The Orange County Register editorializes Wednesday on Jerry Brown's official entry into the 2010 governor's race:
In his announcement video, Mr. Brown spun his age and experience – he has also been California secretary of state and mayor of Oakland and currently is the state attorney general – as an advantage during a time of crisis. The question of the day is: which Jerry Brown will show up?
In the 1970s he acquired the moniker Gov. Moonbeam for his advocacy of sometimes utopian, or just plain eccentric, projects. He had a strong environmental record (as these matters are understood in conventional political terms) and railed against Big Oil. He also ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976 and 1980. In 1982 he lost a U.S. Senate race to Republican Pete Wilson, who later became governor.
Jerry Brown's experience as mayor of Oakland – a position in which people can see readily whether potholes are being filled or the fire and police departments show up when called – may have tempered his eccentric utopian streak with some fiscal realism. In his announcement he promised no new taxes and a downsizing of state government.
Actually, what Brown promised was no new taxes without the approval of the electorate. That could be interpreted in all sorts of mischievous ways, and I'm sure we'll see a ballot initiative or two, and a tax hike or two with or without the people's endorsement. Brown is shrewd -- very shrewd -- and all of Meg Whitman's (or Steve Poizner's) money may not be enough to overcome old Jerry's savvy.
I have to believe this book, brought to you by the same guy who wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, will be terrible. (These mash-up books featuring classic characters or historical figures battling supernatural creatures are sort of annoying, aren't they?) But the book's "trailer" looks fun. I will probably skip the novel and wait for the feature film. Incidentally, movie version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which stars Natalie Portman, is in production now and is scheduled for release in 2011.
(Hat tip: Gamma Squad)
Jerry Brown has been running for governor of California for about three years, but he'll make it official today. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
The announcement by the 71-year-old state attorney general sets up what will be one of the nation's most expensive, high-stakes and potentially combative contests in the 2010 elections.
The move means that Brown - who is also a former California secretary of state, Oakland mayor and U.S. Senate candidate, as well as a three-time presidential candidate - will now face one of two wealthy Republicans in the November general election.
In other news, I just ordered a raft of books on Brown's first couple of terms as California governor, because it's 1978 all over again. Since the protean sage of Oakland is serenely content to let the records of his governorship remain locked up, voters will have to relive those glory days through contemporary accounts, flawed though they may be.
Update: Here's Brown's announcement video. Note his three principles. He's running as a moderate.
I've been writing lately about the centralization of education under the Obama administration. Nothing is available online at the moment, but it should be real soon now. The problem is, centralization and bureaucratization -- two horrible words -- lead to rigidity and... well, stupidity.
Joel Kotkin, writing in Forbes, offers a trenchant critique of Barack Obama's centralizing tendencies:
From health care reform and transportation to education to the environment, the Obama administration has--from the beginning--sought to expand the power of the central state. The president's newest initiative to wrest environment, wage and benefit concessions from private companies is the latest example. But this trend of centralizing power to the federal government puts the political future of the ruling party--as well as the very nature of our federal system--in jeopardy.
Kotkin, who currently teaches at Chapman University, still considers himself a "social democrat." He would rather see government foster economic policies that work to the benefit of the lower and middle classes. Inasmuch as that requires government to get the hell out of the way, it's tough for me to disagree. Kotkin's latest book is "The Next Hundred Million: America at 2050."
As a sucker for lost causes, I'm a Chuck DeVore guy pretty much all the way. But when I read that Mickey Kaus mounting a challenge against Barbara Boxer for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, I'm sorely tempted to pull the donkey lever in the primary. At least Kaus can feed and dress himself without assistance. I'm not so sure that's true of Boxer.
Unfortunately, switching party allegiances would preclude me from voting for John Eastman for attorney general in the GOP primary, and I can't have that.
Sorry, Mickey. I hope you can give Boxer a run for her money, though.
Update: From Kaus's blog:
This isn't the place to make an electioneering spiel--I don't want to be a test case of campaign finance law if I can help it. But the basic idea would be to argue, as a Democrat, against the party's dogma on several major issues (you can guess which ones). Likeminded Dem voters who assume they will vote for
Sen. BoxerThe Incumbent in the fall might value a mechanism that lets them register their dissent in the primary.
Next phase: Lowering expectations!
Apparently some nutty Argentinians tried to kill themselves -- and their baby -- over fears about global warming. It's crazy, crazy stuff that clearly doesn't represent mainstream environmentalism; how many global warming suicide pacts have you seen?
Still, making distinctions between the mainstream and a few troubled souls is an ability that eludes folks like Jim Hoft, the "Gateway Pundit" at the First Things website.
Someone should sue Al Gore. He played on their fears and now a whole family is dead.
What an ugly -- and dumb -- cheap shot. Jim Hoft is a jerk who clearly seeks political advantage in the ugliest of situations. Given that First Things is devoted to advancing "a religiously informed public philosophy," I've got to say: Keep me away from whatever religion he's advancing. I had, until tonight, respected First Things as a locus of thoughtful and humane conservatism. Apparently I was wrong.
Let me slow down, though.
These days, we're all having a hell of a time telling our political opponents from the lunatic fringe. I look at the Tea Party folks and see birthers and racists and militia types lurking around the edges and wonder how much Republicans are willing to pander. I see the murder of an abortion doctor in Kansas and wonder how much Bill O'Reilly is to blame. I see a suicide attack on an IRS building and wonder how much over-the-top anti-government rhetoric is to blame.
