Date ►►► March 31, 2010
"Repeal and Replace" - Filling In the Outline
C.K. MacLeod of Zombie Contentions posted a fascinating discussion of the larger context of the fight against ObamaCare; his point is that we cannot win the argument to repeal ObamaCare until and unless we are prepared to argue exactly what should replace it:
As on other issues historically identified with the left, a reflexive rejection of progressive premises tends to impair any simultaneous argument for alternative solutions. This contradiction underlies tension between “Reformlicans” and “Repealicans” that will likely worsen over time. Most of us realize that “Repeal + Reform” is a much larger coalition than Repeal or Reform separately, but concessions that seem obviously rational to some, as validating aspects of the just-passed bill initially seemed to Senator John Cornyn, may leave others nonplussed. Conversely, forms of direct opposition -- such as unstinting criticism of Stupak, support for constitutional challenges, disputing the concept of health care as a “right” -- carry some risk of re-casting Republicans as “enemies of health care.” Even the persuasive argument that ObamaCare will overwhelm the system with new demand implies that millions of Americans are presently under-served on a matter of life and death, and calls into question the critic’s commitment to their welfare.
Jonathan Tobin, writing at Commentary in his Contentions blog (and quoted by Zombie Contentions) argues that the fight is not merely to overturn ObamaCare, or even the other specific manifestations of Obamunism such as Cap and Tax, Card Check, and bank seizures; rather, we must attack the entire leftist "narrative," the overarching philosophy of thuggish domestic imperialism (my phrase) that has animated government takeovers of society since the days of Otto von Bismark, creator of the modern welfare state and arguably the first European-style social democrat, in contradistinction to Socialism, Marxism, and the much later Naziism.
As Tobin puts it:
The challenge for conservatives is more than merely pointing out ObamaCare’s shortcomings, its enormous costs, and its impact on a huge American industry. The challenge is also more than demonstrating how the health care that ordinary Americans get -- and which the vast majority currently think is good -- will decline. Conservatives’ real job is to attack the liberal narrative. What they must point out is that, rather than the next inevitable step toward greater justice, Obama’s “reform” is, in fact, a move away from individual freedom and toward the same nanny welfare state that Americans thought they had put to rest. Rather than a progressive innovation, ObamaCare is a retrograde move that seeks to drag American politics and the economy back to the mistaken emphasis on government power of the mid-20th century. Like so much of the welfare economics and failed liberal policies of that era, ObamaCare has the potential to do far more harm than good. Policies that are driven merely by good intentions and a belief in expanding government power can help derail the engine of American wealth creation and freedom -- just as the devastating mistakes of “Great Society” liberalism did in the past.
The critique of these two gentlemen is vitally important; yet it tells us only the what and why, not the more important how: How do we craft a counter-narrative, an arc of fiscal liberty that resonates with the freedom-loving American people, yet clearly explains how sound government policy that encourages free-market thinking can nevertheless reduce the irreducible problems that many Americans see as inevitable under Capitalism.
I believe those "irreducible problems" are in reality category mistakes on the part of an electorate misschooled for decades by liberal educators; they believe that it's a failure on the part of Capitalism that some people go bankrupt, or lose their houses, or find themselves unable to pay for medical care after refusing to purchase medical insurance... whereas those are actually features, not bugs. Without the right to fail, there is no right to succeed; the nanny who protects you from your own stupid decisions also "protects" you from your own bold investment. Or as Dennis Prager puts it, "the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen."
But stated so starkly, that is not a winning argument, to say the least. Many people are frightened by the lack of a "safety net." So what are we to do?
Fortunately, Capitalism coupled with liberty is such a powerful engine of wealth creation that it can coexist with some degree of statism without harm; too much government control, however, will stifle creativity and innovation, causing the creation of wealth to sputter out, like a candle under airtight glass. Our challenge is to craft solutions to what most Americans see as problems that satisfy the following three conditions:
- Rely on free-market economics for the core resolution.
- Include some "safety-net" provisions to allay the fears of those Americans who do not have 100% confidence in their own ability to provide for their families in bad economic times.
- Design those provisions to be self-limiting, so that they cannot grow exponentially -- as leftist schemes like the New Deal, the Great Society, or Obamunism invariably do -- metastasize, and eventually overwhelm the capitalist core.
Free-market solutions to "market" failures, real and imagined
The first step is educational: The market cannot "fail;" the market is nothing but the conglomeration of all the transactions by all the buyers and sellers; it's like saying that the law of gravity failed because you caught hold of something before falling off a cliff.
But a "free market" can fail if freedom is curtailed by external force... i.e., by the government. The controlled or "fair market" that is left will be a grotesquely distorted caricature of a free market, without the ghostly power to guide buyer to seller by an invisible hand. The free market defines the standard: To the extent that government policy alters the natural outcome of a transaction, that policy has failed -- at least for the loser in that transaction; it has correspondingly succeeded wonderfully for the winner. (Watch Oskar Schindler in action in the opening minutes of Schindler's List for an excellent illustration of the principle.)
Let's step away from ObamaCare for a moment and talk about a different instance of the same dynamic. In the case of the housing collapse, the perverse government intervention driven by leftist activists like Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA, 100%) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT, 100%), and by groups like ACORN and Rainbow PUSH, caused a few people became undeserving winners -- those who "bought" houses they couldn't really afford, but were shielded by overly liberal, biased laws from suffering the consequences; some became deserved winners -- everyone who was in good financial shape and was able to profit and "move up" when housing prices dropped... along with those politicians who schemed to enact the laws in the first place, then took advantage of their political odor of "good deeds;" and a whole bunch of ordinary folks on the margin became deserved or undeserved losers in the resulting financial catastrophe.
(The words deserved and undeserved are shorn of their usual moral implications in this case; I mean only that "deserved" means the person consciously took actions that led to failure or success; "undeserved" means success or failure was largely the result of external forces beyond the individual's control.)
The collapse of the housing bubble was a classic illustration of how government manipulation, even with "good intentions," generally causes a market to spin wildly out of control... and "the best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men gang aft agley," as Bobby Burns wrote; the control economy is overtaken by events.
(Speaking of appropriate classical references -- that Burns poem, "To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up In Her Nest With the Plough," is all about a "wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie" who is evicted from her mousehole, despite all her careful planning, due to the unwelcome intervention of a large, unfeeling, external power beyond her control... to wit, a coulter or one of the blades of a plough.)
The lesson here is that any economic "reform" should hew as closely as possible to letting the market run its course; the collective decision of millions of intelligent people, each looking out for himself and his own, is almost always smarter than the brokered decision of a few weisenheimers in Washington. Thus on health care reform, we should restore a market that had already been terribly distorted by hamfisted government meddling long before Obama was elected:
Decouple insurance from employment, so that the connection between who gets the benefits of insurance and who pays for it is as close as possible. For example, the GOP plan could allow individuals to deduct insurance payments from their income for federal tax purposes, but not allow businesses to deduct as expenses any portion of an insurance policy they pay for their employees.
Since a business can deduct salary as an expense, that would encourage employers not to pay for insurance... but instead to put that money into higher wages, and let the employees pay their own insurance out of it.
- Dramatically reform tort law, particularly medical malpractice cases, to reduce lawsuit abuse.
- Remove all rules restricting cross-state sales of health insurance.
- Remove all "mandated" coverage and allow companies to offer any mix of policies they want, from bare-bones, minimalist catastrophic-care plus a medical savings account all the way up to a "Cadillac" plan, without any special government taxation or regulation to push insurers one way or another.
- Allow insurance companies to charge more for customers with pre-existing conditions, then use some less distorting means of getting insurance for those unfortunates. (See the "safety net" section below).
- Allow insurance companies to offer "group" health insurance based upon any set of customers they can imagine.
- Remove all barriers to entry by smaller, specialized insurance carriers, subject only to requiring them to maintain sufficient capital to pay off their caims -- or require the insurers to carry insurance for an unexpected spate of claims (like from a natural disaster).
Once the perverse incentives foisted upon the health-care system by do-gooder liberals and control-freak liberal fascists are repealed, many more insurance customers will pick the kind of plans that require them to pay their doctors directly for most routine procedures -- introducing a market incentive to be a more careful health-care shopper. Likewise, the reduced need for "defensive medicine" will reduce the number of unnecessary tests and procedures whose only purpose is to set up a legal defense to the inevitable lawsuit if anything goes wrong... even if the patient was properly informed of that risk.
Therefore, the price of medical care, hence insurance, will drop markedly. And with cheaper insurance, more people will buy it -- supply and demand. Finally, none of these solutions even begins to approach the horrific cost of ObamaCare, both in money siphoned off by the federal goverment (from Medicare, student loans, general tax collections, and from the states) and in liberty.
A market-friendly safety net for the market
On a recent broadcast of Dennis Prager's show, his guest, a female psychologist, opined that unless a woman first feels safe, she cannot feel loving. I reckon it's similar with ordinary, non-ideological Americans: Unless they first feel safe, they cannot feel self-reliant. As self-reliance is the distilled essence of Americanism, our policies must first reassure the people that they will not be abandoned beside the road when they get into trouble, especially when due to simple bad luck.
But by the reverse of the same coin, we cannot allow a "safety net" to take the place of the free market itself; a safety net does not generate weath, nor even save money. It is, by definition, a distortion on the market, hence a drag on the system.
But while the free market work wonderfully in aggregate, it can be very cruel to many people to whom Fate deals a bad hand. A good example is a person born with a congential heart defect: He didn't do anything foolish or wrong, but what insurer would want to write him a health-care policy?
Typically, with group policies, insurers will not cover medical problems related to a known pre-existing condition for some period of time, often six months to one year; thereafter, they will. The feds could encourage this across the industry by levying a very small tax on each policy (passed along to the consumer) that would pay to subsidize the increase in premiums demanded by insurers of those customers who have pre-existing conditions; the subsidy would not apply to pre-existing conditions that are caused by damaging or risky behavior, such as smoking or excessive drinking. All proceeds of this tax must, by the law, be spent on premium subsidies; that becomes important in the third section below.
Insurers have the option to offer policies to such people or not, and to charge what they will; but since the market of people with pre-existing conditions is large, and the premium would be partially covered by the feds, there will always be some insurers willing to offer that coverage. (My guess: Every major insurer would cover them, since the higher premiums take into account the increased risk; it would be a lucrative business.)
This is clearly a distortion of the market; but it's a minor perturbance for the vast majority, and it resolves what most Americans see as a serious problem... without any "mandate" to buy coverage or government control of insurance policies or medical treatment. (No rationing, no death panels.) This is sort of "market-friendly safety net" I mean.
Limited vs. self-limiting
Finally, the safety net features must be self-limiting: The government cannot be allowed to profit or benefit from increasing the premium tax; if they do, then the feds will raise rates every time they need to cut the deficit. Even worse is when such cancerous growth is built right into the system, as with Medicare and Social Security. Thus, the bill itself must include provisions requiring all premium taxes to be used only for subsidizing the medical insurance of those with pre-existing conditions.
(It's true that Congress could change the law to suck some of that money away; but they can already do that. This bill wouldn't make it any easier, and it might make it harder -- since individuals would actually be able to see their tax rise, making them more willing to vote out the crooks who raised it.)
ObamaCare has a number of enacted limits; but it also has huge incentives for future Congresses to remove or violate those limitations, restrictions, and consumer protections; because when they do, they will be able to keep far more of the money for themselvs.
We need a new approach where the "default" is the free market, not government control.
In the final analysis...
The Republican plan to replace ObamaCare must be a free-market "solution," not a competing version of big-government Obamunism; it must include a safety net... but a market-driven one not in opposition to, but in harmony with, the free market; and its elements must be self-limiting, at all times refusing and removing any way for the United States Treasury to get rich quick, at taxpayer expense, via health reform.
Date ►►► March 29, 2010
Virginia has passed a law exempting its citizens from the federal insurance mandate contained within the ObamaCare law as enacted; in addition, twelve other states, led by their attorneys general, have banded together to file a lawsuit, also seeking to overturn the insurance mandate.
Thus there is a nonzero probability that ObamaCare's most tyrannical element -- the federal "mandate" for everyone to buy government-approved health insurance -- will be struck down. We will find out in the fullness of time which camp is accurate, the one that predicts the Court will never intervene to strike down such a "big law" passed by Congress and signed by the president -- and the camp that says the Court will be forced to make a substantive ruling because the issue is so stark, so pregnant, and so egregious.
Simply put -- which is just what Rep. Michael Burgess, R-TX, 96%, did -- if the feds can pass a law ordering citizens to purchase specific goods from particular, government-approved, private companies, it would open the door to a horrible new form of covert control to benefit specific lobbyists and donors at taxpayer expense:
[I]f the mandate in the health care law requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or be penalized is upheld by the courts, the federal government could mandate anything, such as requiring all Americans to purchase a General Motors car.
The Washington Times rolls the ball a bit farther:
Both of the state lawsuits challenge the federal government's authority under the Commerce Clause, which grants Congress the power to regulate commerce among the states. The Florida case also cites a violation of the 10th Amendment, which reserves those powers not spelled out under the federal government in the Constitution to the state governments, and argues that the health care law's expansion of state Medicaid programs threatens state sovereignty.
Among the arguments against the law is that because it does not allow for purchasing insurance across state lines - the insurance exchanges are state-based - the buying of health insurance does not constitute interstate commerce. In addition, the plaintiffs say, not purchasing health insurance does not constitute an economic activity.
"Thus far in our history, it has never been held that the Commerce Clause, even when aided by the Necessary and Proper Clause, can be used to require citizens to buy goods or services," Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II argues in his state's lawsuit. "To depart from that history to permit the national government to require the purchase of goods or services would ... create powers indistinguishable from a general police power in total derogation of our constitutional scheme of enumerated powers."
The cases raise a profound question of constitutional balance: Should we interpret the Constitution in such a way as to ratify the Founders' principle of limited government? Or should we instead interpret it as the current administration prefers, even if that is to expand the scope of federal control tenfold, on grounds of judicial deference to the elected branches?
In other words, whether Congress is restricted only to those tasks listed in the enumeration clause (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8), all else being forbidden... or whether the only restrictions are those actions specifically prohibited by the Constitution and its amendments, and anything not mentioned is an unenumerated but protected power of Congress. Which is the default position when specific areas are not mentioned in the organic documents? The courts have gone round and round on this question.
