Mike Fumento recounts what happened on Good Friday in 1992, when he, his then-girlfriend Mary, and his brand new Toyota MR2 took a fateful drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. He writes:
When it comes to any report of miracles, I’m highly skeptical. The vast majority can be debunked in an average of two minutes and 37 seconds. And I’m sorry, but I’ve heard too many stories about Jesus appearing on a taco shell and thousands of the faithful lining up for a peek. I’ve also known too many famous miracles that have been debunked. But it must be admitted that the ones most likely to be real are the ones you never hear about — the ones that don’t lead to best-selling books or inspire tourist centers that sell plastic figurines of the saints.
It's a powerful, astonishing story. By all means, read the whole thing.
I'm not a Catholic, but I can't help be fascinated (and horrified) by the unfolding sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. I don't really know how much Pope Benedict is directly responsible for allowing horrific situations to continue and how much the self-protecting bureaucracy of the church -- like any bureaucracy -- is to blame. I strongly suspect that any of the former has its roots in the latter.
That said, I appreciate what Peggy Noonan has to say about the matter in today's Wall Street Journal:
In both the U.S. and Europe, the scandal was dug up and made famous by the press. This has aroused resentment among church leaders, who this week accused journalists of spreading "gossip," of going into "attack mode" and showing "bias."
But this is not true, or to the degree it is true, it is irrelevant. All sorts of people have all sorts of motives, but the fact is that the press—the journalistic establishment in the U.S. and Europe—has been the best friend of the Catholic Church on this issue. Let me repeat that: The press has been the best friend of the Catholic Church on the scandals because it exposed the story and made the church face it. The press forced the church to admit, confront and attempt to redress what had happened. The press forced them to confess. The press forced the church to change the old regime and begin to come to terms with the abusers. The church shouldn't be saying j'accuse but thank you.
This seems exactly right to me. But watching from the outside, it has appeared to me that the response of the Church has been largely to A) lash out at the "bias" of journalists who have uncovered the story and B) defend the Church by noting that other sectors of society have also had problems dealing with child abuse. As though the Church shouldn't be held to a higher standard. I'm reminded of a saying about removing the log from your own eye before telling your brother to remove the speck from his. Who said that again?
At its best (which isn't always) the Church has offered a powerful moral example even for those of us who do not share in its communion. I suspect it can retain that moral authority only if it follows Noonan's advice -- and its own teachings -- and offer up a full, real confession accompanied by appropriate penance. Such activities, I understand, usually take place in private. The Church doesn't have that luxury.
I have two -- count 'em, two! -- op-eds in two -- count 'em, two! -- newspapers on Friday on massively important subject of education reform.
The Springfield (Ill.) State Journal-Register kindly published my commentary on a bill by Illinois State Senator James Meeks that would establish as pilot voucher program in Chicago. Meeks may seem an unlikely champion of school choice, but it turns out this pastor of the largest black church in Chicago's South Side understands that liberating school kids from the status quo is more important than milking contributions from the teachers union:
School choice has been proven to empower parents, help children excel, narrow the achievement gap among poor and minority students, and save taxpayers money. Yet teachers unions, education bureaucrats and their patrons from the White House on down oppose any reform they cannot stifle with red tape and regulation.
But they cannot kill school choice. Against the odds, choice keeps coming back, in the unlikeliest of places.
A voucher program is one step closer to reality in President Barack Obama’s own home state, despite fierce opposition from the powerful Illinois Education Association and Illinois Federation of Teachers.
Meantime, the Sacramento Bee on Friday publishes my take on the first round of Race to the Top funding. I've written about Race to the Top for the Bee in the past. As it turns out, the program is quite a bit lamer -- and more insidious -- than I initially had thought:
Race to the Top was always too good to be true. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan sold the $4.35 billion stimulus program as education reform’s 21st century “moon shot.” But as this week’s announcement of the first two state grant recipients shows, it’s just another expensive sop to the education establishment, no less beholden to politics and bound by bureaucratic red tape.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia made the list of finalists, but only two applicants—Delaware and Tennessee—made the grade. Delaware will receive about $100 million and Tennessee about $500 million to put their comprehensive school reform plans into practice over the next four years.
Cash-strapped states passed over in the first round are scrambling for a piece of the remaining $3.4 billion in Race cash. Any state that lost out should take a close look at not simply what plans passed muster with the Education Department but why those plans succeeded.
Turns out, those plans succeeded by compromising with the unions. More innovative plans that did not win union support did not win...period. The union often wins, though events in Illinois suggest the public is not with the union at all. We'll see.
Joel's computer has been a bit balky today — lots of mysterious viruses, strange things showing up on his screen, and whatnot — but he urged me to relate this big news to the Monkey Community. In fact, it's big news for the both of us. Joel was hesitant to post this himself, but I think it's too important to keep secret anymore.