Maybe all of us need to take a step back and take a very deep breath. Because we're all so busy -- and so loudly -- pointing out the craziness on the other side that we're sounding a little crazy ourselves. And that makes it more difficult, not less, to accurately identify where the militants and the kooks really are penetrating the mainstream. We're starting to think that every idea that is dissimilar to our own is dangerous: It means that everybody else in the world is crazy. And if that's the case, nobody's crazy.
The parents in Argentina were obviously troubled souls. They did something extreme and unwarranted and tragic. To put such brokeness to the task of advancing our political squabbles isn't just unwise; it's very nearly inhuman.
That's the scuttle, according to Fox News.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday President Obama will soon propose a health care bill that will be "much smaller" than the House bill but "big enough" to put the country on a "path" toward health care reform. A senior administration official told Fox Obama's proposal will be introduced Wednesday.
"In a matter of days, we will have a proposal," Pelosi said, pointing to Obama's forthcoming bill. "It will be a much smaller proposal than we had in the House bill, because that's where we can gain consensus. But it will be big enough to put us on a path of affordable, quality health care for all Americans that holds insurance companies accountable."
Melody Barnes, a top Obama domestic policy adviser, did not dispute Pelosi's characterization of the new plan as smaller in scope - and quite possibly in cost - than either the House or Senate health care bills.
"It's going to be matter of drawing on these different ideas and coming up with the right proposal," Barnes said in an exclusive interview with Fox. "That's what my colleagues are working on. That's what they're talking with Congress about. We'll see what it looks like when the proposal is sent forward."
Asked how White House staff is putting the new proposal together, Barnes said they are "borrowing" from conversations at Thursday's health care summit.
"We're going to be borrowing from those conversations ... to come up with a bill that we hope can receive bipartisan support," Barnes said.
When asked if White House staff, as Press Secretary Robert Gibbs indicated Friday, would work on GOP ideas for health reform over the weekend, Barnes identified two: tort reform and allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines.
Well, it's about time. Obama could have saved himself a wasted year — and perhaps saved Ted Kennedy's Senate seat for the Democrats — by doing this sometime in early 2009. That's what president's normally do when they'd like to enact major reforms: They submit a bill that lays out clear priorities, and then lets Congress mess around with it, but not too much. Instead, he let Pelosi and Reid come up with a plan from scratch that turned into the monstrosity that polls show the American people are overwhelmingly against.
Time will tell if this last-ditch effort to save his No. 1 domestic priority will bear fruit. But if Obama is expecting this bill to be "fast-tracked," he's kidding himself. If Obama really wants what he presents Wednesday to be passed, it has to start winding its way through the legislative process all over again — which means it needs to be taken up by several relevant committees in both chambers, get debated, marked up, sent to the floor, debated again, voted on, and, if passed, have the differences reconciled in a conference committee. Oh, and it would have to survive a filibuster in the new 59-41 Dem/GOP ratio in the Senate.
Yes. Important legislation can be passed in a matter of a few weeks. The Patriot Act comes to mind, but that's hardly a model Democrats can defend considering they've complained for years that it was passed and signed into law too quickly (while nonetheless passing up nearly every opportunity to correct the abuses and errors they say are in the law). One could argue that The Patriot Act was an "emergency," necessary to equip the federal government to respond to the threat of international terrorism that hit home on 9/11. What's the emergency here to get health care reform passed? That Democrats might lose their majority in eight months? No sale.
Also, the devil will be in the details. While I'm encouraged to see that Obama appears to be on board with malpractice insurance reform and allowing interstate health insurance sales, those proposals have to be substantive. Allowing a Californian to purchase health insurance plans that people in Arizona buy is meaningless if California's rules for what must be covered in a plan still hold. And we must also see what is in Obama's plan. A lot of it could still be objectionable (in fact, I'm counting on it).
Will Obama's plan be honest in its cost, free of the trick of "scoring" it with 10 years of tax increases but six years of benefits to make it "revenue neutral" but phony? Will the Medicare "Doc Fix" be included so it reflects the real cost of "reform"? Those are key questions. And if it also includes the vast federal bureaucracies to micromanage the health insurance market from Washington, I don't see Republicans getting on board. Not now.
The irony is that if Obama proposed his own "much smaller" bill in February 2009, he'd probably have his "health care reform" already — and with enough Republican support to truly call it bipartisan. But only now, in an incredibly weak position, is Obama reaching his hand up toward Republicans asking to be saved — the same Republicans he treated with contempt for 12 months. I would not be surprised if Republicans decline to pull him up and save his political bacon ... and take their chances with voters in November while carrying the label of "obstructionists."
(HT: The Corner)
Conservative impressario Andrew Breitbart was held up recently as an intellectually honest conservative, of sorts, for his stand at the National Tea Party conference against Joe Farah's "birther" speech against Barack Obama.
“It’s self-indulgent, it’s narcissistic, it’s a losing issue,” Breitbart said. “It’s a losing situation. If you don’t have the frigging evidence — raising the question? You can do that to Republicans all day long. You have to disprove that you’re a racist! Forcing them to disprove something is a nightmare.”
Good stuff. But if he's serious about that stance, why on earth is he publishing Frank Gaffney's Big Government blog post suggesting that Obama is putting missile defense under the control of the Muslim hordes?