The question is not only timely, it's also timeless. It determines whether we are citizens or subjects:
"The remarkable thing about an individual insurance purchase mandate is you are not being subject to a requirement by virtue of any economic activity you engage in -- you're not doing a damn thing; you just exist," [David B. Rivkin, jr., counsel for the state plaintiffs] said. "If this is upheld, then the federal government can do everything it wants subject only to the restrictions contained in the Bill of Rights."
That really is the question here. I'm not sure about the Burgess example of mandating that everybody in America buy a car manufactured by Government Motors; but can Congress pass and the Executive enforce a law mandating that every worker in the United States pay dues to a (government approved) union? That hypothetical seems perilously close to the mandate that forms the core of ObamaCare... and the more I think about it, the less "hypothetical" it seems.
But I'm very optimistic about this particular case -- at least once it reaches the Supremes. Don't count me in that rumba that thinks the Court will never find the mandate unconstitutional because that would "interfere" in the operation of another branch, which such pessimists say violates "judicial restraint."
In fact, it's the very belligerence and in-your-face arrogance of the Pelosi-Reid Democrats that gives me such hope. The Democrats made no effort to abate their tyrannical tendencies, giving them full vent instead -- dictatorial, partisan, raw, and very, very unpopular.
Given the nature of the current Court, this is probably the best moment to bring such a case before the Nine. We currently have four reliably conservative votes -- Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and of course the Chief Justice, John Roberts -- and one somewhat squishy justice, Anthony Kennedy; Kennedy is not a solid conservative, but neither is he a solid activist.
It's true that judicial restraint gives deference to the elected branches of the government; but the philosophy has never taught that such deference requires justices to bow to the legislature or the White House, even when there is a clear constitutional violation. For example, this very Court just struck down the D.C. gun-prohibition law and looks likely to strike down even state bans on "keeping and bearing arms." This bodes well.
We cannot rely upon such a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court to save our tender loins, of course: The only thing certain about such a ruling is that it will occur some time from now, probably long after the November elections -- and maybe even after the presidential contest in 2012, depending on how long the cases kick around the district and circuit courts first. (That is, if it ever eventuates at all.) The electorate will already have passed judgment on the politics of ObamaCare and whatever else the lame-duck 111th Congress manages to jam down between now and January.
But a decision striking down the mandate on grounds of enumerated powers, the lack of applicability to interstate commerce, and the Tenth Amendment could play a major role in "repealing and replacing" ObamaCare, even while Barack H. Obama remains president, and even if the Senate Democrats retain enough votes to block cloture.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► March 28, 2010
Seriouser and Curiouser
Three days ago, we found occasion to praise an Obamic appointee -- Army Major General Robert Harding (ret.), who Barack H. Obama had named to head the Transportation Security Agency (TSA). We praised him for one courageous (and vital) stand he took, during the Senate hearings, in favor of behavioral profiling of passengers, specifically along the Israeli model.
But yesterday, Gen. Harding abruptly withdrew his nomination... and the question is -- why?
Harding has essayed to answer that puzzlement, but his answer raises too many questions of its own to be blithely accepted as the final word. Gen. Harding says that he withdrew because he worked for a military-contracting company that had to return a couple of million dollars in charges to the American government, and he feared this would kill his confirmation:
Harding had extensive intelligence experience that Obama hoped to tap in shoring up airport screening and other anti-terrorism transportation fronts. He retired from the Army in 2001, ending a three-decade career during which he served as the Defense Department's top human intelligence officer, managing a $1 billion intelligence collection program....
Questions arose after his nomination about a contract his company had with the government to provide interrogators in Iraq. After the government ended the contract early, in 2004, Harding Security Associates claimed more money from termination of the contract than the Defense Department's inspector general said it was entitled to get. The firm refunded $1.8 million of that money in a 2008 settlement with the Defense Intelligence Agency.
But this is ridiculous. First, everyone on Capitol Hill has known about this company and the overcharge for two years; it certainly was no secret! The only folks who objected and grilled him over it were the Republicans -- and the odds that all 41 of them would have banded together on this trivial issue to block Harding's appointment to head up TSA are infinitesimal. Some senator -- probably Lindsey Graham (R-SC, 82%) or one of the Maine Twins (Sens. Susan Collins, 20%, and Olympia Snowe, 12%) would have broken ranks.
Second, there's that curious line in the above quotation I highlighted above: If anybody was to object to Harding's contracting, it would surely be the Democrats upset over him providing "interrogators in Iraq," rather than the Republicans -- supposedly unalterably opposed to allowing a former DoD contractor to head up a security agency, merely because the company charged the feds more than the feds themselves thought propitious?
Since when has the GOP seriously objected to higher than expected defense outlays? If overcharging were the big issue, Republicans would have demanded cancellation of every DoD contract since the days of Abraham Lincoln.
Finally, there is the dead body on the tennis court: Everybody tries to play around it, but nobody can think of anything else. Barack Obama himself has in the past denounced "profiling," with the traditional (and chowder-headed) slurring of "behavioral profiling" with "racial profiling." Worse, Harding explicitly based his proposed changes on "the Israeli model;" and I think it well established by now that the only country on Earth that the B.O. administration hates worse than Great Britain is the Jewish state, Israel.
Again, what objection would Republicans have to behavioral profiling? Yet we know the left regularly denounces Israel for its profiling, carefully explaining that "behavior" is code for those darned Jews to "racially profile" Palestinians and other Arabs. Has the Left suddenly found a soft spot in its heart for effective security against terrorist attack, after more than a decade of frantically attacking any and all such security measures... and even sucking up to, allying with, and lionizing those selfsame terrorist apologists, from Edward Said to Sami al-Arian to Lynne Stewart?
With, I admit, no hard evidence to support my gut feeling, I nevertheless believe that the real reason Harding "voluntarily" withdrew was that he was told in no uncertain terms, even if it was by Democratic code, that his recent comments on profiling, coupled with his "complicity" with the "war criminals" in the despised George W. Bush administration was a deal-killer with a sufficiency of liberals who, joined with most Republicans, would easily top 41 hard votes against cloture.
I can't prove it, but it's the only reason that seems to make sense. Take it for what it's worth.
Date ►►► March 26, 2010
"It's Like Déjà Vu All Over Again!"
Stop me if you've heard this one before:
The Obama administration plans to overhaul how it is tackling the foreclosure crisis, in part by requiring lenders to temporarily slash or eliminate monthly mortgage payments for many borrowers who are unemployed, senior officials said Thursday.
Banks and other lenders would have to reduce the payments to no more than 31 percent of a borrower's income, which would typically be the amount of unemployment insurance, for three to six months. In some cases, administration officials said, a lender could allow a borrower to skip payments altogether.
So a year and a half into the greatest financial and real-estate collapse in decades, and the Barack H. Obama administration still hasn't learned its lesson: You can control the price but not the cost of goods, services -- or money itself.
I envison Greg from the Brady Bunch, perpetually trapped in the throes of "teen logic." It's not a picture to inspire confidence.
Oh, but this time, everything is totally different:
The new push, which the White House is scheduled to announce Friday, takes direct aim at the major cause of the current wave of foreclosures: the spike in unemployment. While the initial mortgage crisis that erupted three years ago resulted from millions of risky home loans that went bad, more-recent defaults reflect the country's economic downturn and the inability of jobless borrowers to keep paying.
Suppose someone has a perfectly sensible mortgage -- fixed or ARM shouldn't make much difference, since interest rates haven't gone up -- and was responsible enough to obtain mortgage insurance; suppose something terrible happens, and he can't pay his mortgage... and then the mortgage insurer goes belly-up, to boot.
I don't believe that has happened, at least not on a large scale; the closest analogy is American International Group (AIG) -- and even AIG didn't go bankrupt; if you'll recall, the Bush and Obama administrations gave the insurer $182.5 billion in loan guarantees in exchange for 80% of its stock.
But suppose this "unfortunate series of events" occurred, through no fault of the borrowers but due entirely to government meddling in the mortgage market. Under that scenario, I can see those folks directly impacted getting some mortgage relief from the feds.
But what about freeloaders who obtain (by hook or by congressional crook) mortgages they are unqualified to receive, predictably too large to pay, perhaps with a huge balloon payment (like Octomom's dad), certainly with no insurance. In the fullness of time, the inevitable inevits, they default on their loans, and they have no money to make it right. What then?
Under our capitalist system, when a borrower makes stupid decisions and winds up underwater, we should let him sink. At least as far as allowing the bank which lent the money to foreclose on the house and sell it for what it can get (generally taking a bath itself, as well it should!) -- then to sue the borrower for the remainder, which the stupid bank likely won't get.
It's not as if we'll wind up with millions starving on the streets; our bankruptcy laws are pretty lenient... probably overly so. (I don't believe we've given adequate consideration to indentured servitude.) But the price of liberty is that each of us has the "right" to fail, and in failing, to learn from our mistakes and serve as an example "pour l'encouragement des autres." That's the capitalist way.
Heartless conservatives push the unenlightened idea that rank stupidity and extreme bad judgment carry harsh consequences, demanding contrition, restitution, and penance before the law and society can grant fiscal absolution. Finally, regressive classical economics suggests that when government tries to obviate or short-circuit that natural economic process, chaos and counterincentives ensue, leading to an economic death-spiral for the whole nation, or even the global financial markets. Obamunism, meet Greece.
Well all I can say is -- thank goodness our beloved president has cast aside that running-dog, imperialist thuggery upon which the country was founded! Who needs Capitalism when you've got Obamunism? The essence of the latter is simple: Vote for us, and we'll give you free money, as much as you want!
- Borrowed more than you can pay off? No problemo; the president will simply order your creditors to wipe away part or all of the principal. Problem solved.
- Can't borrow at all, because you have insufficient (or no) income, bad credit, and a history of defaulting on loans? The One will order banks to lend you the money anyway. At virtual gunpoint.
- Hallelujah, you're a bum? Easy as falling off a bicycle: Uncle Barack will simply extend you another 26 weeks of unemployment "compensation."
Market, schmarket, we haven't time to wait for the ectoplasmic "invisible hand" to guide buyers to sellers; the government will tell you what to buy and how much to pay. As Brother Benito said, no time for talk, no time to think -- we need action, action, action! Impatience is the new creed of the masses: We want everything -- not now, yesterday.
Subjects suffering the malady of Americanism have a cockamamie fantasy that if a borrower makes a terrible mistake, buys too much house with an unpayable mortgage, and can't find another lender to extract him from the tar pit, then he should suffer the consequences.
But that was before the Dear Leader came along and invented the New Obamunist Man, he who scorns fiscal consequences and economic law as relics of a bygone, transitional antiquity. The authors of the progressive housing revolution -- from Jimmy Carter, to Bill Clinton, to Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT, 100%), Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA, 100%), and umpteen directors of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- have long since thoroughly discredited the bourgeois sentiment of monetary sobriety. Since money is naught but fiat anyway, unrelated to any real underlying wealth, why not just buy our way out of debt by super-sizing the Bureau of Printing and Engraving?
And why not "solve" the problem of foreclosure by forbidding it?
(Technically we needn't even print more money... just increase a few figures on a central spreadsheet at the Federal Reserve.)
My Magic 8-Ball foresees a big, fat, Greek shredding of fiscal responsibility, the free market, the national debt, and any other roadblock that stands between the nationalist-socialist Left and a total "income shift," spreading the wealth away from those who made it and redirecting it to those who, in the government's opinion, really deserve it.
Here's a hint: One surefire way to demonstrate to the feds that you really need to spend someone else's money is to join a union -- preferably the SEIU -- and start beating up conservative "Tea Baggers." That seems to have become the de facto federal relief application.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Every Crowd Has Its Silver Lionizing
In the midst of the eldritch, trancendental, Lovecraftian horror of ObamaCare being foisted upon us by a monomaniacal "Democratic" Congress, some pearls of great price have been unearthed as unearned grace. One such is the best column by Dennis Prager I've read in a half-dozen years or more. Bookends:
A terrible thing happened to America on Sunday, March 21, 2010.
The country took its biggest step ever down a road diametrically opposed to its original intent of keeping the state small so that the individual can be free and great.
Therefore, in this unprecedented crisis of values, this is what needs to be done....
7. Acknowledge that we are in a non-violent civil war.
I write the words "civil war" with an ache in my heart. But we are in one.
Thank God this civil war is non-violent. But the fact is that the left and the rest of the country share almost no values. The American value system and the leftist value system are irreconcilable. If the left wins, America's values lose. If American values prevail, the left loses.
After Sunday's vote, for the first time in American history, one could no longer confidently believe that the American system will prevail. And if we don't fight for it, we don't deserve it.
Dennis, who I've met many times but who wouldn't know me from Adam Ant (or Adam Schiff), succinctly presents seven positive steps we can (must!) undertake in response to this, if not unprecedented then at least obnoxious and infuriating infringement of our sacred liberties. An E-ticket ride, no bout adout it.
Then there is this impactful drawing together of many threads anent "political violence," defined in this limited case as "Democratic whinery about controlling only 99% of government power, instead of the 112% they expect and demand to control."
Offered for your approval, Wolf Howling's recent post on political violins -- sorry, violence -- allegedly directed against alleged Democrats. Here is Mr. Howling's back-of-the-thumbnail summation of the current state of play:
[The Left is] now making a concerted effort, helped by an equally "progressive" MSM, to portray that there is some new level of violence, racism and homophobia in America, and further, that this violence, racism and homophobia is synonymous with the Tea Party movement who protested Obamacare at the capitol over the weekend. There is no doubt that this is a collateral attack on all of those who protest the passage of Obamacare and an attempt to delegitimize them. It is also just so incredibly hypocritical as to be jaw dropping.
Just reading these two internicine intercourses back to back should buoy the spirits and calm fears better than trancendental meditation, chocolate, or a stiff belt of Tullamore Dew. So do be a do-bee, and read them both to their utmost.
Consider this a Big Lizards PSA.
Date ►►► March 25, 2010
Le Cauchemar Côte-Gauche
The Public Policy Institute of California periodically polls Californians on various hot-button issues. PPIC is vaguely left-of-center, but it has a fairly good reputation for accuracy, at least recently in this state.
The poll released just yesterday should open a few eyes -- and tighten a few stomachs. Consider some of their findings:
- The state legislature, thoroughly dominated by Democrats ever since the 1998 elections, has achieved the nigh impossible infamy of a 9% approval rating. Not a tyop; a single digit. Coincidentally, 1998 is also the year that the PPIC survey began -- and this is the lowest approval the California legislature has ever suffered.