I repeat Joel's proposed announcement verbatim — that he emailed to me earlier today — whether he likes it, or not:
As many of us have heard, Dr. Zaius will soon be leaving the sunny hills of Southern California to be Communications Director of The Heartland Institute in Chicago. And, out of the goodness of his heart, Jim has agreed that this jobless bloke could use a "hand up." So, beginning in July, I will take my place at the Good Doc's right hand, as Assistant Communications Director of the free-market, libertarian think tank.
The job requires that I leave behind the political viewpoints I have long defended around here, but desperate times require desperate measures. And since Jim had long assured me that many libertarian Heartlanders were against the War in Iraq and Bush's power-grab in the War on Terror, I should be a pretty decent fit.
So, goodbye liberalism! Nice knowin' ya. But duty to family, my career — and a nice paycheck — calls.
P.S. That means you're on your own, Khabalox. Sorry.
I'm sure we all would like to congratulate Joel. But let me be the first to do it here at Infinite Monkeys.
(The official announcement, is here.)
Although I mailed back the form a couple of weeks ago, today is technically Census Day. Stories about low response rates might have been premature, especially if people read the form literally and waited until today before actually filling it out. But I somehow doubt it.
I've been half-listening to talk radio this afternoon. Michael Medved spent about an hour taking calls from people who refuse to answer the form. There is a word for these people (and if you are one of them, I do not apologize for this): Morons.
Listen, conservatives. The census is in the Constitution. It's an original duty of citizenship. Either you're a constitutionalist, or you aren't. This isn't a game.
There is a political angle to the Census, too. Never mind those insulting ads about making sure everyone gets their goodies. Conservatives who resist filling out the form are helping Democrats gerrymander congressional districts in their favor for the next decade. As Ed Morrissey points out:
I’m always a little suspicious of questionnaires on ethnicity, but the Census has a Constitutional mandate — and it has far-reaching consequences. People in states where conservatives outstrip liberals could be committing political suicide if a boycott effort results in shortchanging those states in Congressional representation to the benefit of states like California, New York, Washington, and Massachusetts. It seems better to ensure that an accurate count gets taken by a concerted effort to count conservatives than the results a boycott or a “slowcott” would produce.
Fill the damned thing out, as the Constitution requires, or be content to languish in the minority for years to come. Your call.
That's the headline on this week's Scripps-Howard column by Joel and yours truly, in which we tackle the Obama administration's announcement this week of plans to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling -- with some crucial caveats, of course.
My take, briefly:
Fact is, the United States is going to be a petroleum-based economy for some time to come. Rather than rely on volatile supplies from increasingly hostile regimes, Obama should open the Outer Continental Shelf -- and Alaska and California, for that matter -- for American firms to explore and use until better, cleaner and greener technologies are ready to for the market.
Joel's take, briefly:
Politics aside, there's a real danger here: Nobody believes that the world oil supply will last forever. Offshore drilling can be useful only if we intentionally use it as a bridge to our low-carbon alternative-energy future. It should only proceed on that basis. Otherwise, Obama might just be the next in a long line of presidents who deepened our unsustainable addiction to oil, even while deploring it all the way.
Why not read the whole thing and share your take?
Lou Cannon profiles his old nemesis Jerry Brown, the once-and-maybe-future governor of California, at Politics Daily and comes away with a peaceful, easy feeling. Writes Cannon:
"Adaptation is the essence of evolution," he said, in discussing his shifting stances on issues over the years.
But Brown has a sense of the distance he has traveled, an understanding of California political history and a somewhat apocalyptic view of the national economy. "We're not quite the Weimar Republic, but it's close," Brown told me. Even so, he seems different from the man who left the governorship 27 years ago. Jerry Brown has been places, seen poverty and done things. He has been a hands-on mayor. He believes in Earl Warren-style bipartisanship and after all these years seems capable of practicing what he's preaching. Win or lose, he's no longer Governor Moonbeam.
I'm not sure Cannon can say with metaphysical certainty what, precisely, Brown "believes." I am fairly sure, however, that Brown is no longer Moonbeam -- assuming he ever was. But I'd be willing to bet that Brown will be governor again, because too many professional Republicans and nostalgic voters believe he is no different from the Plymouth-driving, Ronstadt-dating caricature who governed the Golden State in the late 1970s. They think Brown hasn't changed. He has. Just not necessarily for the better.
A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program was illegal, rejecting the Obama administration’s effort to keep shrouded in secrecy one of the most disputed counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush.
The ruling by Judge Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, also rejected the Justice Department’s claim — first asserted by the Bush administration and continued under President Obama — that the charity’s lawsuit should be dismissed without a ruling on the merits because allowing it to go forward could reveal state secrets.
The judge characterized that expansive use of the so-called state-secrets privilege as amounting to “unfettered executive-branch discretion” that had “obvious potential for governmental abuse and overreaching.”
In 2008, Congress overhauled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to bring federal statutes into closer alignment with what the Bush administration had been secretly doing. The legislation essentially legalized certain aspects of the warrantless surveillance program.
But the overhauled law still requires the government to obtain a warrant if it is focusing on an individual or entity inside the United States. The surveillance of Al Haramain would still be unlawful today if no court had approved it, current and former Justice Department officials said.