Now, thanks to an astute observation by Christopher Logan of the Logans Warning blog, we have another possible explanation for behavior that — in the face of rapidly growing threats posed by North Korean, Iranian, Russian, Chinese and others’ ballistic missiles — can only be described as treacherous and malfeasant: Team Obama’s anti-anti-missile initiatives are not simply acts of unilateral disarmament of the sort to be expected from an Alinsky acolyte. They seem to fit an increasingly obvious and worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam and the theo-political-legal program the latter’s authorities call Shariah.
What could be code-breaking evidence of the latter explanation is to be found in the newly-disclosed redesign of the Missile Defense Agency logo (above). As Logan helpfully shows, the new MDA shield appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo.
This is paranoid nuttiness of the first order. And it does exactly what Breitbart suggested was exactly the wrong thing to do: It "raises the question" of Obama's loyalties without any evidence -- only speculation -- of intent.
Breitbart clearly wants to have it both ways: He gets to stay somewhere in the vicinity of respectable opinion by taking down the clearly nutty Joseph Farah. But he's also happy to let writers on his site continue to plant baseless "Manchurian Candidate" seeds of doubt among his readers. The proof, I'd say, is in the publishing.
Many of the claims about the Tea Party Movement seem to me based more on a Garry Trudeau or Tom Tomorrow cartoon caricature than on reality. I summed up this view in the poll the other day, "I think the tea parties are appalling/racist/astroturf/icky." I don't doubt there are icky and appalling people involved with the Tea Parties -- I mean, look at Glenn Beck. I think the astroturf charge is bogus.
Doubtless there are a few racists in the ranks, too. But, again, the argument is racial animus against the first black U.S. president is a prime motivation for the movement. I think that's wholly unsupported by the evidence.
Keith Olbermann thought he was making a powerful point recently when he accused the tea parties of being lily white and lacking "diversity." Some clever Tea Party folks in Dallas have called Olbermann out with good humor and not a smidgeon of smugness...
I can already hear the responses to this: "What? Only one black guy?"
And: "That Spanish-speaking lady is mean!" (Mean and cute!)
And: "Where's the homosexual?"
That should just about cover it.
Update: I soooooooo called it.
From Olbermann's comment Tuesday night:
While I'm not exactly in charge of this, and I'm not going to drag people into this by name when they were not the ones attacked, that will probably be a surprise to one of our regular daytime news anchors and one of our nighttime newscasters, and the two part-time newscasters, and the dozen minority anchors and reporters who often join us from the broadcast NBC network, and the seven salaried contributors to MSNBC, to say nothing of the regular guests. So the Dallas Tea Party has one representative of diversity on its steering committee, and there appears to be six minority people besides her speaking or shown in its own video. And a diarist at Daily Kos examined photos of the Dallas Tea Parties, and identified three others. This mind you is out of the hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands the Dallas group claims to represent. So, once again, this time directed to the Dallas group: Where are the people of color? And instead of worrying about inviting me, shouldn't you be inviting them?
I'm sure Joel will have something to say about John Yoo's commentary in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, which begins thus:
Barack Obama may not realize it, but I may have just helped save his presidency. How? By winning a drawn-out fight to protect his powers as commander in chief to wage war and keep Americans safe.
Ooooh, that's a thrown gauntlet if ever I've seen one. Have at it, comrades!
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday has a magnificent editorial on Congress's efforts to undo the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC. (See posts here and here and from Joel here.)
Here's the Journal:
It didn't take long for Congress to try an end-run around the Supreme Court's landmark January decision in Citizens United v. FEC. With a campaign finance bill due to be introduced this week, Democrats are proposing to repeal the First Amendment, at least for some people.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland want to prevent any company with more than 20% of foreign shareholders from spending money in U.S. elections, ban TARP recipients and government contractors from campaign spending, and require CEOs to pop up at the end of television commercials to "approve this message" just like politicians.
Maryland Democrat Donna Edwards and Michigan Democrat John Conyers are going further and proposing to amend the Constitution so it bars corporate free speech. John Kerry and Arlen Specter are also on board for a First Amendment rewrite. At least these Constitutional amenders are honest about their goals and what it requires to be legal.
I don't object to barring TARP recipients from contributing to campaigns, actually. The idea has great potential for extension to other interests that rely almost exclusively on the government dole. (We can hope.) But the rest of it is foolish and would only be a genuine outrage if a constitutional amendment had any hope of ratification.
It's funny how people in power despise would-be challengers. The legislative reaction to the Citizens United decision is so transparently self-serving, it's hard to believe that voters would be dumb enough to buy in. As the Journal concludes:
Citizens United blew a huge hole in the campaign finance rules, and there is no Constitutional way to refill it. The campaign-finance restrictionists should give up their misbegotten and illegal regulatory model and try deregulation and transparency instead. States like Virginia and Utah have no contribution limits but require disclosure and are among the best-run states in such traditional hallmarks of good government as economic health and development. The First Amendment has worked pretty well for 230 years. We don't need a rewrite.
Not that legislators and other do-gooders won't try.
Daniel Weintraub's new, independent and nonprofit news site is up and running. The mission of HealthyCal.org, which is funded in part by the California Endowment, is "to inform Californians about public health and community health issues, to engage readers in an ongoing conversation about matters ranging from health care policy to land-use, transportation, environment, criminal justice and economic policy, and to show how all of these things are connected."
