own facts. And it should go without saying that newspapers, especially influential ones, should not entrust important subjects to dilettantes.
I have a new op-ed in the Sacramento Bee arguing against the Common Core Standards Initiative, which sounds like a great idea until you realize that President Obama wants to use it as leverage to further centralize education policy.
Here's the gist:
The standards are billed as “voluntary,” but that’s a joke. The Obama administration has already announced plans to make $14 billion in federal Title I funds and another $15 billion in future Race to the Top grants contingent on states adopting the national standards. In short, the standards would be as “voluntary” reporting personal income to the IRS, regulating the drinking age, or maintaining the speed limit. Just try to opt out and see what happens.
The standards are also supposed to be “flexible,” but it’s difficult to see how. The draft reading and math requirements include detailed, year-by-year prescriptions for every child, regardless of ability. A student who struggles with reading, writing, or arithmetic would have an even tougher time keeping up, as teachers would face mounting pressure to cover all the material in federally sanctioned lesson plans.
Of course, that assumes the final standards won’t be homogenized and dumbed down to the point they would be considered “high standards” in name only. Judging by history, that’s probably a bad assumption.
One thing’s for sure: transforming common core standards into a common curriculum would turn an already contentious policy issue into a brawl as bruising and divisive as the fight over health care reform. Where health care is about our bodies, education is about our children’s minds.
Obviously, you should read the whole thing. (Try not to be scared off by the mugshot.)
And while you're at it, check out the new School Reform News Web site at the Heartland Institute. In the coming weeks, we'll be introducing daily content, and weekly interactive and multimedia features, including polls, videos and podcasts.
Update: Cato's Neal McCluskey writes at NRO:
All kids are different. They mature at different rates, have different interests, and face different obstacles. In light of this, it simply makes no sense to try to force them all to learn the same thing at the same pace. It’s something that most conservatives — who recognize the primacy of the individual — fully understand, yet Finn asserts that it’s liberals who oppose a single standard for all.
If that’s so, then why aren’t more liberals supporting widespread school choice — the key to ending special-interest control of education and enabling unique kids to find schools specializing in their needs — the way conservatives are? Oh, right: Because it’s typically liberals who love big, one-size-fits-all government solutions to problems fundamentally rooted in a lack of freedom.
The CCSSI standards might look great on paper. But federally extorted standardization? That’s something conservatives should never embrace.
Meantime, Julie Ponzi at No Left Turns picks up a thread that I think deserves elaboration in a separate piece:
A perceived problem for those advocating on behalf of keeping standards at the state level has been the rancorous and, in many ways, ridiculous fight over history standards in Texas that has produced, in the words of Boychuk, "a politically correct mishmash." Any objective observer of the outcome in Texas would have to concede that their "solution" has been less than wonderful. As Ben says in the comment section under his piece, "including the Declaration of Independence in the social studies standards while excluding Thomas Jefferson is... confusing." It is also stupid and deserving of all the mockery and derision it is getting--however wrong-headed and mean-spirited some of it may be. (One way to avoid being called a fool is to avoid doing foolish things!) But this result is in no way--as left-wing critics eager to score points against the "rubes" in red states might hope--an argument in favor of national standards. It is an argument AGAINST them. Why would we want to nationalize that fiasco of a fight in Texas? For that is exactly what would happen.
More on the Texas textbook controversy soon.
Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard is convinced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to resort to the "Slaughter Solution," which we've had quite the discussion about over on this thread. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, the smart and funny Republican from Michigan, dubbed this end-run around the Constitution the "Slaughter House Rules." I like that moniker.
Anyway, Kristol outlines several quotes from House Democratic leaders reflecting their current talking points about how the American people don't care about "process," and how all of this drama is about "inside baseball" that — in the words of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) — is only interesting to Inside-the-Beltway reporters. Kristol didn't take the time to mention what I think is one of the best dismissive and contemptuous quotes from the mouth of Pelosi. About the shenanigans going on, the Speaker said today of the Slaughter House Rules:
It's more insider-and process-oriented than most people want to know. But I like it because people don't have to vote on the Senate bill.
Yes. That's nice. The people's representatives not actually voting on a bill that will fundamentally transform Americans' relationship to their doctors, and their relationship with the government, is peachy in Pelosi's eyes. I think the Hosue Democrats, or at least their leadership, are delusional. And I think this stuff does matter to "ordinary" Americans, whom the Democrats apparently think are too stupid to understand that a fundamental trust in a consensual government is being violated here. Kristol agrees.
Here the Democrats betray their contempt for the supposed simple-mindedness and short-sightedness of the American public. They also convey their vision of the American people living under the big government liberalism: We are to be passive consumers of government action, who accept what is done for us and to us in light of our perceived narrow short-term self-interest. We are not to think of ourselves as self-governing citizens with a stake in the process of constitutional self-government and a concern for the good of the whole.
This may be the outcome — turning citizens into consumers, self-government into the nanny state — that the Democrats would like to achieve. I don't think it's one the American people wish to accept.
I don't think so, either. I think Americans' political sophistication will manifest itself in November with an historic political reckoning. Hell, the public's political sophistication is manifesting itself now. But, if this scurrilous procedure occurs, it will be probably be too late for the public to make substantive corrections.
Yet, if the future Republican majority has to resort to such tactics to repeal the totality of this disaster, I'll support it — just this once. Because it would be sweet justice.
(Please, dear readers, don't nit-pick me on this post about the history of "deeming" and other such Congressional procedures throughout history. We've gone over that in the previous post. There are enormous differences, not the least of which is the fact that stuff like raising the debt ceiling are "resolutions," not bills that our constitution stipulates are quite different.)