Our governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was originally elected to replace former Gov. Gray Davis, ousted by a recall vote in 2003. Schwarzenegger enjoyed reasonably high approval then; but since assuming office, he has taken every opportunity to suck up to the Democrats -- the lone exception being that he vetoed a same-sex marriage bill... not because he opposes SSM (he strongly supports it), but because it flew in the face of citizens' initiative Proposition 22 banning SSM.
I'm grateful he did; Gray Davis or any other Democrat in the governor's mansion would have signed it and forced a judicial confrontation. However, other than that one bright moment, Schwarzenegger has been a classic RINO; his only virtue is that he isn't anywhere near as lunatic as California lefties who might have had the job, particularly Cruz Bustamante.
During Schwarzenegger's surrender-tenure, his approval rating has sunk to 25%, only 4% above Davis' lowest flicker before burning out. Coincidence? We very much doubt it.
- Barack H. Obama manages only a 52% job approval; it sounds good, until you remember this is California, which voted for Obama over John S. McCain by 61 to 37.
- 41% approve of the Democratic Party, 31% approve of the GOP; see above -- in California, not even the Democrats can get anywhere near 50% support!
- Only 50% of Californios support ObamaCare. Et tu, Californe?
There are several other results worth skimming, but here is the overall take-away: California used to be a classic purple state; it is now deep blue, owing primarily to the feckless and pathetic California Republican Party -- easily the worst GOP state party in the union. Yet even here, we find a bedrock of common sense that recoils from the extravagent excess of radicalism radiating from the twin foci of Sacramento and Washington D.C.
The people are not the problem; the problem is that, over the last forty-five years, a hard-left cadre seized control from old-fashioned liberals in a slow-motion coup de parti.
But the people will be the eventual solution... if we don't turn them against us by becoming "radical" Right to mirror the radical Left.
Date ►►► March 24, 2010
We've Only Just Begun to Pay
I see that the U.S. Postal Disservice plans to eliminate Saturday delivery; it seems they're in the hole by $3.8 billion this year, headed for $7 billion next, and this is the only way to begin to close that gap:
The Postal Service took the first formal step Wednesday toward cutting mail delivery to five days a week.
The postal governing board agreed to ask the independent Postal Regulatory Commission for an opinion on dropping Saturday delivery. That request goes to the commission next week....
The Postal Service says the delivery change would save more than $3 billion annually. It is a major part of a decade-long plan to eliminate losses and restore the agency to stability in the face of shrinking business....
The post office lost $3.8 billion last year and is facing projected losses of as much as $7 billion this year. Other proposals for cutting losses include changes in the financing of retiree health care and closing some mail handling centers and post offices.
That is, the federal government claims to be so strapped that it can't come up with $7 billion more per year to ensure Saturday delivery; but it can scrounge two trillion over ten years to seize control of American medical care.
Here's another way of looking at this signal event: Barack H. Obama wants to end Satuday mail delivery in order to (partially) pay for ObamaCare -- including the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, the Gator Aid, and the Stupak Stipend.
Good to know our national priorities.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Stop the Presses! Obama Nominee Lets Slip Some Common Sense
I admit to some prejudice -- or postjudice, actually -- against the administration of Barack H. Obama; though I plead that I have some just cause to be cynical. Still, I'm not so far gone that I fail to note when someone nominated by Obama to a position of responsibility hauls off and does something right:
President Barack Obama's nominee to oversee security at U.S. airports said on Tuesday he wants to shift screening closer to the Israeli model to include more behavior detection in a bid to thwart terrorism plots.
Retired Major General Robert Harding was nominated earlier this month to head the Transportation Security Administration after serving more than three decades in the military, including a stint as deputy to the Army's chief of intelligence and director for operations in the Defense Intelligence Agency....
Harding said that while the Israeli security system was smaller, it offered a blueprint for trying to thwart terrorism plots in the aviation system, which has remained a target for militant groups like al Qaeda.
"We should move even closer to an Israeli model where there's more engagement with passengers," Harding told the Senate Commerce Committee that is considering his nomination. "I think that increases the layers and pushes the layers out."
Well duh. If President George W. Bush hadn't have named Norman Mineta, a Democrat, Secretary of Transportation, we could have had behavioral profiling at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) years ago, back when it was created in November 2001. But during World War II, Mineta -- of Japanese ancestory -- had been held, as a child along with his family, in the Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming... where they took his baseball bat away. Therefore, he never allowed any kind of profiling in the TSA, including behavioral profiling.
No, I don't understand it either.
Still and all, late is better than never; I haven't studied the career of "Retired Major General Robert Harding," but I applaud him for getting at least one point right! I hope whoever finally heads up the TSA is equally adamant that we need to start profiling the behavior of potential passengers at airports, and on buses, boats, and trains.
As usual, there is much we can learn from the unique but still exemplary Israeli experience.
Date ►►► March 21, 2010
The Democrats' New Motto
Why don't they just pull off the mask and "out" themselves? I suggest a new official motto for the Party:
No matter what any Democrat says, it's always all about the power. Nothing more.
Stupak Caves, Euro-Style Government-Run Health Care Now a Done Deal - UPDATED
The post title says it all... but see previous post for how we may still have a good shot at reversing the vote.
UPDATE: After all the Sturm und Drang, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI, 90%) settled for an executive order (EO) from President Barack H. Obama saying that federal funds would not be used for abortion.
But this is what Mary Poppins calls a "pie-crust promise, easily made and easily broken." This EO will be signed in the spotlight, with a thousand media moguls covering the "breakthrough" with hundreds of thousands of feet of tape.
But the next EO will be signed in the proverbial dead of night, probably when Congress is in recess, buried amongs a flurry of innocuous EOs declaring September "Homer Simpson appreciation month" or "recognizing the tremendous influence of peppermint-flavored dental floss on American culture."
The next EO will "clarify" the first one... it will state that in certain "emergency circumstances," the feds can fund abortion; and then it will give so broad a definition of emergency circumstances that every abortion in America will be eligible.
How do I know this? Very simple: Barack Obama truly wants the federal government to pay for abortions; and since he has the authority to get what he wants, with only a promise to hold him back, why wouldn't he? What is Bart Stupak going to do about it?
The syllogism is quite simple:
- Obama ultimately wants a single-payer health-care system in the United States, à la Great Britain or Japan. Nobody denies this, not even the president.
- Obama believes that abortion should be safe and legal.
- If abortion is legal, it counts as health care, obviously.
- Therefore, in the world that the One wants us to have, the federal government -- the "single payer" -- will necessarily pay for all abortions in the U.S.
Whether the Obamacle can bring about the millennium he desires is another question; but it's a dead cert that his desire is for the feds to pay for abortions, among other procedures, using taxpayer dollars. In fact, he also wants partial-birth abortion to be legal; so by the same syllogism, he wants you and me to pay for it with our federal taxes.
Now I'm not completely anti-abortion; but I am utterly anti-federally funding for abortion. (And I'm also utterly against partial-birth abortion -- or to be more accurate, partial-birth infanticide -- federally funded or not.)
Therefore, Stupak traded away his putative principles for a pot of message. He is a traitor to a cause he claims to have supported from long before he has been in federal office, since 1993, going all the way back to when he consciously accepted Catholicism, presumably as a child.
I reckon the aphorism is true: Liberalism, like socialism, truly does corrupt all that it touches.
Date ►►► March 20, 2010
Does She Do or Does She Don't? A Reptile Says - She Don't
Bonus extra fold-out: How the Democrats hoisted themselves by their own petard
Let us once more check the Hill's newest whip count:
- 178 Republicans are firm Nays; even Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA, not yet rated), personally (and heavily) lobbied by President Barack H. Obama himself, doesn't look to buck the unanimity.
- 37 Democrats are firm Nays, likely Nays, or leaning Nay.
- 199 Democrats are firm Yeas, likely Yeas, or leaning Yea.
- 17 Democrats are toss-ups.
A little back-of-the-thumbnail calculation gives us 215 firm, likely, or leaning Nay -- vs. 199 firm, likely, or leaning Yea; 216 is a majority in a House of Representatives that has but 431 members at the moment. Once again, the ObamaCarebears must run the table, picking up each and every undecided... while we need only a single one to break against the bill.
Of course, some in the Nay column could repent of their sinful ways and join the Democrat scamwagon; but so far, for every Nay lost to a Yea, an undecided has come out as a replacement Nay. The Nay side has stayed at 215 or 214 for several days now, despite all the queen's rubber hoses and all the queen's minions.
You gotta like our chances.
Other prognosticators agree; according to "Pessimism" Paul Mirengoff at Power Line, one of the Stupakians, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL, 90%), says Pelosi is still about seven short. Paul continues, joined by "Jeremiah" John Hinderaker:
UPDATE: Jeffrey Anderson at NRO's Critical Condition blog says Pelosi is still short. He counts 208 leaning in favor, 214 leaning against, and nine undecided. At this point, though, "leaning against" may mean "waiting for an inducement" in some cases.
JOHN adds: This is consistent with what James Hohmann of Politico told us on our radio show this morning, i.e., that as of around 1:00 this afternoon, Pelosi had 206-208 "yes" votes.
So as I've said many times, in politics, the game ain't over till the last fat lady is hung. If Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) postpones tomorrow's vote, that means she knew she didn't have 216; if she holds the vote, that means she thinks she has 216 -- but could be mistaken.
Bonus fold-out! It occurred to me a week or so ago that the Democrats' own corrupt scheme actually makes it much more plausible that, even if ObamaCare passes tomorrow, we can still repeal and abolish it before it destroys American medical care.
The Democrats were so anxious not to reveal how horribly ObamaCare adds to the deficit that they pulled a fast one on the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which tracks those sorts of issues: They crafted a bill that "backloads" all the core elements of ObamaCare -- all the liberty-liquidating, choice-curtailing, budget-busting, death-panel debuting provisions, including the mandate -- to 2013; but the bill enacts the tax increases immediately.
What does this mean? For one thing, the bill the CBO was given to score included only seven years of spending, but a full ten years of tax increases. That made it appear actually to decrease the budget deficit -- for the exact ten-year period from fiscal year (FY) 2011 through FY 2020; but if instead one looks at the ten-year period from FY 2014 through FY 2023, ObamaCare adds about two trillion dollars to the budget deficit!
So a profligate's dream of a bill that will bust the budget wide open was artificially made to look like a fiscally responsible bill that will (slightly) reduce the deficit.
But there was a price to pay: By backloading the guts of ObamaCare, Democrats themselves insured that nothing concrete would be done to implement its most horrible parts until after the 2012 presidential election. Thus, if we can take a long stride towards recapturing the House and Senate in this year's election, then complete the job in the 2012 election; and if we can bring a candidate who defeats Barack "Spending Spree" Obama; then Congress can just vote to repeal ObamaCare, and the new (Republican) president will sign it.
And of course, if the Democrats try to filibuster that bill in the Senate, the GOP can just reach into the Democrats' own bag 'o tricks, like Felix the Cat, and pull out any of a number of techniques, fair or foul, that they pioneered to quash filibusters. If worse comes to worst, Congress has simply to fail to enact the necessary appropriations bills and starve ObamaCare to death; while the administration need only fail to enforce the law mandating insurance to strangle ObamaCare while still in the womb.
It must be infinitely easier to kill a new entitlement program that hasn't even started yet than to kill one that has been up and running for two years. The bill (even if passed) is vulnerable entirely because Pelosi couldn't face a vote with the full extent of her perfidity in plain view. Wile E. Democrat, Supergenius, strikes out again.
So let's all keep a stiff upper spine, wait for tomorrow, and see what the old biddy has up her skirts.
Date ►►► March 19, 2010
Gen. David Petraeus is edging closer and closer to calling for the end of President William "Billery" Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy anent gays serving openly in military service. Gen. Petraeus has not yet announced his support for dropping the prohibition entirely, but he seems on the verge of doing so:
Meanwhile, Petraeus, who was catapulted to fame by overseeing the troop surge in Iraq more than two years ago, said “the time has come to consider a change” but cautioned that the change to the Clinton-era law should be done in a “thoughtful manner,” and it should not be rendered without first making assessments as to how a change would affect recruiting, retention, morale and cohesion within the military services....
Petraeus, the most popular general of his generation, stopped short of giving his personal take on the current ban, but told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had an eight-minute prepared statement on his position regarding the repeal of the ban.
“This is not a sound-bite issue,” Petraeus said.
There are several ways to interpret this endorsement, if indeed it is one...
- Some might argue that Petraeus is just mouthing politically correct sentiments but doesn't really mean them. This strikes me as most unlikely; he is not generally known as a PC kinda guy.
Some might hint that he only supports the "gay agenda" because he's sucking up to President Barack H. Obama (though perhaps a better verb is called for), hoping the president will name him Chief of Staff of the Army.
But I don't think Petraeus has any hope or expectation of being picked by Obama for such an intensely political position; nobody knows Petraeus' politics exactly, as he quite properly will not divulge them while wearing the uniform of his country. But it's a good bet that David Howell Petraeus is considerably more conservative than Obama would want.
In addition, Petraeus is inextricably shackled to George W. Bush, who promoted him and put him in charge of the Iraq War. Given how the resident president feels about his predecessor, the idea that Obama would ever elevate David Petraeus is laughable. He would be more likely to find some excuse to cashier him or move him to a "window seat."
Eric Shinseki, Clinton's pick in 1999, is more Obama's type. In 2011, Obama will undoubtedly name a four-star who also happens to be a doctrinaire liberal who shares Obama's peculiar ideas about the use of (or abstention from) military force. Bog only knows where he'll find one.
- The most straightforward explanation is this: Petraeus honestly believes gays can serve openly without disrupting discipline or damaging morale. If this is true, he becomes the most persuasive and authoritative voice of that policy in American history... for nobody could deny the general's leadership, command ability, and real-world combat experience.
No one can say, "What does he know about unit cohesion and the intense bonding of combat?"
This is the explanation I personally favor, that Gen. Petraeus has concluded that fears about military catastrophe, arising from removing a barrier that I consider risible and indefensible, are overblown and exaggerated -- or unconsciously fabricated post-hoc to rationalize deep prejudice.
But there is a fourth possibility that I would be remiss to miss cataloging:
- Gen. Petraeus could be pushing this issue because he intends to run in 2012 for a promotion from Commander of CENTCOM to Commander in Chief.
He may believe he already has a solid base among conservatives, so he may be reaching out to social moderates. If Petraeus ran as an economic and military conservative -- while being less ideological on non-economic domestic issues such as gays serving in the military; outreach to immigrants who truly want to assimilate; support for basic abortion rights, though with more stringent restrictions on late-term and partial-birth abortion (even Ronald Reagan never seriously tried to make abortion illegal); embryonic and adult stem-cell research (perhaps with a prohibition on killing the embryos while extracting stem cells, see our 2006 post on the bioresearch breakthrough) -- I say he would vault immediately to the head of the class.