God bless activist judges. You know: the ones who uphold the rule of law.
According to Obama, the movement is a "loose amalgam" whose "core" consists of "folks who just weren't sure whether I was born in the United States, whether I was a socialist." Around that core, the president acknowledges, is a "broader circle of people, who are legitimately concerned about the deficit, who are legitimately concerned that the federal government may be taking on too much."
Paul Mirengoff doesn't have much nice to say about Obama's analysis, but he fails to say that Obama has it exactly backwards.
The Tea Party is, at is "core," peopled by Americans who "are legitimately concerned about the deficit" and are "legitimately concerned that the federal government may be taking on too much." Around that core, at the exterior fringes, are the "birthers" — though closer in are people who have good reason to believe his history and policy proposals reveal a socialist at heart. Give Obama points for the cleverness in linking them together, delegitimizing discussion of the political philosophy of the empty vessel we elected president.
As Mirengoff notes, Obama's perception of the Tea Party movement as a tiny, insignificant bunch of unhinged crazies is not an informed opinion — but one that "stems from the same condescending a priori leftist narrative" reflected in his "famous comment that working-class voters in Pennsylvania and the Midwest" are a bunch of Bible-thumping, gun-hugging simpletons ... more or less.
There's no penalty for me, or the public, supposing Obama dismissively thinks of non-elites on the coast in this fashion. But I reckon there will be a political penalty for Obama thinking what he thinks about the Tea Party folks. Ignorance in politics is not bliss.
I expect this essay in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal will have people animated. Here's the crux:
A historic figure making history, this is emerging as an over-arching theme—if not obsession—in the Obama presidency. In Iowa, a day after signing health care into law, he put himself into competition with history. If history shapes men, "We still have the power to shape history." But this adds up to one thing: He is likely to be the most liberal president in American history. And, oddly, he may be a more effective liberal precisely because his liberalism is something he uses more than he believes in. As the far left constantly reminds us, he is not really a true believer. Rather liberalism is his ticket to grandiosity and to historical significance.
Of the two great societal goals—freedom and "the good"—freedom requires a conservatism, a discipline of principles over the good, limited government, and so on. No way to grandiosity here. But today's liberalism is focused on "the good" more than on freedom. And ideas of "the good" are often a license to transgress democratic principles in order to reach social justice or to achieve more equality or to lessen suffering. The great political advantage of modern liberalism is its offer of license on the one hand and moral innocence—if not superiority—on the other. Liberalism lets you force people to buy health insurance and feel morally superior as you do it. Power and innocence at the same time.
It's not just about Obama, then. It's about what Obama's America will look like after the man is out of office. Is freedom really in tension with the "good" society? Or is this a narrow understanding of what is "good" and just?
I'm trying not to use more than my share of valuable Infinite Monkeys bandwidth, so I invite you over to my place for a discussion of Lamar Alexander and his belief that the new student loan law makes America more like the Soviet Union. My question:
Why can't Republicans criticize Barack Obama without invoking the Soviet Union at nearly every turn? They do understand the difference between nationalizing all private industry with an accompanying program of killing/jailing/exiling everybody who disagrees and changing the method by which U.S. government money gets to students, don't they?
My conclusion: Lamar Alexander -- like a lot of people who invoke the USSR in these arguments -- is either a liar or supremely stupid.
My knee jerked a little bit this morning when I read in the New York Times that members of the Hutaree "Christian militia" are being charged, among other offenses, with sedition. My reading of American history is that sedition charges -- usually "seditious libel" charges -- have been brought here mainly in cases where the government sought to punish dissent rather than any real attempt to bring down the government.
Still, if you define "sedition" as the "stirring up of rebellion against the government in power," then the Hutaree -- if you believe the federal government's allegations -- seem to fit it. In the charge of "seditious conspiracy," the government says the Hutaree
did knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and other persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to levy war against the United States, to oppose by force the authority of the Government of the United States, and to prevent, hinder, and delay by force any execution of United States law.
These allegation have to be proven, of course. But if true, they do seem to fit the definition.
So why does this seem so ... weird?
I think it's because the term "sedition" does have such a fraught history in this country, used mainly (it seems to me) to punish anti-war dissenters and mostly harmless leftists than genuine revolutionaries. "Sedition" has been a means of punishing thought crimes in this country, in other words.
And it's something that presidents and prosecutors have, in recent decades, seemed to avoid: My quick Google research can find no record of sedition or seditious libel charges for at least a half-century in this country. (UPDATE: Ben points out it's merely been 20 years since there's been a seditious conspiracy charge in this country. Still: That's fairly rare.) That's been true even through the attacks on Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center, and even as Americans like Jose Padilla, John Walker Lind and Adam Gadahn have taken up arms in the service of American enemies.