Joel and I talked to Weintraub about the project back in November. Congratulations and best of luck to Dan, who is a very fine journalist. I hope HealthyCal.org is hugely successful.
Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't think much of the Tea Party people:
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was dismissive of the Tea Party movement in a “This Week” exclusive interview with Terry Moran. "The Tea Party is not going to go anywhere,” Schwarzenegger told Moran. “I think the Tea Party is all about just an expression of anger and dissatisfaction.”
There's video, naturally.
Governor Schwarzenegger ran for election and reelection on a platform of fiscal restraint. He failed. Schwarzenegger last year backed an ambitious slate of ballot initiatives that would have extended tax hikes on Californians. The voters crushed those initiatives utterly. Schwarzenegger doesn't think the Tea Party is going anywhere? The Tea Parties are likely to go much further than Schwarzenegger's agenda in his final year in office.
David Rivkin and Lee Casey, both veterans of the Justice Department under Reagan and Bush, explain the virtues of divided government in Monday's Wall Street Journal:
When the country is fundamentally divided over an important issue—such as health-care reform—the necessary consensus may not be achieved. Moreover, disputes about one issue may well pour over into another, making compromise and consensus even more difficult. But that is simply human nature.
All of this may well mean that change, even necessary change, is postponed or permanently thwarted. But that is the price of the remarkable stability of government we have.
Despite the perpetual griping about Washington's political gridlock, the American people appear instinctively to understand and accept the Constitution's consensus-based architecture and support the very sort of compromises the system is designed to secure.
What I love about this piece is that Rivkin and Casey write it in a way that seventh graders and congressmen could understand.
The John Birch Society was a sponsor of CPAC. Thoughts from my conservative friends?
Two pieces of note in Friday's Wall Street Journal.
"Even six months ago, when the president's growing problems with the public were becoming apparent, the commission and its top appointees might have been received as fresh and hopeful—the adults have arrived, the system can be made to work," Noonan writes. "Republicans would have felt forced to be part of it, or seen the gain in partnership. Now it looks more as if the president is trying to save his own political life. Timing is everything."
Meantime, the Journal's editors look at the commission and render a far less charitable verdict:
Having proposed peacetime records for spending as a share of the economy—more than 25% of GDP this year and next—Mr. Obama now promises to make "the tough choices necessary to solve our fiscal problems." And what might those choices be? "Everything's on the table. That's how this thing's going to work," Mr. Obama said.
By "everything," Mr. Obama means in particular tax increases. The President vowed in 2008 that he wouldn't raise taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000 a year, but that's looking to be as forlorn a hope as peace in Palestine.
The Journal suggests that Republicans should appoint "the most antitax members they can find in the hope that they will file a dissenting report." Beyond that, the burden is on Obama to cut spending.
Anything you can think of, the Internet provides.
As long as I'm on a Reason kick today, Nick Gillespie's hilarious takedown of Keith Olbermann is must reading.
Veronique de Rugy explains in the March issue of Reason how government always underestimates the cost of programs. Always. What's more, these aren't simply innocent mistakes or methodological errors. These are straight up fabrications:
Federal entitlement programs have grown far beyond the original promises of limits or budgets. Medicare hasn’t merely cost far more than originally expected. Data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show how the scoring office’s long-term projections of Medicare spending have steadily increased, even in recent years and over short periods of time. In 2005, for example, CBO projected that Medicare would cost $1.5 trillion in 2050. Two years later, in 2007, the same CBO projected that this cost would reach $2.8 trillion in 2050. And in 2009, it projected that the cost would be $3 trillion instead. In other words, the program’s projected cost doubled in four years.
This upward revision of projected costs comes even in spite of CBO’s allowances for ‘excess cost growth.’ Furthermore, the actual expenditures exceed projections—in 2008, federal outlays for Medicare exceeded most recent projections by $63 billion; in 2009, federal outlays for Medicare exceeded projections by over $148 billion.
According to the Danish study, such inaccuracies aren’t just errors. They reflect widespread, deliberate lying on the part of public officials. “Project promoters routinely ignore, hide, or otherwise leave out important project costs and risks in order to make total costs appear low,” the authors conclude.
At a time of acute political anxiety over government spending and high federal deficits, the politicians behind the latest health care legislation are relying on the same modus operandi. President Barack Obama has repeatedly asserted that he wouldn’t sign a bill that cost more than $900 billion over 10 years, and the CBO has certified that the plan fits this constraint. Yet the true costs for the first 10 years of the Senate bill should be closer to $1.8 trillion. Democratic legislators got the CBO score they wanted by using an old gimmick: They crafted the legislation so that only 1 percent of the first 10 years’ expenses occur in the first four years, backloading costs so the price tag would look smaller than it really is.
It’s hardly surprising that politicians lie so routinely. Voters let them get away with it. When programs go over budget, fail to deliver on their creators’ promises, or simply do not work at all, taxpayers rarely punish those responsible. So lawmakers keep making unreliable promises of low costs, and we keep on accepting those promises at face value. Indeed, voters generally reward legislators who bring more federal funds to their states or districts.
(Hat tip: Chad at Fraters Libertas)
Looking for ideology or philosophical consistency in the actions of a madman is folly and a waste of time. But that hasn't prevented a chorus of know-it-alls from applying their favorite, prefabricated templates to "explain" Joseph Stack's final plane trip into the side of an Austin office building Thursday morning. So why not me, too?