David Petraeus is the first general since Dwight Eisenhower to capture the fancy and imagination of the American people in a positive way. Gen. Colin Powell came close, but his war was over too soon for the public really to form an opinion. Petraeus' campaign against the One could flow from a single sentence: Petraeus led us to victory in Iraq after Sen. Obama announced we'd already lost.
The only tea leaf that points to his next address being 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is that he plans to deliver a major policy speech in New Hampshire on Wednesday, May 24th. Why New Hampshire? He currently serves at the Pentagon or in the field in U.S. Central Command, he was born and raised in upstate New York, he has no particular tie to New Hampshire. The Granite State is, however, the traditional kick-off point for presidential campaigns.
A candidate such as Gen. Petraeus is a monster-under-the-bed scenario for the Democrats. He is charismatic, articulate, clean; he has no closeted skeletons they can rattle, no ratty little scandals as city councilman or corrupt, small-town mayor; he has no paper trail of questionable compromises as representative or senator. Even a Chicago sleaze machine of epic chutzpah like Organizing for America needs something to work with; Petraeus can't even be attacked as a Mormon!
And imagine voter reaction if Obama tried to run against Petraeus by saying, "What has he ever accomplished? He's not even a politician!"
In fact, he's just as big of a headache to other Republican hopefuls. By contrast, the GOP field seems a tired retread (Mitt Romney), a callow and flighty poseur (Sarah Palin), a who-dat? unknown quantity (Tim Pawlenty), or a goofy kid brother on a 1990s sitcom ("Everybody Loves Bobby" Jindal).
In many ways, Petraeus is the anti-Obama:
- He comes from a conservative section of New York State, Orange County, which just barely gave its vote to Obama in 2008 by 51% to 48%... when the state as a whole went for Obama by 62% to 37%. By contrast, Obama is from Honolulu, Hawaii, one of the most liberal cities in the United States.
- He has a PhD from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs -- a quintessentially ivy-league university (and ultra-liberal school within that university); yet he has chosen to devote his life to commanding troops in combat -- very aggressive, bloody combat, furthering the national security of the United States. To a man like Barack Obama, this does not compute.
- Petraeus has an intensely American view of life, duty, and the world; Obama has a more "cosmopolitan" or Euro-socialist viewpoint.
- Petraeus is a decider who is always ready to act on his decisions and put his life on the line; Obama habitually avoids making decisions, preferring to be the philosopher king who stands above the fray and disdains personally to act: He leaves such vulgarities to his minions in the administration and his acolytes in Congress.
- Petraeus spent his entire career in the Army; Obama has spent his entire professional life loathing the Army.
Electability aside, if Petraeus' political positions are in line with the mainstream of the GOP, I think he would make a much better president than any of the other likely GOP candidates. I would certainly trust his understanding of our current war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis better than any president since Ronald Reagan, who understood our war against the evil Soviet Empire.
The only slight flaw in this spiderweb of speculation is that Petraeus himself has repeatedly, emphatically, and betimes rather earthily rejected the idea of running for political office, and especially of running for the presidency. But perhaps he can be persuaded by an appeal to his sense of duty... particularly if he sees a continuing deterioration of America's national-security apparatus.
Here's hoping; beside Petraeus, the other potential GOP candidates seem drab and tedious, and I'm not at all sure any can defeat Obama in 2012 -- unless the president manages to defeat himself.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► March 16, 2010
Grinding Away on the Coffee Party
I first heard about the infamous Coffee Party, supposedly a liberal alternative to the right leaning Tea Party movement, at Hot Air; I watched a couple of videos trying to understand what was its pont. After suffering through the rambling, pointless video promos produced by the "unwitting" founder of the Coffee Party, Annabel Park, I concluded that she must be some naive and ignorant college girl. (For one point, she doesn't even seem get the historical reference to "Tea Party," as in Boston.)
Park claims the anti-Tea Party "movement" started when she ranted her frustration on her Facebook page about all the attention the Tea Partiers were getting:
[L]et's start a coffee party . . . smoothie party. red bull party. anything but tea. geez. ooh how about cappuccino party? that would really piss 'em off bec it sounds elitist . . . let's get together and drink cappuccino and have real political dialogue with substance and compassion.
Within hours, she received dozens of responses. Within days, the idea attracted hundreds of fans. Soon the movement caught the major media's eye. The Washington Post and the New York Times featured the story (now there's a surprise!)
Overnight, Annabel Park, a 41-year-old "independent filmmaker" became the leader of Coffee Party movement.
Now, after two short months, the mob has gotten so big that they're already holding a nation wide Coffee rally:
Since February, the Coffee Party has gathered some 120,000 fans on Face book. And it’s set to bring its virtual community together in public for the first time this Saturday. The group has close to 350 kickoff parties scheduled around the country, with thousands of supporters expected to attend, according to Chris Rigopulos, a Boston-based organizer for the group.
What an incredible grassroots organization! What a difference to the stumbling, humble origins of the Tea Parties: That movement started with just a handful of people here and there gathering in town hall meetings. No organizing, no sponsors, no mass media attention. It took a whole year for the various Tea Parties to organize and hold a convention. Compared to the amateur Tea Partiers, the Coffee Party is almost... professional!
Park describes the Coffee Party as non-partisan and "100% grassroots." I grew skeptical of that point the more I watched her; despite my first impression of naiveté, careful listening of her speechs and videos suggest she is an experienced -- and trained -- political activist:
"We object to obstructionism and extreme political tactics that are I think fear-based, not reality-based, and in many ways just deliberate misinformation"
"I think that it's human for people to be nervous about changes in the neighborhoods and in demographics of the country."
“If you don’t believe that the government has any role, then yeah, you should join the Tea Party,” “But there are many of us who that believe we have to have the government addressing these things, representing our interests.”
The careful way Park characterizes Tea Partiers as obstructionists, fear mongers, liars, racists, and anarchists, without directly saying so, takes well-developed skill. This is not the speech of a naive college student or simple independent film maker, whatever that means.
Surprise, surprise, it turns out that her role as leader of that leftist political movement called the Coffee Party is no accident, no matter what the elite media tendentiously claim. As Andrew Breitbart of BigJournalism.com notes:
Yet there was nothing accidental about Park’s anti-Tea Party activism; the Coffee Party’s roots are about as grassy as the signature surface of the old Houston Astrodome; and Park’s facade of cooperation is undermined by her “tea bagger” epithets on Twitter.
Meanwhile, her claim that the Coffee Party is “purely grassroots” and “independent of any party” is laughably rebutted by the fact that the registrant for the website was listed as “Real Virginians For Webb, 14461 Sedona Drive, Gainesville, Virginia 20155” until the information suddenly went private behind a proxy. That’s “Webb” as in Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, one of at least two elected Democrats for whom Park has actively campaigned (as evidenced by this campaign video, “Real Virginians for Webb”:
In fact, Park has been an ardent supporter of Barack Obama since forever... so much so that she made her own pro-Obama YouTube promotional videos:
So intense was her support for the would-be president that Park co-directed a video for the YouTube channel, UnitedForObama, in which she encourages her mother to give a pro-Obama testimonial in their native Korean. The slick four-minute production, titled “Annabel’s Mom Takes on Sarah Palin, In Korean!!!,” features jaunty piano music and English translations of her mother’s homage to Obama, including this comment, which has the vague ring of a “Dear Leader” haiku:I listened to Obama’s speeches/and, though my English isn’t perfect/I started to change my mind about him./I came to understand/what he wanted to accomplish/and what we really need is Obama.
Having now been exposed, Park is hardly apologetic. On the March 4th edition of the Coffee Party USA website, the Party line stated:
Annabel was never paid by the Obama campaign, but she worked very hard as volunteer, as did millions of other Americans. A newspaper inaccurately reported that Annabel held a videographer position. But, if there is anyone who cares about such things, and also cares about getting their facts straight, the truth is very easy to verify.
To date, neither Annabel nor her partner Eric Byler have ever been hired by a political campaign or by a political organization. They are active citizens who, as volunteers have knocked on doors, made phone calls, and made videos:....
They are proud of a record of inventive civic engagement and have nothing to hide. If they didn't want people to see their work, they wouldn't have put it on YouTube!
So Annabel Park is a veteran Democratic media shill, trained and experienced; yet she did all that work for candidate Obama without being paid. Translation: Park is a diehard liberal (and Obamic) partisan. And far from being grassroots, this "movement" is a cynical ploy designed to manipulate inattentive viewers into believing that the left-liberal dogma spewed forth by the Coffee Party on a daily basis accurately represents real America.
Look for the elite media to keep percolating the Coffee Party right up through the November elections. Then abruptly, the fame and adulation will stop, and Annabel Park will be dropped to the floor, like an outgrown and broken toy.
Enjoy your fifteen minutes of fame, Ms. P; you and your "partner" both.
Date ►►► March 15, 2010
The Hill's "Whip Count" on ObamaCare - GOP Picking Up Votes
In our last installment on Saturday, we were able to report the following:
The Hill newspaper is published daily in the nation's capital while Congress is in session, which is unfortunately true right now. They've been publishing a daily (or so) whip-count; that is, the Democratic and Republican leaders tell the Hill how many votes they think they have, and the paper makes the final judgment (presumably after talking to some of the waverers).
In the count published today, here's how we stand:
- All 178 Republicans will vote Nay.
- 34 of the Democrats are firm, leaning, or likely Nays; this includes eight Democrats who voted Yea the last time around in November.
- 147 Democrats are firm, leaning, or likely Yeas.
- The remaining 72 Democrats are "undecided."
That puts the current count at 147 Yea, 212 Nay, with 72 toss-ups. Note that a majority is currently 216, since there are only 431 members of the House right now.
In today's whip-count, we see some movement -- and astonishingly, considering all the proclamations of Obamic victory, it's in the right direction!
- All 178 Republicans will vote Nay.
- 37 of the Democrats are firm, leaning, or likely Nays, three more than last time.
- 146 Democrats are firm, leaning, or likely Yeas (one fewer than Saturday).
- The remaining 70 Democrats are "undecided" (two fewer).
That's 146 Yeas, 215 Nays, with 70 ditherers, and majority is still 216.
In other words, ObamaCare is just one vote shy of defeat in the House... with 70 votes still up for grabs. We must win over one more Democrat -- before they win over 70: If Democrats lose even one more congressman, the bill dies.
I still have full faith and confidence in the American people; we have proven ourselves to be steadfast in our rejection of a radical rewrite of all health-insurance rules. The danger is not the American people but rather the Democratic majority, which might still trample the people down with hobnail boots.
But more and more, it appears that simple self-interest will kill this wretched act; simply put, most United States Representatives like their jobs and want to keep them.
But even if the worst happens, even if the Dems suddenly reverse the momentum and end up eking out a marginal victory, I still believe that we can repeal ObamaCare -- despite the fact that (as I am reliably informed) no major new government social bureaucracy has ever been "uncreated." Think of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
Why am I so positive? First, because the reliable claim is not particularly reliable; for one example, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was an FDR-era welfare entitlement created, as Aid to Dependent Children, as part of the Social Security Act of 1935. Yet it was repealed in 1996, to be replaced with a radically different and far more temporary welfare program titled Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Even the New Republic has recently hailed the repeal of AFDC and enactment of TANF instead [hat tip Wikipedia, of all sites]; TNR editorial of September 4, 2006, p. 7; the piece appears not to be available online:
A broad consensus now holds that welfare reform was certainly not a disaster--and that it may, in fact, have worked much as its designers had hoped.
But the second reason I am convinced that ObamaCare can be repealed is that it differs significantly from all other social-welfare, social-control bureaucracies enacted by Congress -- including AFDC. Unlike all the others, ObamaCare is not supported by voters; it is vehemently opposed by large margins.
If President Barack H. Obama's scheme is finally enacted, it will be over the earsplitting objections of the American people. By contrast, programs such as Social Security and Medicare were wildly popular when they were enacted -- and most retain strong majority support even today.
We have never before enacted such wholesale change in the balance between government and governed -- when the bill itself was so intensely unpopular; I daresay it's the most unheard-of thing I ever heard of. For that reason, I simply do not believe it will be passed; but even if it is, I do not believe it will survive long in the 112th Congress.
So hip hip, chin chin, and keep your welly up. Courage, Camille. This too shall pass away!
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► March 13, 2010
The China Syndrome Counterpunch
One fear that obsesses too many folks is that the People's Republic of China, a.k.a. Red China, "owns" a scandalous chunk of our national debt in the form of U.S. Treasury bonds; and that they will somehow be able to use these holdings to force us to dance to the tune they pipe, turning America into a Chinese vassal state.
When pressed on how they could physically do this, fearmongers suggest China could threaten to dump all their T-bills at bargain-basement prices, driving down the value of the bonds we need to sell to finance our out-of-control spending. The sudden drop in bond values would force us to jack the interest rate through the sky, just to get people to buy them. This in turn is supposed to drive our prime rate into the stratosphere as well, bankrupting the country.
To avoid this scenario -- dubbed the "China Syndrome" by some economists -- we will (so goes the argument) give the Commies anything they demand in the way of foreign and domestic policy and military stand-downs... to appease them, placate them, and keep them from carrying through their extortion.
Beldar has posted a fascinating (as usual) and long (as always) essay on the subject. He comes to the well-founded and irrefutable conclusion that there truly is little to fear from the fact that Commies hold such a huge amount of our debt:
A company's largest shareholder is not much at all like its largest bondholder. He who buys a company's bonds gets to stand at the front of the line, ahead of equity holders (like shareholders), if there's a forced liquidation of the company and a distribution of its net assets. But in exchange, the bond holder generally has to forfeit all rights to participate in the management of the company's business unless and until there's a default by the company on its promise to repay according to the terms of the bond. And the caselaw says that companies owe all sorts of fiduciary and other unwritten, vague, but powerful duties to shareholders, whereas companies own nothing more to their debt holders than the precise minimums to which the companies are specifically committed by explicit written contractual promises to the bondholders....
No matter how many Treasury bonds China buys, it can't somehow "convert" those into a right to cast votes in the U.S. Senate or to give instructions to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The holder of an American federal bond has a contractual right, enforceable against the U.S. government under its own laws and in its own courts, to repayment of principal and payment of interest on the exact terms specified in the bond. And that's all it has. [All emphasis is in the original, except for this note that all emphasis is in the original. -- DaH]
But I have another angle on the whole thing. I say it would be absolutely wonderful for us if the Chinese really did enact their eponymous syndrome!