It seems, at first blush, that the "sedition" label might well fit the Hutaree. But given the history, it still makes me a little bit uncomfortable. And it frankly presents a bit of a challenge to the Obama Administration: It is, politically, continually fighting charges of "tyranny" from the right. Accurately deploying a "sedition" charge does not make Obama a tyrant -- but it will surely make it easier for the righty fringe to portrary him as one.
I guess I knew that Sergio Leone copied Akira Kurosawa, but still it's striking to see these movies back-to-back.And it's even more striking when you think about the career of Clint Eastwood: You mean to say that the foremost icon of late 20th century American manhood -- his squints, his three-day beard, his laconic style leavened with the occasional wisecrack, the jaw stroking and so much more that made Clint Clint -- got his entire shtick from a Japanese guy?
It's like finding out that Dodge muscle cars were based on Toyotas. Really AWESOME Toyotas that you never knew existed.
One thing's for sure, the controversial former Republican Congressman from California who wants to get back to the House sure ain't riding a mule. The latest radio spot from Richard Pombo, seeking to replace retiring GOP Rep. George Radanovich in California's 19th Congressional District, is one feisty ad.
Yet it's hard not to (1) admire that radio spot of his, and (2) support his staunch property-rights stance — which includes ending the senseless man-made drought in California's Central Valley. Federal policies have turned off the irrigation spigots to protect a tiny fish that may not warrant such dramatic intervention to survive. The resulting loss of jobs has helped the unemployment rate in some Valley communities rise as high as 40 percent.
I was going to make a Netflix Queue post out of this, but: After just five episodes of "Mad Men," I'm giving up. Good lord, that's a boring show.
Let me pitch it to you: "We watch people go to work every day! In the SIXTIES!"
Don Draper isn't seductive and beguiling. He's just boring. Why is this show so beloved?
The title of this series is a work-in-progress. Perhaps intended consequences is better. Or predicted consequences. We might have to work on that, because President Obama and Congress are quickly proving to be either charlatans or fools (and it's just as likely they are both.)
As I noted here Wednesday, the negative reaction of the private sector to the schemes of the America's new health care central planners did not take long to materialize. In fact, reacting to Verizon's notice to employees that the regulatory and tax burdens of ObamaCare will result in a decrease in benefits due to increased corporate costs, I wrote:
[This] story will be repeated thousands of times in the coming months.
"Months" is turning out to be a slow-walk prediction. According to Bloomberg News, AT&T "will book $1 billion in first-quarter costs related to the health-care law signed this week by President Barack Obama."
American industry giants John Deere ($150 million), Caterpillar Inc. ($100 million), AK Steel Holding Corp. ($31 million), Valero Energy (up to $20 million), and 3M Co.($90 million) have also come out with their legally mandated earnings and costs estimates, and they ain't pretty. Overall, consulting firm Towers Watson estimates health-care costs may shave as much as $14 billion from U.S. corporate profits. Based only on AT&T's estimate — and the fact that corporations try to give the sunniest "negative" numbers legally possible to stockholders and the Securities Exchange Commission — I'm guessing Towers Watson will be upping that estimate down the line.
Why all the gloom and doom? Well, the corporate tax increases are one reason. Another, especially for Verizon and AT&T, is that the tax break those corporations got for crafting their own prescription drug plans for retirees was immediately eliminated in ObamaCare. So, without that tax break to the eeeeeviiiil corporations, they'll have to dump those folks into the inferior government-backed Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. Multiply those actions by AT&T and Verizon by thousands and we'll get a "donut hole" blown through the rigged and sunny CBO ObamaCare cost projections. Why?
The Employee Benefit Research Institute notes that the tax break would have "cost" taxpayers $665 per person next year, but dumping them into Medicare will cost $1,209 per person. Nice going. This is what happens when you don't read the bill, or — more to the point — don't care what's in it as long as it centralizes government power.
This was all predicted by ObamaCare opponents, such as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — most prominently at Obama's ballyhooed "Health Care Summit" a while back. Ryan said the cost curve would not bend downward, but upward. Obama blew him off. Reality now laughs in the president's face, and it's not at all funny.
But now Congressional Democrats are childishly stamping their feet. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has fired off a nasty letter to those companies. He's demanding they appear before his committee on April 21 to answer for answering to fiscal reality. The legal obligation of these companies to immediately and publicly estimate the fiscal impact of new legislation, Waxman says, "appears to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs."
"The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers from leading U.S. companies, asserted in November 2009 that health care reform could reduce predicted health insurance cost trends for businesses by more than $3,000 per employee over the next 10 years," Waxman wrote.
That's the thing about "independent analyses." They are hard to control. As Bruce McQuain notes at the libertarian Q&O blog:
You’ve got to love it – Waxman’s strongest case is an association comprised of some CEOs who “asserted” – got that? “asserted” – that health care reform “could” – again, “could” – reduce cost trends.
In other words, instead of actually doing the work of checking with authoratative sources that could have actually run the numbers and vetted the requirements of the law, he, Waxman, went with the assertions of a bunch of CEOs because they said what he wanted them to say. Reminds you a bit of the IPCC, doesn’t it?