It's the zeitgeist, I suppose. Stack had a long-standing beef with the Internal Revenue Service, so he must be a "teabagger" and a "domestic terrorist." Duh.
Joel noted on Twitter this morning the unseemliness of using Stack's attack for partisan gain. He also wondered whether it was, in fact, terrorism. I sympathize with Monkey Brad's view that Stack's name should be blotted from memory and that to discuss his "manifesto" is to somehow legitimize it. But it's too late now. Besides, Joel asks a good question. I think the answer is "no."
Stack's grievances, while deeply political, were also quite personal. As a legal matter, I suppose Stack could be charged with any number of crimes, including perhaps terrorism. (Assuming he weren't dead and roasting, of course.) But that doesn't help us make sense of his senseless act. Stack himself wrote: "Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well." In the context of the present United States' fight against an international conspiracy of Islamic jihadist terror, what Stack did would be better described as "revenge" than "terrorism."
But why make sense when you can score partisan points in this age of toxic instant punditry? Here's Steven Spreiull at The Corner:
There is absolutely zero doubt in my mind that we are T-minus fifteen seconds from Mr. Joseph Andrew Stack being renamed "The Tea-Bag Terrorist!" or some such by the media and his crime being laid at the feet of the Right, but I thought it might be worth mentioning anyway that his political views don't fit comfortably into any category I'm aware of, if he really is the author of this manifesto.
And here's Spreiull's update: "I was only off by a few thousand seconds." He points to Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart's item at PostPartisan, which includes this little gem:
(A)fter reading his 34-paragraph screed, I am struck by how his alienation is similar to that we're hearing from the extreme elements of the Tea Party movement.
That, by the way, after noting: "There's no information yet on whether he was involved in any anti-government groups or whether he was a lone wolf." I'd wager Capeheart likely doesn't know much about the tea parties beyond what he's seen on cable or heard around the coffee machine. And he clearly didn't read Stack's "34-paragraph screed" too closely. (He's an editorial writer, after all.) If Capeheart had done so, he would have learned some interesting things about Joseph Stack that do not fit easily into a simple left-right narrative.
Ah, but never mind that! Stack allegedly wrote this manifesto and then flew his plane into a building that houses an IRS office; Tea partiers despise taxes; Therefore, even if he wasn't a tea partier in fact, he was surely a tea partier in spirit. QED!
Capeheart isn't the only commentator guilty of using blog logic. David Neiwart, whose work I hold in the utmost contempt, jumped to nearly the identical conclusion before having the good sense to pull back:
UPDATE: The pilot has been identified as a Joseph Andrew Stack, who appears to have left the following suicide note on the Web, titled "Well Mr. Big Brother IRS Man ... take my pound of flesh and sleep well".
It's a classic right-wing extremist rant.
UPDATE2: I'm amending this. Upon giving this a more careful reading, it's clear this is actually much more complex than your typical right-wing rant; it has a lot of standard right-wing features, particularly the fetish about the IRS and the notion that taxes are inimical to freedom; but there's obviously a lot more going on there as well. I'll post more on this later.
Still waiting for his in-depth analysis. In the meantime, though, Neiwart is squealing like a petulant, 20-month-old girl how Fox News (of course) is playing up Homeland Security's statements that, "We believe there’s no nexus with criminal or terrorist activity."
Now would be a good time as any to revisit Rick Moran's observations following the Fort Hood shootings in November. Of course, we have a much better idea now why Major Nidal Hasan murdered 13 of his comrades-in-arms. Stack's post, if legitimate, offers a pretty fair insight into his motives as well. Substitute "Stack" for "Hasan" and "anti-tea party-Glenn Beck-'Faux' News" for "anti-Muslim" in the following excerpt and tell me I'm not wrong:
Trying to glean motive when a madman acts insanely is an exercise in futility. ... This is why the FBI has not ruled out terrorism but is refusing to call it that at the moment. Law enforcement has a little different standard than partisan bloggers; they feel the need to investigate carefully and make a judgment based on the facts and not wild, politically motivated speculation. This may inconvenience those who seek to score political points, or show off their anti-Muslim bona fides. But then, reality is always more boring than what bloggers can come up with to increase their audience, and garner links.
When I read the comments at left-wing blogs about crimes like this, or I read really stupid, tendentious junk from conservatives about "socialist books" in the White House library, I can't help but conclude -- yet again -- that Atrios was right.
Update: ExUrb Jon on Stack's "pathetic manifesto": "After many of these tragedies, the left and the right try to blame the politics of their opponents for the damage. But as usual, this is just another nut who hated everything and everybody."
Update 2: And here is Shannon Love at ChicagoBoyz on "The Rorschach Test for Evil":
That is the key to the political pattern in his rant. At every juncture, he chooses the political view that is the most individually selfish. When he must contribute to the collective via taxes he creates a rationale for why he personally doesn’t have to pay taxes. When he wants help from the collective, he whines that the collective does not take tax money from others and give it to him. He wants the government to leave him alone in business but then he wants the government to protect him from competition. On every issue, it’s always about what he needs right then and there.
These people are the very definition of evil. They often reflect some part of every political belief because every political belief has some piece that can be used to justify being selfish and evil. They take only the bad and none of the good from every ideology.