So why am I right and all those professional economists wrong? Because they think like acolytes of the Dismal Science -- that is, dismally -- whereas I think like a novelist.
Here is my scenario:
- Red China threatens us with a China Syndrome unless we sever relations with Taiwan (for example).
- We tell them to go stuff an eggroll.
- They decide to call our "bluff," and they really do dump all their T-bills at, say, half their current value.
- The Federal Reserve jumps into action, working through proxies to buy every dang Treasury Note China sells, as many as we can get our mitts on.
- Now that we have bought back hundreds of billions of dollars of our "debt" for fifty cents on the dollar, we wait for the dust to settle and the market to recover -- then we sell them again for the normal price.
- We send a letter to Beijing, thanking them for their generous donation to the Save Liberty and U.S. Sovereign Health (SLUSSH) fund. With heartfelt thanks, we settle back to enjoy our windfall profit on our own debt instruments.
The moral is simple: Whenever any entity -- whether individual person, giant corporation, or sovereign nation -- buys or sells bonds, equities, derivatives, collectibles, futures, or indeed any other investment instrument on the basis of politics, party, policy, or pique -- that is, whenever one makes investment decisions for any reason other than pure economics -- that entity is going to lose its shirt... along with its coat, tie, pants, and undies.
This Lizardian Rule of Thumb applies to universities that divest their stock in Israeli companies to protest Israel's dealings with the Palestinians; it applies to lefties who dump their mutual funds if they contain Starbucks or Nike stock; and it applies to conservative Christians who will only invest in companies that are run by ministers: You're going to lose a huge wad of your return by letting extraneous circumstances dictate your financial decisions.
Now you may think the trade off is worth it, and who could argue? Just bear in mind that you are donating beaucoup bucks to your favorite cause; if that's all right with you, I certainly don't care. So long as you are aware of what you are doing, and so long as you don't violate any fiduciary responsiblities you may have to shareholders (or moral duties to those who take your advice).
But I doubt that China is really that altruist. They're not going to donate hundreds of billions back to the U.S. just to make a political point. (That what? That they're too stupid to be trusted with monetary decisions?)
So let that be another reassurance that there will be no China Syndrome... at least until and unless we default on our repayment obligations, in which case dumping the bonds would be a purely economic decision anyway!
The Hill's "Whip Count" on ObamaCare - as of Today
The Hill newspaper is published daily in the nation's capital while Congress is in session, which is unfortunately true right now. They've been publishing a daily (or so) whip-count; that is, the Democratic and Republican leaders tell the Hill how many votes they think they have, and the paper makes the final judgment (presumably after talking to some of the waverers).
In the count published today, here's how we stand:
- All 178 Republicans will vote Nay.
- 34 of the Democrats are firm, leaning, or likely Nays; this includes eight Democrats who voted Yea the last time around in November.
- 147 Democrats are firm, leaning, or likely Yeas.
- The remaining 72 Democrats are "undecided."
That puts the current count at 147 Yea, 212 Nay, with 72 toss-ups. Note that a majority is currently 216, since there are only 431 members of the House right now.
To put it in a nuthouse, Republicans must get 4 of those toss-up Dems to vote Nay, while the Democrats must get 69 of the toss-up Dems to vote Yea.
It should be obvious now why Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) has not yet called the vote: The risk is too great that the Nay-sayers will get their 4 before the Yes-men get their 69. And she won't call the vote until the whip-count shows better odds for ObamaCare than against it.
Now I expect the great majority of those toss-up Dems will eventually vote for ObamaCare; but if they lose only 4 out of the 72 (6%) it goes down. Bear in mind that when the current Congress ends -- probably sometime in late November or December -- any legislation passed in one or both chambers but not signed into law dies.
The new Congress would have to start all over again with ObamaCare (if it's still controlled by Democrats); the new House cannot simply pass the previous Senate's bill and send it to President Barack H. Obama for signature.
As a more practical matter, the closer we edge to the November 2nd elections, the greater the pressure on the toss-up Dems to vote Nay, since that is the way most of their constituents want them to vote.
I would guess that the window will firmly shut in late May or early June; after that -- with one dangerous exception -- ObamaCare cannot be enacted, for reasons of politics.
The one dangerous exception is the putative "lame-duck" period of the second session of the 111th Congress... the short interval after the elections but before the 112th Congress is seated on January 3rd (per the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).
During those two months, every representative in the House already knows whether he has been reelected, and the Senate bill is still in effect.
A defeated Democrat has nothing to lose by voting for ObamaCare. If enough of those currently leaning towards Nay are defeated, they may, in a fit of vindictive revenge against the constituents who fired them, vote in as perverse a manner as possible. (Though of course, it's unlikely the reconciliation side of the package could also be enacted during that period.)
This is the most likely time for ObamaCare to be enacted, since it would then have virtually no consequences on its supporters: Many of the Democrats voting for it will have already been defeated; and for those from moderate districts who were nevertheless reelected, a December vote gives them the maximal "memory-lapse" time before facing voters again in 2012.
I'm quite concerned about that interval; has the GOP given it much thought?
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► March 12, 2010
Traders to the Cause - Republicans Are All Ears
In 2006, incoming Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) infamously promised that the Democrats would run "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history." When President Barack H. Obama ran for president two years later, he made a similar pledge of ethics and transparency that would rise so high above the supposed gutter-level of the George W. Bush administration, it would be heaven on Earth. He explicitly pledged that lobbyists would find no home in the Obama administration.
Now, after a year plus of Obamunism, we're starting to see the outlines of those ethics and that transparency:
President Obama's pick to oversee export controls at the Commerce Department is a trade lawyer whose recent clients include two companies on a government watch list and a shipping business that agreed to pay millions of dollars last year to resolve a federal probe into shipments to Iran, Sudan and Syria.
All three companies have had recent interests before the government office that Eric Hirschhorn would oversee if he is confirmed as undersecretary of commerce for industry and security....
"If confirmed, Mr. Hirschhorn will be required to recuse himself for two years on all matters in which his former clients are parties or represent parties," Commerce Department spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said.
Do ye want yer old lobby washed down?
Eric Hirschhorn is a lawyer who most recently acted as a lobbyist for a couple of Hong Kong companies linked to Mayrow General Trading (Dubai); the feds linked Mayrow to manufactured parts found in IEDs set in Iraq to kill Americans and Iraqis. He also represented a DHL division that had to pay a huge fine for unlawful shipping to Iran, Syria, and Sudan.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke singled out Mayrow in a speech last fall on export controls, saying that through work with the United Arab Emirates, "we successfully targeted Mayrow General Trading, which was forwarding U.S.-made goods to Iran that ended up in bombs in Iraq."
But I'm sure naming Hirschhorn to a top Commerce Department job -- where he "would oversee the Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security, which controls exports of technology, software and dual-use items that can be used for both commercial and military purposes" -- was a mere oversight, a fluke event. He'll just recuse himself in a few cases, and then all will be well. Oh, wait; there's this:
Another top export official at the department, Kevin J. Wolf, a trade lawyer recently confirmed by the Senate as assistant secretary for export administration, is recusing himself from matters involving 36 former clients, including major exporters such as Raytheon and Boeing.
At least there's no suggestion that Mr. Wolf's former clients are linked to IEDs in Iraq, thank goodness.
But it is peculiar just how easy it seems for lawyers and lobbyists, deeply committed to their oft-unsavory clients, to find themselves working in the Obama administration at the very body they used to lobby; one wonders how many of these appointees expect to return to their former advocacy jobs as soon as legally allowed after finishing their stints in the Obama administration... thus might (just a thought) make decisions with an eye towards future employment, after their recusal period ends.
Paul Mirengoff has recently noted that it's unfair to refer to seven Justice Department lawyers who voluntarily sought to defend America-attacking terrorists held in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility as "the al-Qaeda Seven," since that implies that the lawyers share the views of al-Qaeda. All right, I won't argue against that case; but what does it say about the President of the United States that he has such a fetish for hiring such individuals into the administration, his administration?
Not only those seven at the Department of Justice, but now Mr. Hirschhorn to the Commerce Department, where he will "oversee" the committee that decides what companies can export to which enemy recipients; and of course, many, many other former lobbyists or advocates against America have wound up in the current administration... starting, I note, with the president himself, who called on the U.S. military in Iraq to declare defeat and go home.
The president should be held to a higher standard than merely saying that it's not strictly illegal for him to appoint a tendentious partisan on the enemy's side to a powerful post in D.C.:
- Barack Obama has no duty to those companies;
- Barack Obama did not represent them, nor did he have any responsibility to ensure they were represented;
- Barack Obama is supposed to pick the best person for a job, taking all factors into account;
- Barack Obama himself knows that not every person who is technically qualified under the law is therefore a good choice for high-ranking positions in the government.
Those are two different standards: Activity that may be perfectly legal -- such as lobbying for companies that are already known to be aiding and abetting Iran's program to build IEDs to blow up American soldiers, Marines, and civilians -- can still be a common-sense disqualifier for a plum federal position. Nobody has a "right" to be named to the Department of Justice, Commerce, or any other federal agency.
What's next -- if Attorney General Eric Holder resigns, will Obama replace him with some lawyer who rushed to file a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court demanding the release from military custody New York "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla?
Oh, wait. My mistake: That was Attorney General Eric Holder, not some hypothetical replacement, who forgot to mention that amicus curae brief during his confirmation hearings. Never mind!
If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs...
In the meanwhile, Republicans are not letting the crisis of a yawning chasm between rhetoric and reality under Barack Obama go to waste:
In a move to break with the GOP's big-spending past, House Republicans voted Thursday to ban their members this year from requesting earmarks, the pork-barrel spending that directs money to pet projects in home districts....
"Today, House Republicans took an important step toward showing the American people we're serious about reform by adopting an immediate, unilateral ban on all earmarks," said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, adding that this was just a first step in a broader fight to control overall spending.
Blindsided by the GOP's sudden burst of propriety -- Pelosi never expected that! -- Democrats labored mightily to respond -- and gave birth to a mouse:
On Wednesday, House Democrats announced another new rule, one to ban earmarks to for-profit companies.
Fortunately, this will not prevent Democrats from using earmarks to funnel money to ACORN. Or to International ANSWER or the SEIU. Or to some "charity," such as the Holy Land Foundation. Or to Hamas itself, if they really wanted to do; last I checked, the Palestinian terrorist organization was not a "for-profit company," hence not covered by the ban.
So there you have a tale of two parties: One is showered daily by a cornucopia of corruption... while the other can only sigh wistfully for the good old days, when it had its own bottomless bowl of largess.
Previous posts in our neverending series about the Democratic culture of corruption and earwax:
- The Missing Earpiece
- Has Nancy Pelosi Changed Her Mind About Ears?
- The Democrats Are All Ears
- Earmarks? No No... Phonemarks!
- They're All Ears... Again
- The Power of the Big Idea: O'Billery Reduced to "Me Too!"
Date ►►► March 11, 2010
To Infinity, and Behind!
A little over a month ago, I noted the shift in our spacefaring strategy towards privatizing space exploration and exploitation, a strategy pushed, astonishingly enough, by President Barack H. Obama:
I'm just now picking my jaw up from the floor: Barack H. Obama has just decided to privatize -- space exploration?....
It's a little odd that such a lover of big-government Obamunism and nationalization of private resources would suddenly go all capitalist over the space program; I worry that this will just turn out to be more empty rhetoric. But entrepeneurs can use even empty rhetoric to fly below the radar and actually bring about some of the dreams that Obama has woven, perhaps unintentionally and against the president's own better judgment. Certainly there is no lack of players champing at the leash to jump into a newly revitalized private space-launch industry....
Republicans should seize this idea to show they're not just the "party of No," as Obama loves to claim. Here's a chance to champion science, space research, and private enterprise and entrepeneurship, all while showing some bipartisan flair! The GOP would have to be utter morons to let this fish loose.
I'm glad I tossed in that final cynical jab at the GOP (which may come to mean "grand obsolete party"); it makes me look less like a Pollyanna, sunny-side up nitwit. For just as we all suspected, the Republicans are so locked into the top-down "command science" that they join their Democratic colleagues in trashing the very idea of private manned space launches:
"As with all great human achievements, our commitment to space must be renewed and encouraged or we will surely be surpassed by other nations who are presently challenging our leadership in space," Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. Congress from Florida wrote to Obama last week."
Here is the new plan, as enunciated by the running-dog capitalist in chief:
Obama, in his Feb. 1 budget proposal, planned to increase NASA's overall funding to $19 billion in 2011 with an emphasis on science and less spent on space exploration.
He would cancel the Constellation program's Orion spacecraft and Ares rockets, after $9 billion and five years of tests. Constellation is aimed at returning astronauts to the moon in the 2020s to clear the way for a Mars mission.
Instead, Obama would spend $6 billion a year for five years to support commercial spacecraft development and pursue new technologies to explore the solar system in what the White House called "a more effective and affordable way."
The Florida Republicans shake in their boots, terrified that private enterprise will surely lead to massive job losses (possibly even within the state legislature). But is it now Republican dogma that public spending creates more jobs than the free market?
It's not just know-nothing congressmen in the Reptile State pushing the bright red panic button about private aerospace development. Here comes President George W. Bush's NASA administrator, "explaining" -- in the sense of "mocking the very idea" -- why we must allow government to monopolize spaceflight:
Various members of the far-flung U.S. space community have been troubled by the change, such as former NASA administrator Michael Griffin, who struggled to get more funding for Constellation from the previous administration of President George W. Bush and believes Obama should stick with it.
"There's a larger issue here," Griffin said. "Does the United States want to have a real space program? Do we actually think we can have a robust, exciting, world-leading space program by hiring private enterprise to furnish it?"
Why yes, Dr. Griffin; many of us do support exactly that weird idea: In a capitalist state -- or even whatever hemi-demi-quasi-capitalist state we currently inhabit -- it's always best to try the market first... and only haul out the big-government guns later, if a screaming emergency arises.
The bureaucratization of space exploration is one of the most disheartening aspects of contemporary society: Here we sit, verging on the sixtieth anniversary of Robert A. Heinlein's classic, "the Man Who Sold the Moon" (1951); and our "leaders" at NASA still scoff at the preposterous thought that private rocket ships, free-market space colonization, and entrepeneurial expansion to the stars can actually work... maybe even better than Michael Griffin ordering his civil servants to innovate, on schedule.