Actually, it reminds me of government bullying — the kind the left decries as McCarthyism. Waxman is going to haul these CEOs before his committee and berate them for telling the fiduciary truth they are required by law to tell. He'll be, in essence, bullying them to lie about what the real-world impacts of ObamaCare will be on American companies — and, naturally, the Americans who work for those companies ... otherwise known as us.
What Waxman will actually be doing, however, is highlighting the kind of fraudulent and fantastical accounting that only government can get away with. How dare these corporations defy the word of Obama and Pelosi and Reid and Waxman that the laws of economics are what the government says they are! If we say ObamaCare will reduce costs, they will. THEY WILL!!!! Who are you to say different?! And I'm going to use the power of government to set you straight.
Awesome. This is today's America: The private sector dragged before Congress and berated to agree they believe in the Tooth Fairy.
I'd love one of those CEOs to ask Waxman what color is the unicorn he rides to work each day. I'll settle for: "Have you no sense of decency, sir."
* BOREDOM: This might be your initial response. After all, the last decade has seen the rise of a new -- or maybe renewed -- literary subgenre concerned with the ethics and sustainability of how we eat. Eric Schlosser got the ball rolling with 2001's Fast Food Nation; the intervening decade has brought us Matthew Scully's Dominion and David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster, among other contributions. Mark Bittman once advised us How To Cook Everything, but more recently has decided that Food Matters -- and that maybe we shouldn't be eating so much meat.
The masterpiece of this movement, of course, is Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, which took its readers on a tour of 21st century "factory farming," with steps along the way for moral contemplation of meat eating, hunting and Whole Foods shopping. Pollan's tome -- and a couple of spinoff books -- was a smash hit, finding its way to the bottom of thousands of reusable cloth bags toted by enviro-foodies to farmers markets across the land.
So what's new for Foer to say? Not much, honestly. His reportage here covers much of the same ground already trod by Pollan. Factory farming -- we're told again -- is a dirty, cruel process that is awful to behold is probably making us sick. If you've read Pollan, you're likely to find yourself in the grip of a second possible reaction:
* IRRITATION: What Foer does offer is attitude and sanctimony. Where Pollan is professorial, using narrative to nudge his reader toward a conclusion, Foer comes across a smart, profane, angry undergrad -- one you might try to avoid on the quad when he starts hectoring passerby to stop and watch his Meet Your Meat video. He might be in command of the facts, but damn he's annoying.
It wouldn't be fair to compare Foer to Pollan so much, except that Pollan is one of the targets here. In Omnivore, Pollan concludes he's not willing to give up meat -- but he decides to seek it from alternative sources (local ranchers, hunters) who use sustainable practices and keep animal cruelty at a minimum. This draws Foer's moral ire, declaring that Pollan is among those who "never, absolutely never, emphasize that virtually all of the time one's choice is between cruelty and ecological destruction, and ceasing to eat animals."
There's only one problem with this critique: Foer ends the book as a committed vegetarian -- as he has to, really, once he decides he cannot justify any amount of animal suffering in the name of a good meal. Despite this decision, however, he vows that he can support efforts to create sustainable, minimally cruel family farms.
"The meat industry has tried to paint people who take this two-fold stance as absolutist vegetarians hiding a radicalized agenda," Foer writes. "But ranchers can be vegetarians, vegans can build slaughterhouses, and I can be a vegetarian who supports the best of animal agriculture."
We never really understand why Foer -- who finds any level of animal suffering to be unacceptable -- decides this approach is appropriate. But bizarrely, this conclusion is not that far from Pollan's own. The distinction, I suppose, is that Foer is really sensitive and tortured about the process. This is moral preening, and that is all it is.
This sanctimony -- replete with references to Martin Luther King Jr. and the Holocaust -- would make Eating Animals worth tossing in the trash bin at your nearest barbecue joint ... were it not for the third possible reaction to this book:
* GRUDGING ACCEPTANCE THAT FOER IS KINDA MAYBE RIGHT: Damnit, factory farming is gross. It fills our rivers and waterways with shit; it fills our air with climate-changing gases; it delivers meat filled with contaminants and antibiotics. And it is, by any rational standard, cruel: chickens have their beaks cut off; pigs live in their own waste; cattle are dismembered while alive and conscious. These are facts that should give one pause -- if not for the sake of the animals, then for the sake of our own health.
Foer, of course, wants more than a pause. He wants a halt. The environmental factors are important to his case, but it's clear he considers the moral argument most persuasive.
"Think about it," he asks. "Do you eat chicken because you are familiar with the scientific literature on them and have decided their suffering doesn't matter, or do you do it because it tastes good?"
My first, glib answer: A little bit of both.
Less glibly, what I mean to say is that I do not grant (say) chickens the same moral weight that I do a human being. Foer presents science here that chickens -- among other animals -- share human capacities for pain, fear, reason and other cognitive processes. I don't doubt that he's right. But still: I do not grant a chicken the same moral weight as a human. I just know there's a difference between us and them. (If chickens one day rule the earth, I may regret these words.)