That is why they become a Rorschach test in which everyone sees evidence of some ideology they despise. Instead of trying to pin them on our political competitors, we might instead take these events as occasions for personal reflection. We shouldn’t just see those we dislike in the faces of these evil people…
… we should see ourselves as well.
Update 3: And then there is this inexplicable comment from Scott Brown. Jeee-ZUS!
The government-school establishment has said the same thing for decades: Education is too important to leave to the competitive market. If we really want to help our kids, we must focus more resources on the government schools.
But despite this mantra, the focus is on something other than the kids. When The Washington Post asked George Parker, head of the Washington, D.C., teachers union, about the voucher program there, he said: "Parents are voting with their feet. ... As kids continue leaving the system, we will lose teachers. Our very survival depends on having kids in D.C. schools so we'll have teachers to represent."
How revealing is that?
Public schools are supposed to exist for reasons other than simply to provide a jobs program for ed-school grads. The point of public education is to educate the public in the requirements of good citizenship. Who says the government alone is qualified to carry out that mission? And if it is in the public interest to ensure we teach our children well, why not give parents options to send their kids to the school of their choice?
Study after study shows that private schools tend to perform better than government-run schools; that more funding does not automatically equate to higher quality (because if you spend millions on shoddy ideas, you get shoddy results); that private school voucher programs in Wisconsin, Cleveland, Florida and Washington, D.C. are popular and, what's more, they're successful at giving "at-risk" and low-income kids first-rate educations. As Stossel writes: "Choice works, and government monopolies don't. How much more evidence do we need?"
Stossel will be discussing school reform tonight at 8 pm and 11 pm on his Fox Business Channel program with Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform and Kevin P. Chavous. Should be interesting.
(By the way, all of this relates to my new job, but I'm not speaking for my employers here. Just popping off on the subject as I've done for years and years.)
I retweeted this link to a brief post by John Stossel: Education Is Too Important for a Government Monopoly
It wasn't a big thing, just a quick retweet of something I found interesting (and, of course, that supported my biases!) It sparked a minor flurry of tweets between Joel, Rick, and myself. It is reproduced here for your comment/amusement:
joeldermole: @robbl I don't think parents send their kids to private schools purely because of the teachers. He lost me there.
robbl: @joeldermole Agreed. At the same time, what's the justification for public education if the quality isn't demonstrably higher?
robbl: @joeldermole i.e., parents may not choose private over public ONLY due to quality but quality appears to be the core of the counterargument.
joeldermole: @robbl Fair enough. But once they start taking public funds, private schools won't be private in the same way anymore.
joeldermole: @robbl They'll have to take all the poor kids and kids from broken families who are a big part of the reason pub schools seem worse.
robbl: @joeldermole Agreed, but coming from a state that's busting at the seams with charter schools, I'd say that's not a bad thing, either.
robbl: @joeldermole I have a few friends who teach at charters, including lots of "at risk" kids, and the metrics still beat public.
deregulator: @joeldermole @robbl Dont have stats at my disposal, but I recall seeing where charters in some states were more diverse than reg pub skuls
joeldermole: @deregulator @robbl You guys know more than I do. I'm not prolly not a good liberal on this issue, in that I'm not wedded to current system.
robbl: @joeldermole I oppose govt. funding on principle, but from practical standpoint I believe 100% voucher-based would be superior to current.
joeldermole: @robbl You opposed govt funding of schools? I don't think I can go with you there, necessarily. But I'm not opposed to vouchers.
robbl: @joeldermole Well, seeing as I oppose GOVERNMENT on principle, you should've seen that coming. :-)
[and then there was this side conversation]
robbl: @deregulator @joeldermole I suppose I should've just InstaMonkey'd this. Who knew?
deregulator: @robbl @joeldermole InstaMonkey! shd be a great discussion
robbl: @deregulator @joeldermole I'll think about it, but I'm hesitant to bump "Rock Sugar" off the top of the blog. :-)
joeldermole:@robbl You should know that wasn't even the worst Rock Sugar song.
joeldermole: @robbl You're right. In any case, THIS was a worse Rock Sugar song
Update: Reference from the title:
I mean: Really wanna be irritated?
Some mashups work because they're awesome. Some mashups work because they're funny. And some mashups, while technically proficient, suck. This is one of those.
The rumors are true: Prince Frederic von Anhalt, Zsa Zsa Gabor's eighth husband, is officially an independent candidate for governor of California. Prince Frederic announced his candidacy in January, but didn't make it official until today.
Here's the candidate's Web site. Would-be voters will quickly discern that this is a highly eccentric campaign.
Indeed, von Anhalt, 65, seems an especially odd character in an election as serious as this one (even though, as I've said before, 2010 sometimes feels more like 1978). Although apparently sincere, his candidacy perhaps would have been a better fit during the recall follies of 2003. Then again, perhaps the erstwhile "Duke of Saxony" would have not been able to break through the cacophony of porn stars, heavyweight party hacks, and Gary Coleman.
Who knows? After putting up with dysfunctional democratic government for more than a decade, perhaps Californians are ready once again for the firm guiding hand of a benevolent despot.
Update: In case you were wondering, Sen. Dianne Feinstein isn't running for governor, which means unless my old friend Daniel Watts can raise about 40 million bucks, it's Brown by acclamation. But the only reason I'm linking to this SF Weekly item about Feinstein's decision is the following quote from our new friend, the Prince:
"I will stay at home and promote California products," said the prince of his governing strategy. "We have the best avocados, oranges, wine, weather, beaches and marijuana."