My God. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And so far, that's where it bloody well ends, too.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► March 10, 2010
Politico reports that Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) is losing her grip.
Not her grip on reality (not to mention sanity), however tenuous that may appear; she knows what she's doing. What lefty Independent Jonathan Allen meant is that the Speaker is losing her iron grip on the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives:
Over the past two weeks, Pelosi has faced a series of subtle but significant challenges to her authority -- revolts from Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Blue Dog Coalition and politically vulnerable first- and second-term members.
The dynamic stems from an “every man for himself” attitude developing in the Democratic Caucus rather than a loss of respect for Pelosi, according to a senior Democratic aide. But it’s making Pelosi’s life -- and efforts to maintain Democratic unity -- harder.
Allen offers several explanations why, like Darth Vader, star systems are slipping through Pelosi's fingers: a "tough election cycle," Democratic congressmen eager to take "revenge" on the Senate for not being partisan enough, and her go-lite chastisement of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY, 100%) and other revolting Democrats. But he misses the most obvious explanation: Nancy Pelosi is leading her caucus to certain doom in the mid-term elections.
She asks them to take suicidal votes on wildly unpopular bills, from ObamaCare, to Cap and Tax, to stimulus packages so numerous they must be numbered... and now, in an election year! She demands that Democrats, even those just starting their careers, immolate themselves upon a cross of bogus bailouts and carbon credits.
Oddly, they're somewhat reluctant to fall upon their swords just so that Pelosi will look good.
I suspect that if she were to suggest that it would be best all around if the House were to scrap the current thoroughly discredited ObamaCare bill and start all over again... well, she might find that the easiest way to "lead" is to find a parade already heading down the street -- and dart out in front, pumping your baton.
But then, of course, she wouldn't have the nearly orgasmic joy of digging deep to sacrifice myriad others for her own cause. And really, in the grand scheme of things, what could possibly be more important than Nancy Pelosi's near-petite mort?
Date ►►► March 9, 2010
The World Has Gone Mad
I've been summoned for jury duty many times; I've never even gotten to voir dire.
Until now: Through some perversity of the Fates, I was actually impaneled yesterday.
A juror impaneled is like -- is like a butterfly mounted. All day, every day for the rest of the week and perhaps even Monday or Tuesday next, I'm pinned in my box, unable to do ought but squirm and squirm, and wriggle and wriggle. I'll try to blog a bit in the evenings, but...
But on top of just closing escrow on our house, having to get it rewired, repainted, erecting a couple of fences, stocking the joint with labor-saving appliances; having our main car totaled, buying a new (used) car in replacement; and atop Sachi going through a particularly stressful time at work just now; suddenly finding myself on a jury is just too-too!
It saps the very marrow of my bones. *
I shall do my civic duty; but next time, I swear to whatever God I don't yet believe in that I'm going to show up in the jury assembly room sporting my t-shirt that reads, "I'd rather be waterboarding."
I'll see you on the flip side; and don't expect the usual long-winded, endlessly weedy screeds for which Big Lizards has become justy infamous.
* I've been told being on a jury is very rewarding, and the tale-tellers were right: I'll get about $75 plus thirty-eight cents per mile... where "per mile" here means, not my actual driven mileage, but rather as the vulture flies. Cheap, Alfie.
Date ►►► March 7, 2010
Palin and Reagan: Together Again for the First Time
Paul Mirengoff of Power Line, who seems as conflicted as can be about the aspects and auspices of Sarah Louise Palin, ponders them deeply in a recent post, Would Reagan vote for Sarah Palin? (Answer: Yes.)
Paul quotes from Steve Hayward writing in the Washington Post (I supply the missing link here); Hayward is the chap who answered Yes to the question above... then added what Paul calls a "cautionary note":
But while the parallels between them are evident, it is far from clear that Palin appreciates Reagan's discipline and substantive grand strategy. In many of her speeches and media appearances she tends to ramble on, with none of the crispness and rhetorical force of Reagan's formulas. With the partial exception of energy, she has yet to identify a set of signature issues that can carry her particular stamp, as Reagan did in the late 1970s with his relentless attacks on detente and his championing of supply-side economics.
I rise only to note a peculiar point in defense of a lady: Sarah Palin is only... well, as a gentleman, I won't bandy a woman's age; but note that when our fortieth president was the age she is now, Ronald Reagan himself had "yet to identify a "grand strategy" or "set of signature issues that can carry [his] particular stamp."
All that we knew about Reagan's politics in 1957 was that he had been a New Deal Democrat when New-Deal Democrat Franklin Roosevelt was in power; an anti-Communist Truman-Democrat when Truman was in power; and an Eisenhower Republican when (you guessed it) Dwight D. Eisenhower ran for president.
He did not identify his "signature issues," as Hayward put it, until he was well into his 60s; heck, he didn't even deliver his electrifying introduction for Barry Goldwater until he was 53, significantly older than the Thrillah from Wasilla.
In '57, Reagan had just begun his stint hosting General Electric Theater. The job required him to travel the country giving speeches; that very activity induced Reagan to develop his own peculiar and wonderful political philosophy. (Note that he was still a private citizen at this time; he would not enter actual elective politics, as opposed to being elected union boss, until 1966, when he was 55 years old.)
Thus have I given the gracious lady my advice to tour the "lower 48" and speak, speak, speak -- and listen, listen, listen: Great wisdom can be found among the uncommon common American. (Advice sent but probably never delivered; Big Lizards is notoriously less reliable even than the Post Office -- though significantly cheaper.) If Palin follows the Reagan model, this is her time to introduce herself to America on her own terms, not as the perhaps ill-considered shadow of John S. McCain.
The VP run was premature, but I suspect Sarah Palin was as surprised by the invitation as were the rest of us. Kudos to McC for thinking outside the box; but there is a reason why nobody is outré all the time: "The box" is actually defined by what usually works!
And now is the moment for Sarah Palin to decide what she thinks "works" in America and why, what doesn't and why not, and to answer the most important question: How do we get there from here? She is not yet tardy, but she'd better hit the ground speaking.
By the way, I am pleased once again to be a harbinger of trends to come. Hayward had this to say about the Tea Parties:
Reagan typically described conservatism in populist terms rather than formal ones. In his "Time for Choosing" speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater during the 1964 presidential campaign, he sounded almost exactly like Glenn Beck does today. "This is the issue of this election," Reagan warned: "Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that an intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves."
This populist undercurrent is why I am certain that Reagan would have been an enthusiastic supporter of the tea party movement. While the tea partiers confuse the media and annoy the establishments of both political parties, Reagan would have seen them as reviving the embers of what he called the "prairie fire" of populist resistance against centralized big government -- resistance that helped touch off the tax revolt of the 1970s. That movement was often dismissed as a tantrum, but when The Washington Post called California's 1978 antitax Proposition 13 "a skirmish," Reagan replied that if so, then the Chicago fire was a backyard barbecue.
Now compare it to this point made by an obscure blogger and minor crank:
A popular front is an extremely broad-based coalition of political forces that normally oppose each other. In rare moments, the stars align, and so do the groups; what results is a mass movement that can wash away the status quo like a burst dam. The movement doesn't have to include all or even a majority of the citizenry; but it is large enough to push aside any countervailing coalition -- which means whatever the front wants, it gets....
The Tea Party front is the worst nightmare of the hard-core Left -- a patriotic, small-government, capitalist popular front. While Tea Partiers are not specifically Republican, leftists realize that GOP leaders (Sarah Palin) and candidates (Scott Brown) are far better positioned to appeal to Tea Partiers than are Democrats: All Republicans must do is match their words with deeds; but Democrats would have to (a) repudiate everything they have said and voted for in the past four decades, then (b) convince Tea Partiers that this time they're sincere!
I think Hayward and I are seeing the same structure but describing it in slightly different terms, he from his Reagan scholarship and I from my "forces and fractures" methodology.
Of course, I said it first...
Date ►►► March 6, 2010
Democrat Massa Resigns - to Squeaker Pelosi's Gain
Alas, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) just picked up a vote for ObamaCare. Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY, not yet rated) has announced his resignation from the House effective Monday, due to ethics charges (sexual harassment). On November 7th, 2009, Massa was one of the 39 Democrats who voted against the House ObamaCare bill; see this roll-call vote.
There are two paths forward:
- Ultra, ultra-liberal New York Gov. David Paterson might appoint a replacement, if state law permits; Paterson would unquestionably appoint a liberal who will vote for ObamaCare, converting Massa's Nay into a Yea -- a big help to Pelosi.
If the law does not permit, or if Paterson doesn't move quickly enough (being embroiled in his own ethics charges -- bribery), then Pelosi still gains.
There currently are only 432 members of the House, instead of the usual 435 (two resigned and one, Jack Murtha, dropped dead); to pass the Senate version of ObamaCare in the House the Democrats need an actual majority... which is 217, because 216 is only 50%.
But with Massa's resignation, that leaves only 431 members; and 216 is an actual majority (50.1%) of 431. Since Massa voted against ObamaCare, Pelosi needs one fewer vote from the same number of Yes-men... so she doesn't even need to convert Massa from Nay to Yea.
Either way, Speaker Pelosi has picked up one net vote since yesterday. So it goes.
However, three other House members are embroiled in their own ethics charges: Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-NY, 100%), Maxine Waters (D-CA, 100%), and Laura Richardson (D-CA, 100%); and each of this lot actually voted for the House version of ObamaCare. Thus if any of them is forced to resign in the next month or so, that would make up for Massa. (If two or three of them leave, that would put even more pressure on the Speaker, of course.)
It's up, it's down, it's a yo-yo.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► March 5, 2010
Bride Mistress Tawdry One-Night Stand of Climategate
The "Climategate" scandal began last November, when several thousand e-mails and other documents hacked from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (the CRU at the UEA, for you alphabet-soup lovers) were dumped at a separate website, RealClimate (which, by the way, supports the "consensus opinion" of the IPCC, vigorously defends predictions of carbon-driven climate catastrophism, and evinces little but contempt for global-warming skeptics).
The hacked documents stunned the world, as they appear to demonstrate that the "consensus opinion" of climate research was not driven by strong and uncontroverted science -- as we'd been told ad nauseam since the 1990s -- but by political calculation and activism, sloppy research techniques, malfunctioning or mis-sited measuring equipment, predetermined outcomes and the "desk drawer" fallacy, bullying of peer-reviewed literature to exclude dissent, hounding and character assassination of "deniers" (skeptics), and above all, driven by the lure of hundreds of billions of dollars in "carbon credits," with all the anti-scientific pressures such massive monetary manipulation inevitably entails.
And it all began with such promise... the promise of a world cleansed of the contagion of religion, technology, Capitalism, and conservatives!
Anthropogenic ("man caused") global climate change (AGCC) was promoted by a portion of the scientific community which consistently identified itself as representing the whole, quivering with eagerness to (a) join the bandwagon, (b) not be seen as unhip, (c) not be seen as (even worse!) non-liberal, (d) get their hands on the literally hundreds of millions of dollars available in government-sponsored research grants, issued only to those scientists whose research arrived at the "correct" conclusion.
It's important not to make the same mistake in reverse; the motives above do not prove that the "consensus opinion" is wrong. But the degree of cross-citation in the AGCC echo chamber does call into question the independence of the data that supposedly corroborate each other. (I have the mental image of a great circle of true believers, each pointing at the fellow behind him, with the last pointing at the first... rather like the world-girdling serpent that swallows its own tail.)
Climate modeling replaced more traditional scientific research as the source of "evidence;" that is, a general circulation model predicts a temperature increase over the next hundred years... and that prediction is itself used as "evidence" that global warming is ongoing and civilization-threatening. Papers were published with peer review conducted entirely by guaranteed true believers; contrary evidence was suppressed, while supportive evidence was generated through poor methodology by researchers who already knew what they were going to find; surprise, surprise, they found it.
Climatological papers began to read like pronunciamentos, manifestos, or at times, theocratic fatwas. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was not simply seeking the truth, it was saving the world!
Alternative explanations that didn't start from human industrial activity and end in Armageddon were rejected out of hand, without investigation but with an unhealthy dollop of ridicule; alternative responses to the "crisis" that didn't require stunning deindustrialization -- accompanied by a ruinous transfer of wealth from developed to developing countries -- were dismissed as "too little, too late." Global warming became a political battle cry and a shibboleth separating Left from Right (with the "consensus" establishment firmly ensconced on the Left, of course)
This is not an environment conducive to unbiased, persuasive scientific research.
Simply put, if a someone was not an IPCC cheerleader and New Luddite, if he didn't call for "smashing the looms" -- crippling reductions in energy use coupled with draconian deindustrialization and global transfer taxes -- then regardless of his scientific credentials, he was a knuckle-dragging, slack-jawed, slope-browed, Bible-thumping, drooling, ignorant, uneducated, right-wing member of the "booboisie," who shouldn't even be allowed to mouth such uninformed and foolish opinions and offend his betters. And obviously in the pay of Big Oil, to boot.
When Climategate broke, it was swiftly followed by Glaciergate and a couple other scandals that forced retractions from science journals and even the IPCC itself. It was "hack heard 'round the world."
America and the rest of the world jerked awake, stared at the crumbling edifice of the AGCC "consensus opinion," and collectively breathed, "what the hell?" Those thoughtful souls who were not climate scientists, who had nervously followed (and believed) the hype of the last two decades -- that the entire climatological scientific community was on board with the IPCC's predictions of calamity and the scientific urgency of communalism -- abruptly discovered that the "consensus" was ginned up the old-fashioned way... by strategems, threats, and bribes. To quote Robert Anton Wilson on quite a different subject, as I have done several times before and will persist doing, world without end --
To unbiased (if appalled) observers, the release of the Climategate "papers" and the ensuing retractions, backing and filling, admissions against interest, recriminations, resignations, and regrets, is occasion to step back from the Globaloney hysteria and refocus our research efforts on putting the basic science of climatology on a sounder footing.
But like President Obama, who infamously insists upon sticking with his predetermined narrative on ObamaCare with only cheap and cosmetic changes, the IPCC and its acolytes take quite a different lesson from the the last four months' imbroglio:
Undaunted by a rash of scandals over the science underpinning climate change, top climate researchers are plotting to respond with what one scientist involved said needs to be "an outlandishly aggressively partisan approach" to gut the credibility of skeptics.
In private e-mails [!] obtained by The Washington Times, climate scientists at the National Academy of Sciences say they are tired of "being treated like political pawns" and need to fight back in kind. Their strategy includes forming a nonprofit group to organize researchers and use their donations to challenge critics by running a back-page ad in the New York Times.