Until then, though, I find the example of nature too compelling. Animals eat other animals. All the time.
Foer doesn't buy this argument. "The entirety of human society and moral progress represents an explicit transcendence of what's 'natural,'" he says. And he's right. But what is interesting to me about this is that environmentalists -- and, let's face it, there's a signficant overlap between them and the vegetarian community -- make this argument in no other context. Dams are unpardonable usurpations of Mother Nature's work; so are power plants. Environmentalists usually call on us to disturb nature as little as possible, to acclimate our processes to the earth's natural rhythms. Then dinner time comes.
So where does this leave us? Probably -- if you've ever given thought to your meals -- at the same place you started.
My family already buys our meat from a halal butcher who, in turn, buys his cattle and chickens directly from nearby Amish farmers. We already have escaped the factory farm system, putting our money toward something as sustainable and minimally cruel as we can achieve while still eating meat.
But we probably don't need to eat meat as often as we do. Tonight I prepared a vegetarian stew from the Sundays At Moosewood cookbook. It was delicious, stuffed full of veggies and spices, and any concerns I had about missing meat were quickly overcome by the fact that it was super tasty.
This, of course, is what Foer misses. In his quest for moral perfection, he forgets that a good meal -- even a simple meal, even a vegetarian meal -- can bring you pleasure. Pollan never forgets that. I know whose manifesto I find more appealing.
It is difficult not to stand in awe -- and a little envy -- of Garry Wills. His casual brilliance has made him one of the more prolific writers and thinkers of the age, and his thinking has been supple enough to carry him from an early alliance with William F. Buckley to an esoteric ideology that still seems to call itself "conservatism" while finding itself most comfortable on the pages of the lefty New York Review of Books. He's the kind of guy who appears capable of tossing off a 250-page book between lunch and dinner, while the rest of us are struggling to compose coherent blog posts in a comparable amount of time.
His new book, Bomb Power, reads a little bit like that -- a 250-page blog post. Wills makes the case that the advent of the Atomic Age also ushered in an era of presidential overreach: that Harry Truman used the prerogatives of the bomb to assert unconstitutional powers (in warmaking, foreign policy and even domestic policy) and to shield his efforts from congressional and judicial oversight; that every president since then (with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter) has tried to expand on that unconstitutional foundation.
At its best, Bomb Power serves as an overview of 65 years of expanding presidential power. But Wills doesn't really pursue his own thesis with much zeal: we see the advent of the bomb at the beginning of the book, and the rise of some institutions to govern its production and use. Wills, though, doesn't do much to make the connection to the overreach he describes thereafter: Korea, the Bay of Pigs and the Gulf of Tonkin all the way up to Abu Ghraib and Gitmo.
And his argument is made more difficult by a lack of context. Except for some brief references to Woodrow Wilson and Abraham Lincoln, we're not given much of a lesson in how executive power was wielded prior to World War II -- only told that the legislative branch was given more primacy than it currently exercises.. And in critiquing the unconstitutional nature of the postwar rise of the Cold War national security state, Wills doesn't bother to discuss whether the measures taken in the name of anti-Soviet national security might've been, you know, useful. This book, in other words, is written for people who already agree with Wills' point-of-view on such matters.
Wills finally peters out with a single paragraph looking to the future. "Some of us entertain a fondness for the quaint old Constitution," he writes. "It may be too late to return to its ideals, but the effort should be made."
As it happens, I'm pretty sympathetic to Wills' perspective. This book, however, felt like an appetizer for some other, longer and better-argued work of history.
You must obey an order -- no matter how trivial -- by a police officer, or face
electrocution a serious shock (see update, below) or other bodily harm, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled Friday. Or, as James Joyner of Outside the Beltway put it, "The 9th Circuit ruled yesterday that police can Taser pregnant women posing no risk so long as judges can concoct an implausible risk years later."
Clearly, they can give you a robe and a gavel, but they can't give you good judgment, either.
This outrageous decision stems from a 2004 traffic stop in Seattle. Malaika Brooks was driving her son to school when she was stopped by officers for doing 32 mph in a 25 mph school zone. Brooks told officers the car in front of her was speeding, so she refused to sign the ticket for fear of admitting guilt.
That's where it got interesting. The officers could have given her the ticket or let her go. Or they could have arrested her. They went with the latter. She told the police she was pregnant and refused to get out of the car. They threatened her with the Taser. She remained still.
The officers—Sgt. Steven Daman, Officer Juan Ornelas and Officer Donald Jones—then zapped her three times, in the thigh, shoulder and neck, and dragged her out of the car, placing the pregnant woman face-down in the street.
Brooks gave birth to a healthy baby a couple of months later. But the mother has scars. Brooks sued, alleging the officers violated her constitutional rights. U.S. District Judge Richard Jones allowed the case to continue. He declined to grant the officers immunity for performing their official duties and said Brooks' rights were clearly violated. Friday's decision overturned the trial court's ruling.