And that's not the only reason for the link. As Josh Treviño noted on Twitter, it also features the greatest photograph of DiFi ever taken.
Sean Penn was on Larry King Live the other night talking about Haiti. And Penn certainly knows more about what's going on over there than me because he showed up to help after the earthquake hit. Penn warrants praise for lending his celebrity to the cause and physically helping the always poor and now horribly devastated people of Haiti. (There's video evidence on Fox News, of all places). We should all tip our hats to him for that.
But King, to his credit, challenged Penn on what appeared to the host to be a newfound appreciation for the United States military — which, predictably, proves to be Johnny-On-The-Spot when a natural disaster hits while the United Nations is still debating on whether to put on its shoes.
PENN: We work in strong collaboration with the 82nd Airborne, who have been extraordinary. To see the United States military with all its skill and discipline and most importantly the quality of human beings that there are doing this when it's a human aid effort is unparalleled.
KING: You were so praiseworthy of the military, and normally you're not a big fan of military.
PENN: That's not true. If anyone looks back at the things I've written, I've always been a supporter of the troops. I think that we have a responsibility to only deploy our troops constitutionally and responsibly.
In this case, there's no question. I think this is the most noble mission likely that the United States military has been involved in since World War II, but I support the military in right wars or unright wars.
The problem is the use of the military and the misuse of it at times. In this instance, this is the most efficient force in the country. And I would plead to our president that he keeps the United States military there for longer than I understand is currently planned.
Stop the presses! I agree with Sean Penn. Our forces should remain deployed there for longer than currently planned. (The people of Haiti would be better off today if we long ago invaded the country or won it as a prize in a war with France ... but let's put that aside.) As long as our troops can help, and our efforts there do not negatively affect our ability to respond to the war on terror, I'm all for it. But it's time to call bullshit — of which Penn's comments have tons.
As Tim Graham at NewsBusters notes, it was just last year that Penn won the Best Actor Oscar — and used his moment in the international spotlight to rip the kinds of people who join the military. And Penn was even less charitable toward those people in a 2006 HuffPost screed. So it's pretty rich for Penn to pretend he's "always been a supporter of the troops" in "right wars or unright wars." That's a joke.
Penn is among those liberals (especially among the Hollywood set) who only really love our men and women in uniform when they don't shoot anyone — when they act as an International Red Cross response team in fatigues. Of course, this is not the purpose of any nation's military. It would be nice if the "global community" that people like Penn so admire could dedicate itself to creating a rapid-response force with the "skill and discipline and most importantly the quality of human beings" found in the U.S. military. Alas, we are stuck with the incompetent, yet expensive, blue helmets of the United Nations — who occasionally rape the subjects of their humanitarian care.
I'm also intrigued by Penn's view that he's OK with military deployments when it's done "constitutionally." Funny. I don't remember a Congressional authorization for the U.S. military's deployment to Haiti. But I remember one for Iraq. Guess Penn's memory is sketchier than mine.
There's a by now old saw that liberals support military deployments when they are not in the national interest, but are all for them when they are for some sense of the "global interest." I recall Hollywood Hero Bill Clinton deploying troops to depose Slobodan Milosovic in the Balkans. Some conservatives growled, but nothing like the left did toward Bush. Personally, I supported it — but not enthusiastically, because I didn't see the vital U.S. interest in the endeavor. But it's a good thing that Milosovic is gone (dead, even). I'd like to hear Penn and his like-minded liberals say it's a good thing that Saddam is gone (dead, even) — without qualification. Still waiting.
Haiti is a military deployment that is justified for humanitarian reasons. No doubt. The "global community," and even Sean Penn, smiles upon our efforts. Which is nice. (Though, it should be noted, that Penn's good friend Hugo Chavez, calls America's humanitarian effort in Haiti a nefarious occupation. If Penn has weighed in publicly to correct his friend, I've missed it.) And it would be great to accept those well-wishes at face value.
But the left's historic hatred of the proper use of American military might on the global stage (Penn and his like-minded Hollywood friends opposed Reagan's stance in the Cold War, too) make Sean Penn's newfound appreciation for the troops — not to mention who sends them and how they are deployed — a little hard to stomach.
I was going to throw this item to Ben for more sober coverage, but I'm not sure sobriety is the right response to uniformed thugs assaulting an older man whose son's life is in danger. No, I think outrage and disdain are probably more appropriate.
Eating at the Red Fox (an old-school steak joint) in San Diego with my honey for Valentine's Day tonight, and I feel like the Least of the Monkeys to be going there. The missus craves a steak, so we'll be alright on that score, but I hear the cocktails are "stiff" and cheap and -- here's the rub -- we tend to be teetotalers, except for the occasional wine and beer.
Also, I don't have my short-brimmed fedora with me! Very sad. But I will let the rest of you primates know if da joint is worth a gander.
As Big Government's Capitol Confidential noted the other day, net neutrality is an issue that that is dear to the left, but has flown under the radar of most Americans. It's a rather technical and arcane subject, but can be summed up rather simply: Net neutrality rules enforced by the Federal Communications Commission would allow government bureaucrats to micromanage the Internet — thus sucking out the lifeblood of the digital economy and threatening the dynamism and freedom we've come to take for granted online.