"Most of our colleagues don't seem to grasp that we're not in a gentlepersons' debate, we're in a street fight against well-funded, merciless enemies who play by entirely different rules," Paul R. Ehrlich, a Stanford University researcher, said in one of the e-mails.
There you go! Taking a page from the Progressivist playbook, when caught red-handed in biased conclusions, confabulations, skulduggery, and corruption, the best tactic is always to lash out at the accusers, blaming them for stirring up trouble and raking muck. Go on the offensive and charge opponents with everything one's own team has done, hoping that the confusion will induce a "he said, she said" unresolvable "paralysis by analysis" that (one hopes) leads to a scientific civil war. Or perhaps a brain aneurysm... anything to prevent, or at least delay, the dread necessity of an honest re-evaluation of the basic premises of AGCC.
Waverers must be reborn in the faith; or failing that, lumped with the accusers and destroyed alongside them:
Some scientists question the tactic and say they should focus instead on perfecting their science, but the researchers who are organizing the effort say the political battle is eroding confidence in their work....
George Woodwell, founder of the Woods Hole Research Center, said in one e-mail that researchers have been ceding too much ground. He blasted Pennsylvania State University for pursuing an academic investigation against professor Michael E. Mann, who wrote many of the e-mails leaked from the British climate research facility.
Woodwell concludes by committing an epigram, with malice aforethought: "We are dealing with an opposition that is not going to yield to facts or appeals from people who hold themselves in high regard and think their assertions and data are obvious truths" ...working himself into such a lather that he mixes subject and predicate, inadvertently implying that it is he and his compadres who "hold themselves in high regard" and think their every utterance is "obvious truth."
But there are still a few sane scientists left in the world, thank goodness, who recognize that climatology's situation is of the climatologists' own making, because -- like contemporary journalists -- they started seeing themselves as saviors, not seekers:
"Sounds like this group wants to step up the warfare, continue to circle the wagons, continue to appeal to their own authority, etc.," said Judith A. Curry, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "Surprising, since these strategies haven't worked well for them at all so far."
She said scientists should downplay their catastrophic predictions, which she said are premature, and instead shore up and defend their research. She said scientists and institutions that have been pushing for policy changes "need to push the disconnect button for now," because it will be difficult to take action until public confidence in the science is restored.
"Hinging all of these policies on global climate change with its substantial element of uncertainty is unnecessary and is bad politics, not to mention having created a toxic environment for climate research," she said.
We wait with bated breath to see whether the scientific community remembers that it is supposed to be a community, not a Lysenko-like dictatorship cum grant-grabbing bureaucracy; and that its first allegiance is to the truth... even if that truth doesn't comport with political correctness or the messianic zeal of individual scientists, eager to spread the dire news -- and enforce a "solution" that, funnily enough, is just the political regime they've always wanted to impose anyway. If climate science can shake itself from dreams of empire and recover its real purpose -- to learn, not lead -- then we may yet come out of this dark night with our civilization intact.
But if the delusions of grandeur and martyrdom run too deep, if the high of political clout and grant money overwhelm the day to day grind of real science, then we may be headed for yet another theocratic attack on our liberal, democratic society... this time under siege by the First Church of Fundamentalist Anthropogenicism.
I have high hopes that this too shall pass, and science will return to its own yard and stop tarting up to play in the geopolitics yard. To paraphrase another great sage, I keep my optimism, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really wise when they need to be.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Well There's Yer Problem! part III
Let's check back with the minions of Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%); the Squeak insists she'll either pass the bill, or she'll pass the bill. It's in the bag -- no need even to vote on it. (I wonder if -- maybe she'll... would even San Fran Nan have the huevos to try to rule that the Senate bill has passed the House by acclamation? Nah, even she wouldn't have that much chutzpah.)
But what do said minions themselves min? There are two main dissenting groups, plus one unnamed revolutionary mob that may well be larger than the other two put together.
Abort! Abort! Abort!
Let's start with the Stupakians, who have stooped to stupify the Squeaky stooges in Congress:
A dozen House of Representatives Democrats opposed to abortion are willing to kill President Barack Obama's healthcare reform plan unless it satisfies their demand for language barring the procedure, Representative Bart Stupak said on Thursday.
"Yes. We're prepared to take responsibility," Stupak said on ABC's "Good Morning America" when asked if he and his 11 Democratic allies were willing to accept the consequences for bringing down healthcare reform over abortion.
"Let's face it. I want to see healthcare. But we're not going to bypass the principles of belief that we feel strongly about," he said.
Oh, well they can always pass the Senate version of the bill (with no aboriton restriction), then just fix it in reconciliation, right?
Wrong: Reconciliation must follow the "Byrd Rule," which means (among other things), it's only available for clauses and sections that are primarily intended to reduce the budget deficit, either by cutting spending or raising taxes. There is no possible way that the Senate Parliamentarian, Alan Frumin, or anyone else Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%) names to that position in a fit of pique, is going to say that the primary purpose of banning federal spending on abortion coverage is simply to reduce the budget deficit.
That means the Stupakians must accept in advance of their vote the solemn assurances of liberal, pro-choice Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer that they will vote against funding abortion, even when they have the chance to implement what they have always dreamt of: Full funding of abortion with taxpayer money, so that every woman can get one!
I'm sure Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI, 90%) and his likeminded colleagues have absolute trust in the Senate Left.
Green is the color of my true-love's eyeshades
The second group that has begun grumbling comprises the fiscal... well I wouldn't exactly say hawks; they are Democrats, after all. But at least fiscal woodpeckers, who might insist upon hammering off bits and pieces here and there to bring the cost down somewhat -- and who already voted against the House bill because it was too costly:
But perhaps the most overlooked section of [Barack H. Obama's] speech was his insistence that the Democratic bill will take sufficient steps to control the rise in health care costs for individuals, families and the federal government.
“We have now incorporated most of the serious ideas from across the political spectrum about how to contain the rising cost of health care -- ideas that go after the waste and abuse in our system, especially in programs like Medicare,” the president said. “But we do this while protecting Medicare benefits and extending the financial stability of the program by nearly a decade.”
Whether the legislation will tamp down rising health care expenditures is controversial; even experts who support the Democratic legislation say it could do more to control costs. Nonetheless, the president’s remarks sent a clear message to a crucial group of Congressional Democrats who voted against the health care legislation citing cost concerns: the White House and Congressional leaders will not be taking any big new steps to win them over.
This is the group that the Squeaker must target for more votes, since her coalition has already dropped to a minority due to the loss of four votes (one reversal, two retirements, and one demise). At this point, Mrs. Pelosi has only 216 from her previous 220-vote majority... and she needs 217. (I think we should at least count Bart Stupak as another defection, dropping the current count to 215, two less than she needs now.)
The only place to troll for new votes is, quite obviously, among those who voted Nay last time; and that means Nancy Pelosi must persuade the fiscal woodpeckers to switch and support the bill this time.
The problem for the Democrats is... why? Why should they switch? What can the Democratic leadership offer the 39 Democratic Nay-sayers that they didn't offer them last time? How can the deal be better, now that they're voting on the Senate bill, rather than the one they helped craft in the first place?
Nothing in the Senate bill, vice the House bill, sweetens the pot for the fiscal woodies:
- The Senate bill adds many more taxes and "fees" on the middle class and on the medical community than the House bill.
- The Senate bill loots Medicare for considerably more than does the House bill, $438 billion vice $396 billion over ten years.
- The House plan raises revenues by putting a big tax on "the rich" (individuals who earn more than $500,000 per year, households which earn more than $1,000,000), perceived as being primarily Republican; contrariwise, the Senate plan raises revenues by taxing "Cadillac" health-care plans, a tax that falls disproportionately on union members, perceived as primarily Democratic.
Although the Senate bill supposedly spends less than the House bill ($871 billion vice $891 billion over ten years), it (equally supposedly) reduces the deficit by less than the House bill does -- $132 billion vice $138 billion over ten years.
(This is all a fiction, of course; as Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, 84%, demonstrates: The CBO counted ten years of tax increases but only six years of spending, so it's hardly surprising that looks good on paper; think how good your own bottom line would look if you counted a decade of your salary, then subtracted six years of your spending.)
The distance between the bills is not great; but what few discrepencies remain tend to make the woodpeckers less likely, not more likely, to vote for the Senate bill. Certainly the gap was wide enough that the two chambers never did come to a meeting of the minds.
Pelosi might get a few votes by twisting arms; but will it be anywhere near the dozen Stupakians she's going to lose, plus the four other votes she has already lost? That drops her 220 down to 204; Speaker Pelosi needs to scavenge 13 of the 39 Democratic Nays -- a third of them! -- for a bill that is certainly no better than the last time and arguably worse... up for a vote in an undeniably worse political environment than last time.
Lotsa luck, lady.
Red state menace
Finally, we have the "hidden" group: Those representatives who actually voted for the bill the last time... and then got mugged by their own constituents with a sock full of sand. I refer here not just to congressmen from Republican-leaning districts but even the moderate or "swing" districts -- which have swung rather decisively against ObamaCare.
Remember, the House Dems must vote for the entire Senate bill; not a word, not a comma or semicolon, not a jot or tittle may be changed -- else the "new" version has to return to the Senate and be voted upon, with 60 votes required and only 59 available.
Nothing, nothing can be changed before that first vote. That means that, in addition to voting for a bill that the president pretends costs $1.3 trillion over ten years, but which everybody knows really costs closer to Ryan's estimate of $2.3 trillion; in addition to voting for a bill that allows the federal government to use taxpayer money to fund abortion; in addition to raiding Medicare of half a trillion buckaroos, increasing the cost of health insurance, drastically raising taxes, and rationing health care (yeah, "death panels"); in addition to voting for all that, our hapless Democrats must must also vote for the Louisiana Purchase, the Kornhusker Kickback, and the Gator Aid.
If those poor reps suffered howls of anguish after the first go-round, imagine the shrieks of hysterical outrage when those same clods return for Easter break with a new black mark on their record -- just as their reelection campaigns kick off in earnest!
Doom is nigh!
Michael Barone has suggested (based upon a comment by Mark Tapscott) that the Democrats may be a little shorter than folks realize:
Clever liberals in the blogosphere are still urging House Democrats to pass the Senate health care bill, with the Senate then making changes through the reconciliation process requiring only 51 votes and the Senate going along. Sounds like a clever idea. But as my Examiner colleague Mark Tapscott writes, an anonymous quote from a House Democratic leader suggests that they are 100 votes short of passing the Senate bill. I wouldn’t take that 100 votes as a precise number, but as an approximation.
Whether a particular Democratic representative is a fiscal woodpecker and voted against the bill, or a pro-life Democrat and voted for it because of the Stupak Amendment, or a scared moderate Democrat from a moderate to right-leaning district -- or even a tie-dyed liberal who thinks that without the "government option," the whole bill is worthless -- he is asked to gamble his entire political career on the desperate hope that the Senate rides to his rescue, approving all sorts of things that it rejected the last time.
...Despite the fact that many of those clauses, such as the restriction on abortion coverage, cannot possibly be shoehorned into reconciliation; therefore they would be subject to filibuster, and any 41 Senators -- liberal, conservative, or a left-right alliance -- could block their implementation.
Barone's last line sums up this entire post, explaining in a nuthouse why all the momentum is with those switching from Yea to Nay, not the other way around:
The House Democratic leadership’s problem is that it cannot credibly promise that the Senate will keep its part of the bargain.
And I would add, so what if it did? It's still a lousy bill in a lousy year. The idea that there are handfuls of Democrats in the House just itching to pass an unpopular government takeover of health care and get themselves thrown out of office as reward is just... surreal.
How many high-paying ambassadorships and top-level adminstrative positions does anyone think Obama can find -- given that he needs those open slots to bribe campaign donors?
Date ►►► March 3, 2010
The Sky Is (Probably Not) Raining Bullets
Lawyerly warning! I am not your lawyer -- I am not anybody's lawyer. I've never seen the inside of a law school, and I try not to play one on the internet, either. However, this post necessarily has a lot of heavy-duty legal lifting.
I'm certain I have made some mistakes through ignorance, but I've done the best I can; one hopes any mistakes are minor... but if I have misspoken in some significant way, please do comment or tell me via the Lizardly Tips e-mail address found in the right-hand column, somewhat below. Thank you for your eyeballs.
The Times of Our Nation's Capital published a lengthy article about a vital and exciting gun-rights case, McDonald v. Chicago, that attempts to overturn Chicago's strict "ban" on handgun possession. (To be technical, Chicago does not outright ban handguns; but it does require that all firearms be registered with the local police -- then bans the registration of pistols, de facto banning pistols themselves.)
While several Illinois cities with similar bans -- Evanston, Morton Grove, Wilmette, and Winnetka -- rescinded them after the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___ (2008), striking down the gun ban in Washington D.C. on Second Amendment grounds, Chicago and Oak Park are fighting tooth and hammer to keep their bans. McDonald v. Chicago, which began oral arguments in the Supreme Court yesterday, seeks to overturn the ban in those cities.
McDonald has two main arguments...
Incorporation of the Second Amendment to state and local laws
First, plaintiffs ask the Court to overturn the city bans by "incorporating" the Second Amendment to state and local governments via the Fourteenth Amendment, as has already been done with most (but not all) other rights protected by the Bill of Rights. This is a traditional argument; the National Rifle Association filed its own case against Chicago, National Rifle Association v. City of Chicago, making this argument exclusively (though a "friend of the court" brief filed in the NRA case also used McDonald's second argument, discussed below). The Court has more or less combined the two cases, carving some time for the NRA out of the time alotted for McDonald attorney Alan Gura.
The claim here seems self-evident to me, though it has never before seemed evident to the Supreme Court: When the Founders wrote, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," we ought to assume they actually meant what they wrote: Keeping and bearing arms is a fundamental right held by the people -- where "the people" means the same in that amendment as it means in the First and Fourth amendments: an individual right held by each individual adult, with a few exceptions (felons, drunkards and drug addicts, persons under a restraining order, the insane).
Moreover, the amendment doesn't claim to create this right; it assumes that it preexists the Constitution. It's not a created right, such as the right to vote for your U.S. representative; it's a fundamental right that requires zealous protection.
This right, they wrote, must not even be infringed... which makes gun rights more sacrosanct than, say, the First Amendment's guarantee that the free exercise of religion shall not be "prohibited": You can infringe the free exercise of religion (by banning animal sacrifice, for example) while not running afoul of the First Amendment; but you cannot infringe gun rights without violating the Second.