Here is the 9th Circuit's rationale. Read it and weep:
Judges Cynthia Holcomb Hall [Reagan appointee] and Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain [Reagan appointee] held that the officers were justified in making an arrest because Brooks was obstructing them and resisting arrest.
The use of force was also justified because of the threat Brooks posed, Hall wrote: "It seems clear that Brooks was not going to be able to harm anyone with her car at a moment's notice. Nonetheless, some threat she might retrieve the keys and drive off erratically remained, particularly given her refusal to leave the car and her state of agitation."
They also noted that the force used wasn't that serious because the Taser was in "touch" mode rather than "dart" mode, which hurts more. They reversed the lower court's opinion and held that the officers were entitled to immunity from the lawsuit.
The officers' lawyers, Ted Buck and Karen Cobb, said the officers made the right decision under the circumstances they faced.
"Police officers have to have the ability to compel people to obey their lawful orders," Buck said. That's all the court recognized today. The 9th Circuit just applied the law instead of getting caught up in the otherwise unfortunate factual circumstances."
Judge Marsha Berzon, a very liberal Bill Clinton appointee and the one dissenter, called the decision "off the wall."
"I fail utterly to comprehend how my colleagues are able to conclude that it was objectively reasonable to use any force against Brooks, let alone three activations of a Taser, in response to such a trivial offense," she wrote in her dissent.
Berzon pointed out that under Washington law, the police had no authority to take Brooks into custody: Failure to sign a traffic infraction is not punishable by arrest, as it turns out, and it isn't illegal to resist an unlawful arrest.
Berzon also noted in her dissent that to obstruct an officer, one must obstruct the officer's official duties, "and the officers' only duties in this case were to detain Brooks long enough to identify her, check for warrants, write up the citation and give it to her. Brooks' failure to sign did not interfere with those duties."
It's rare that I find myself agreeing with the liberal side of the 9th Circuit, but this is one of those cases where the default "conservative" position on the supposed side of "law-and-order" is not justified. This is an sickening decision that grants far too much deference to police, promotes the us-vs.-them mentality pervasive in far too many law enforcement agencies, and may endanger police officers and members of the public alike.
"Judges have been, for going on four decades now, loathe to second guess police officers and the principle of Terry v. Ohio, that officers have a right to briefly violate the Constitution if they are scared (I paraphrase) has been stretched beyond belief," Joyner writes. "Judges and other public officials, not unreasonably, want to give officers a wide berth because their jobs are indeed dangerous and the prospect having their instincts questioned ex post in the calm light of day might make them take excessive risks."
But, as Joyner notes, this is a clear cut case -- not of some 200-pound crackhead on a rampage, but of three big cops domineering a pregnant mom.
"Yes, her refusal to sign a ticket after being told (and it being printed on the ticket) that signing is merely acknowledgment of receipt and not an admission of guilt, is annoying," Joyner writes. "But, clearly, this was a case of officers frustrated that a citizen dared question their authoritay, not an overreaction to reasonable peril."
It's a sure bet that decisions such as this one will in no way diminish confrontations between police and civilians. People don't like to be treated as subjects.
I would reiterate a point I made in an earlier post: I hope this decision doesn’t lend credence to the effort to ban law enforcement from using Tasers altogether. I don’t dispute for a moment that police have abused Tasers. But what would these dumb cops have done to Malaika Brooks if all they had were nightsticks, pepperspray and guns?
Joel sent me this story by way of a link from Digby's Hullabaloo. She was doing great, until she threw this elbow at the end:
BTW: where are all the anti-authoritarian libertarians now? It seems as if they only care about the constitution when it comes to taxes and guns. Someone else's right not to be electrocuted for refusing to sign a traffic ticket? Not their problem.
Update: Eric at Classical Values shares the outrage about the case, while he admonishes and corrects:
What I do not agree with is (Digby's) ridiculous attempt to scold libertarians:
...where are all the anti-authoritarian libertarians now? It seems as if they only care about the constitution when it comes to taxes and guns. Someone else's right not to be electrocuted for refusing to sign a traffic ticket? Not their problem.
That is such a crock. I've lost track of the number of posts I've written complaining about police abuses, and I'm not even going to dignify his argument by supplying links.
As to the "right not be be electrocuted" he does not know what the word means. This woman was tasered. Shocked with electricity. Stunned, not killed.
The word "electrocute" is not complicated, and I think most people know that it means killed:
1. to kill as a result of an electric shock
2. (Law) US to execute in the electric chair
[from electro- + (exe)cute]
So, while I believe that people do have a "right not to be electrocuted for refusing to sign a traffic ticket," that is not what happened here.
I don't know what is more shocking: the underlying story itself or its mischaracterization and gratuitous smear of libertarians as people who "fail to care about the constitution [except] when it comes to taxes and guns."
I'm going to stick my neck out here and venture that if there is a "right not to be electrocuted for refusing to sign a traffic ticket," then it follows that libertarians also have a right not to be electrocuted for allegedly remaining silent about a police outrage they might not have known about -- mainly because it was only reported yesterday.