Proponents of net neutrality claim that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) abuse their position as "gatekeepers" to the Web, and the public needs government to establish strict "rules of the road" to protect us from their scheming. Trouble is, the evidence of abusive practices by ISPs is anecdotal and thinner than an iPod mini. The digital economy is currently so dynamic and cutthroat that free-market forces work quickly to correct any undesirable hiccups that arise — all without any micro-managing of the tech industry by government.
Net neutrality advocates insist we need government to preserve an "open" and "free" Internet and claim the market has failed. But they cannot point to any market failures that make the Internet less open or free. In short, the Internet isn't broken. And it doesn't need a government fix. No matter. The left presses ahead, because the facts are irrelevant. The goal is to put government in charge of digital policy, taking away your freedom as a consumer to shape the Internet with your own choices.
This would stifle the enormous private investment and innovation that has created the modern Internet — in part, because industries would be relegated to playing "Mother May I?" with the FCC before releasing its latest innovation. And that's the best-case scenario. The Reason Foundation's Steve Titch argues that if government-enforced net neutrality rules were in place five years ago, the iPhone as we know it wouldn't exist. But on a more basic level, only a committed leftist could believe that more government involvement in ... well ... anything results is more economic dynamism and gains in personal freedom.
As noted in the video below, produced by The Heartland Institute, government isn't in the business of preserving freedom, but of exercising power to regulate industries and control people. And this is an important thing to keep in mind — especially since President Obama recently reiterated his commitment to have government enforce a net neutrality regime on your Internet.
The video takes apart Obama's statements on the subject in his Feb. 1 YouTube interview, and attempts to take the broader view so what's at stake can be better understood by non-techies.
Many Americans think the American Revolution was fought over excessive taxes. Not true. When Bostonians held their famous "tea party" 237 years ago, the tax in question amounted to a couple of pennies per pound of tea. The real issue was consent, the rallying cry "no taxation without representation," because "if we are not represented, we are slaves."
Today, Americans do not lack the opportunity to consent in the same way that colonial revolutionaries did. For the 21st century tea partier, the "Intolerable Acts" are years of profligate spending by a Republican Congress that hypocritically wore the fiscal conservative mantle culminating with George W. Bush's multibillion-dollar bailout of the banks under the despised Troubled Asset Relief Program. Then came the stimulus bill, which most tea party protesters rightly derided as a "porkulus" bill. The automaker bailout soon followed, along with revelations about AIG's sweetheart deal, news of government mismanagement of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, Cash for Clunkers, cap-and-trade, and, of course, health care reform. Obama's multitrillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see make George W. Bush's spendthrift ways look parsimonious by comparison.
Talk to any tea partier, and that's what they will tell you. That was what made part-time volunteer Laura Boatright and countless others like her into full-time activists.
...What tea parties represent is a revival of good, old-fashioned constitutionalism and the idea that government needs to get back to basics. There is a great yearning for a return to first principles. Millions of Americans, but perhaps not yet a majority, would very much like to restore the principles of the American Founding Fathers to their rightful and pre-eminent place in our political life. Or, as O'Hara put it to me, "Americans are realizing that more freedom, not more government, is both the principled and practical ingredient for prosperity."
Joel and I continue to argue whether the tea party people are nothing more than a bunch of sore losers. Even if that was true a year ago -- and I don't believe it was -- it's certainly not true now. These people are energized. They're active. They're trying to wrest the levels of power from an entrenched establishment at every level of government -- federal, state and, most important, local.
I don't know whether they will succeed, but I admire and respect the effort.
Joel and I discuss the tea parties in the new podcast with Eric Boehlert of Media Matters, which should be posted soon. We will revisit the tea parties in a couple of weeks, when John O'Hara, author of A New American Tea Party, joins us.
Well, this is awkward:
The United Nations climate panel faces a new challenge with scientists casting doubt on its claim that global temperatures are rising inexorably because of human pollution.
In its last assessment the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the evidence that the world was warming was “unequivocal”.
It warned that greenhouse gases had already heated the world by 0.7C and that there could be 5C-6C more warming by 2100, with devastating impacts on humanity and wildlife. However, new research, including work by British scientists, is casting doubt on such claims. Some even suggest the world may not be warming much at all.
“The temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change,” said John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a former lead author on the IPCC.
But if the globe isn't warming, could the climate be changing anyway? Maybe. And couldn't humans still have a hand in both causing that change and reversing its effects? Who knows? I mean who really knows? Because it's pretty clear to me at this point that the people who claim to know with metaphysical certainty are just trying to sell something.
That's why I made such a big fuss the other day about California's cap-and-trade scheme. Doubtless certain well-connected firms will do well. But a lot of people are going to be thrown out of work as a result. And for what? Politics -- obviously not "science."
The academic at the centre of the ‘Climategate’ affair, whose raw data is crucial to the theory of climate change, has admitted that he has trouble ‘keeping track’ of the information.
Colleagues say that the reason Professor Phil Jones has refused Freedom of Information requests is that he may have actually lost the relevant papers.
...Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now – suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.
And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.
The admissions will be seized on by sceptics as fresh evidence that there are serious flaws at the heart of the science of climate change and the orthodoxy that recent rises in temperature are largely man-made.
The reason for skepticism has little to do with an "anti-science" mentality and everything to do with a healthy suspicion that the people pushing the policies based on "science" care less about liberty and more about control of the minutiae of every day life.