It's clearly the duty of the federal government to police itself, via the federal court system -- stopping federal agencies or Congress from infringing the Second Amendment; that was the main thrust of Heller, op.cit. The only question that remains is whether it's also the duty of the federal courts to stop state and local governments from infringing the right to keep and bear arms. That is the point that McDonald should decide: If the answer is Yes, then the Supreme Court will presumably strike down gun bans (and de facto gun bans), along with every other infringement on the right to keep and bear arms, in Illinois and every other state.
(Note that to "bear arms" is not the same as to carry a weapon; the Court might hold that it protects carrying a gun under some circumstances but not others. That's a case by case question.)
The gun-control side unconvincingly argues that "the people" actually means only members of the National Guard; they base this on a tendentiously fabricated reading of United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939) in a later appellate-court decision: Miller used as its test whether a particular weapon -- a sawed-off shotgun in Miller's case -- was one typically used by militias:
In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense.
(They are routinely so used, of course; but that's another issue. Neither Miller nor his attorneys showed up for the hearing, and the case was decided entirely on the basis of the prosecution's argument. Miller's attorneys said they were too broke to travel, and Jack Miller himself sent his regrets, having inconveniently been slain in a gunfight a month before the Supreme Court hearing. Thus nobody was present to bring to judicial notice the ubiquity of short-barreled shotguns in regular militias.)
Then an appeals court in the 1940s -- I cannot recall the case offhand -- deliberately misinterpreted the clear statement above to mean, not that the weapon protected had to be a militia-style weapon, but that its owner had to be a member of the militia.
But which militia? There is the organized militia, which became the system of state National Guards; and there is the unorganized militia. Again from Miller:
The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.
Naturally, opponents of gun rights (a) interpret the subordinate, explanatory clause to be the main clause, limiting gun rights to members of the militia; and (b) presume that by "militia," the amendment must surely mean the organized militia, now called the National Guard. It's a weird stretch that even many liberal constitutional scholars, such as Sanford Levinson, Alan Dershowitz, and Laurence Tribe are unprepared to make. (Subscription to the Wall Street Journal may be required for that third link.)
But McDonald is also being argued on another, more controversial ground that has not only gun-hating liberals but traditional conservatives, well, up in arms...
Privileges and immunities
Gura is pushing to overturn the Court decision in the so-called Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1873); that decision limited the "privileges and immunities" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment -- "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States" -- which Gura believes even more strongly protects the right of individuals to keep (and bear, leave us not forget) arms:
"This is the best argument for the right to bear arms," Mr. Gura said, noting that the privileges or immunities clause was intended to extend the protections of the Bill of Rights to all Americans and made the federal government responsible for guaranteeing those rights, rather than the states.
The privileges or immunities clause, Mr. Gura argued, was created primarily to protect recently freed slaves from oppressive and discriminatory laws enacted by some Southern states after the Civil War and was misinterpreted in an 1873 Supreme Court decision.
The Slaughter-House Cases consolodated three New Orleans lawsuits against the Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Company and the state of Louisiana. In mid-nineteenth century New Orleans, the slaughter of upwards of 300,000 animals per year generated boatloads of rotting byproducts, from dung to urine to innards; this mountain of offal in turn led to frequent epidemics of cholera and yellow fever.
In 1869, Louisiana didn't allow this gruesome crisis to go to waste. It passed a state law consolodating all slaughtering into a single location -- and also "consolodating" the market itself into a monopoly. The state chartered the Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Company (a private company) and gave them the exclusive authority to let space to individual butchers in the city's slaughterhouse district:
[The statute] declares that the company... shall have the sole and exclusive privilege of conducting and carrying on the livestock landing and slaughterhouse business within the limits and privilege granted by the act, and that all such animals shall be landed at the stock landings and slaughtered at the slaughterhouses of the company, and nowhere else. Penalties are enacted for infractions of this provision, and prices fixed for the maximum charges of the company for each steamboat and for each animal landed."
The Butchers' Benevolent Association of New Orleans and its 400 members sued to stop Crescent City Live-Stock's takeover of the butchering business, hinging their case on the Fourteenth Amendment's due process, privileges or immunities, and equal protection clauses.
Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Samuel Freeman Miller rejected the privileges and immunities clause argument, as well as the others, affirming the previous court rulings and finding for Crescent City Live-Stock; Justice Miller held that the clause applied only to those privileges or immunities granted by "United States citizenship" and not those granted by "state citizenship," which the Court held were two different things:
It is quite clear, then, that there is a citizenship of the United States, and a citizenship of a state, which are distinct from each other, and which depend upon different characteristics or circumstances in the individual.
We think this distinction and its explicit recognition in this Amendment of great weight in this argument, because the next paragraph of this same section, which is the one mainly relied on by the plaintiffs in error, speaks only of privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, and does not speak of those of citizens of the several states. The argument, however, in favor of the plaintiffs, rests wholly on the assumption that the citizenship is the same and the privileges and immunities guaranteed by the clause are the same.”
From what I can glean from my not-a-lawyer perspective, Justice Miller's opinion held that the Fourteenth Amendment protected only those privileges or immunities that were created by the Constitution -- for example, the right not to be convicted of treason except upon the testimony of two witnesses to the same "overt act."
The list of constitutionally created privileges or immunities is very short and very limited, and this ruling effectively gutted the Fourteenth Amendment. Most threats to a citizen's privileges, immunities, or rights come from his state, not the federal government; yet the Slaughter-House Cases held that the Fourteenth only guaranteed the latter.
But the plain language of the Fourteenth doesn't seem to say that:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
It doesn't read, "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the U.S. Constitution-created privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;" the only restriction is to the person himself (he must be a U.S. citizen), not to the particular variety of privilege or immunity. And since every state citizen is also U.S. citizen, it's impossible to abridge the privileges or immunities of a state citizen without simultaneously abridging the privileges or immunities of a U.S. citizen (the same fellow).
(I'm told that most constitutional scholars now accept this reasoning and say the cases were wrongly decided; but I'm not a lawyer, I never attended law school, I don't personally know any constitutional scholars, and I haven't read any con-law textbooks... so I can't say for sure.)
About 115 years ago, the Court entered its "incorporation" era, in which it started applying the protections and prohibitions of the Bill of Rights to state laws and state depredations. Since then, the Court seems to have overturned the Slaughter-House decision as it related to the "due process" and "equal protection under the law" clauses of the Fourteenth... but not as it related to the "privileges and immunities" clause. (This is one of those points where I really can't say for certain without having a con-law background; lawyers, anyone?)
Evidently, that is the deficiency that lawyer Alan Gura today demands the Court redress in the McDonald case: If this Court sides with Mr. Gura on this particular argument, the Slaughter-House Cases will be completely overturned, and the federal government will become responsible for protecting "the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States," which nearly everyone seems to agree certainly includes the Second-Amendment "right to keep and bear arms."
We now return, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, back to McDonald v. Chicago, its "privileges and immunities" argument, and the alarums and excursions it provokes...
The TWTs at the Washington Times first state the obvious:
If the current justices side with Mr. Gura and overturn the Slaughterhouse Cases ruling, not only will states be bound to recognize the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, but they also will be forced to recognize the other constitutional rights that have never been applied to states, such as the Fifth Amendment right to a grand jury indictment in a criminal trial and the Seventh Amendment right to a jury in a civil trial.
Then the article drops what some social conservatives fear is the bombshell.
The American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) is a nonprofit founded by former Reagan advisor Robert B. Carleson (it's a conservative answer to the ACLU, of course). Constitutional scholar Ken Klukowski wrote an amicus brief for McDonald v. Chicago for the ACRU and other similar groups warning the Court against actually overturning the the Slaughter-House Cases:
The group, whose policy board includes conservative legal heavyweights such as former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III and former Solicitor General Kenneth W. Starr, supports incorporation of the Second Amendment through the privileges or immunities clause but asks the court not to overturn the Slaughterhouse Cases decision.
"The Privileges or Immunities Clause could be used as a source for judicial activism unlike anything America has ever seen," the group said on its Web site.
The ACRU frets that widespread federal enforcement of the "privileges or immunities" clause of the Fourteenth could foist same-sex marriage on the entire country via a back-door approach (sorry about that). They worry that if any one state recognizes same-sex marriage -- and four already do -- then all states would have to recognize it, even for their own state citizens who go to another state, got married to a person of the same gender, then return. Similarly for extreme abortion rights (partial-birth abortion, for example), government health care, and so forth.
But many constitutional scholars (and complete rubes, like me) think this is a real stretcher: Even if the Court holds that the "privileges or immunities" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires the federal government to enforce the explicitly constitutionally protected "right of the people to keep and bear arms" against those states, counties, or cities that abridge
that right, that cannot logically be considered a precedent for the Court forcing states to recognize and adopt same-sex marriage... or polygamy or incestuous marriage, for that matter.
The "several states" have a great many differences in how they handle various legal matters even apart from marriage, from business incorporation, to health care, to citizen initiatives, to school funding, to taxation, to the licensing of food and cosmetics, to pollution laws, to utilities. Nobody seriously argues that, in order to properly enforce the "privilieges or immunities" clause, we must steamroll all distinctions between states, transforming our Federalism into a huge nationalist smear. (I must assume there are many -- including many in the administration of Barack H. Obama -- who pine passionately for such a grand idea; but they're not in the crucible of politics actively pushing it.)
The Court cannot legitimately cite this case to promote a liberal agenda, no element of which has a status equivalent to the right to keep and bear arms. Thus, the only way the Court can make gun rights a precedent for same-sex marriage is to brutally abuse the ruling in McDonald. If it does, then by definition, we are dealing with a runaway Supreme Court.
And if we already have a runaway Supreme Court, who needs precedent?
Such a Court would do whatever it needed or wanted to do, as it did in 1873 in the Slaughter-House Cases, in the 1940s in that gun-control case, or in 1973 with Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973): A runaway Court can deliberately misread or misapply any non-precedent and torture it until it confesses; so what difference would McDonald make?
Whether McDonald is decided on the basis of the "privileges or immunities" clause, or solely on the basis of the "due process" and "equality of rights" clauses, will make no difference. A legitimate Court would not cite McDonald as precedent, and a runaway Court would cite McDonald even if it had to jack up the title and run a whole new decision underneath. There is no increased risk from the Court citing more than one reason to declare that the Second Amendment protects an individual right against all despoilers, federal, state, or local.
So three cheers for Alan Gura, and let the legal chads fall where they may! We have a great decision in Heller, and I predict we'll get an even more monumental and spectacular one in McDonald. Stay vigilant but don't borrow trouble.
Date ►►► March 2, 2010
Jim Bunning's Not-So-Lonely Crusade
The sneers and smears of Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY, 88%) proceed apace. He stands accused of being "cantankerous," "ornery," mentally unbalanced, "toxic," the "crazy uncle in the Senate attic," cringe-inducing, racist, sexist, "cruel," "heartless," a batter beaner (when he was a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies in the 1960s), and a serial cusser-outer of reporters -- and that's just from one AP piece!
Because of his ornery nature and ungovernable mouth, Bunning has come to be regarded as the crazy uncle in the Senate attic during his 11 years in Washington. And because he is retiring after this session, there isn't much anyone can do to keep him in line.
Why the angst? Here it is in a nuthouse:
Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, a 78-year-old Hall of Fame pitcher, is playing hardball on Capitol Hill, single-handedly holding up a $10 billion spending bill because it would add to the deficit.
The move has forced some 2,000 federal employees into unpaid furloughs [who will that inconvenience? -- DaH], put jobless benefits in jeopardy for millions and halted more than 40 highway projects.
His objection also put the kibosh (until he is eventually overridden by a Senate vote, probably today or tomorrow) on federal flood insurance. Glub glub.
The mighty CBS has also deigned to notice:
Democrats were stunned when Republican Sen. Jim Bunning singlehandedly blocked a bill that would have extended unemployment benefits for thousands, but now they're turning Bunning's move into a political talking point.
Democrats have pinned the blame for the Senate's lack of action in the past year on the GOP's obstructionist agenda. Bunning's move seems to prove their point.
Why is Bunning doing this? It's unfathomable... unless one actually takes the onerous stop of actually asking the man. It appears his objection is based upon one seemingly simple question about the bill he is obstructing: How do we pay for this spending?
NPR sniffs at the preposterousness of such an objection. Whoever heard of holding up a spending bill merely because there is no money to pay for it?
Saying that he has blocked votes on the legislation to underscore his opposition to the ongoing growth in federal debt, Bunning read a letter from "Robert in Louisville," who told the senator that even though he hasn't been working regularly in the past two years he supports what Bunning is doing.
"This country is sooner or later going to implode because of the massive amount of debt run up over the past 40 or 50 years," Robert wrote, according to Bunning.
Well, if the old coot is so concerned about actually "paying" for spending, ha ha, why doesn't he suggest how to do it himself? Oh, wait; according to NPR again:
Update at 2:45 p.m. ET. The Associated Press, in its latest story on what's happening, adds this perspective about Bunning's position:"Bunning said again Tuesday that he opposed the extension because it would add $10 billion to the budget deficit, and he attacked Democrats for abandoning promises to pay for legislation instead of contributing to a budget deficits projected to hit almost $1.6 trillion this year. Bunning proposes to pay for the extension with unspent money from last year's massive economic recovery package, but (Senate Majority Leader Harry) Reid, D-Nev., objected." (Correction: We had a typo earlier, identifying Reid as R-Nev.)
So let me understand: It's not that there is no source available to pay for the spending; it's merely that the Democrats don't want to pay for it. They just want to spend it!
There is one thing worse than living off your credit card and not paying the bills: living off your credit card and not paying the bills -- when you have tons of unspent money in the bank.
(I'm also strangely moved that AP thinks Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Caesar's Palace, 70%, is actually a Republican.)
Democrats may be offended by Bunning's question -- who pays? -- but I say it deserves an answer. I further suggest that it's not Jim Bunning bringing disrepute upon the Senate chamber; that distinction rightly belongs to the Democrat spending machine... and also to those cowardly-elephant Republicans pushing Bunning to drop his objection and just shut his pie hole. I'm thinking here of Minority "Leader" Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 80%) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME, 20%).
It's particularly galling when powerful Republicans deliberately and with malice aforethought undercut the Tea Partiers' powerful message of fiscal responsibility and spending restraint, just because an old man on the brink of retirement is foolish enough to take GOP talking points seriously.
To paraphrase the revolting mob of slaves in Sartacus, "I am Jim Bunning." (Well, except younger, darker haired, and better looking. And not quite so cantankerous.)
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
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