I'm shocked! Stunned!
But I'm about as surprised as I am electrocuted.
Good point on electrocution. I should have been more careful.
... at least on Fox come May after the conclusion of it's eighth "day," otherwise known as a season. From The Hollywood Reporter:
Tick, tick, tick … and done.
After eight seasons, Fox’s “24” is coming to an end.
The groundbreaking action drama will air its final real-time episode in May, the victim of a confluence of circumstances: a swelling budget, declining ratings and creative fatigue.
BOOOOO!!!!! Apparently, due to the fact that salaries spiral upward dramatically the longer a show is on television (especially after the fifth season), Fox was paying an incredible $5 million an episode for this year's installments. Let's see ... 5 million times 24 episode equals .... A LOT!
But Jack Bauer himself, as he's proven countless times on "24" is hard to kill:
Yet for fans of Jack Bauer, there remains hope. Studio 20th TV is developing a theatrical film that takes Bauer to Europe, and showrunner and executive producer Howard Gordon says other possibilities are being explored as well.
“There are other possible iterations of Jack Bauer and his world,” Gordon said.
The producers of "24" have long begged off shifting Jack Bauer to the big screen because it would screw up the narrative of the show. Makes sense. It would be hard to slip an entire new adventure into the timeline of each "off season" of "24" and not (1) take away from the show and (2) easily integrate the spent movie plot into the show's historical timeline. But I welcome the idea of seeing Jack Bauer in the movies. We could use an American James Bond.
And, no, Jason Bourne does not count. Jack Bauer would kick Bourne's whiny, metrosexual, conflicted-about-what's-right-and-wrong behind. After easily subduing Bourne with a chop to the throat — then sitting Bourn down in a chair to make it easier to get a clean shot when shooting him in the knee — Jack would lecture him on what real sacrifice for one's nation is about.
"Oh. Your girlfriend got killed? Boo hoo, you traitor! My wife was killed!!! I saw her die in my place of work!!! But I kept coming back, DAMMIT!!!! To protect my country. To do my duty. To do what was right." (Those last lines are not adorned with accumulating exclamation points because Sutherland would deliver them in his trademark Whisper of Intensity.)
So this May will mark the end of Jack Bauer's exploits on TV — and one of the most innovative dramas in the history of television, not the least from a production/presentation stand point. Remember that "24" insisted (once it was a legitimate hit) that all its episodes be run for 24 consecutive weeks so as not to lose its "one-day-in-real-time" grip presented one hour at a time. And Fox acquiesced. That was unheard of in modern television, but served the show well. The "24" producers even cancelled the entire season last year over the Hollywood writers' strike, because it was not willing to produce half a season, then come back and finish up later. I think what resulted — essentially a one-year hiatus — contributed greatly to the show's sagging, but still solid, ratings.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that "24" pioneered a network television innovation — "a returning hit that airs in midseason without repeats." "24," as much as the advent of summer-scheduled reality shows like "Survivor," blew up the tradition that the "television season" starts in the fall, takes a repeat-heavy break, and starts up again in the spring. Indeed, "24" executive producer Howard Gordon knows that his show has established itself in television history:
“I’d like it to be remembered as a revolutionary concept,” Gordon said. “I hope the second thing is that we loved this show so much and never did anything less than our best and I hope we delivered to our fans like we feel we did to ourselves.”
You did, Howard, by giving America a real American hero — who time and again put country before self and family. Bravo! And may Jack Bauer make a splash in movie history as well. I smell franchise!
As regular readers know, mono impalito and I have been going on for quite a while about the US military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy. While we both agree that it is a bad policy which requires military personnel to lie on a regular basis (in direct violation of the the military's policy of honorable service), we disagree in how it should be replaced. Mono, a service member with almost 30 years experience, believes that homosexuals should be barred from serving in the military, and I believe that they should be allowed to serve, just like blacks, women, and other minorities are.
Last weekend, mono wrote two good posts laying out his argument against homosexuals in the military. Here I will respond to his points. I invite others with opinions on this matter to weigh in with their comments and opinions.
Executive Summary... (Click "read more" below to continue)
I've been on the "sedition" watch for awhile -- see here, here, and here -- but the reaction to the health care bill and reaction to the reaction has been something rather beyond ham-handed and ill-conceived denunciations of "tea bag treason." This is serious.
So the Wall Street Journal editorializes Friday:
Democrats in Congress enacted ObamaCare in a process so ugly and so heedless of public opinion that many Americans are rightly angry. But a few people have expressed their anger in ugly and lawless ways. Several Democratic Congressmen say that protesters outside the Capitol last weekend yelled racial slurs at them. Yesterday House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters that at least 10 of his Members have received threatening phone calls. The district offices of four Congressmen have also reported incidents of vandalism.
It hardly needs saying that such behavior is intolerable. Those who commit crimes should be arrested and prosecuted, and racist rhetoric is offensive and should be denounced, as Republican leaders have done.
But the Democrats have seized upon these isolated incidents as a way to demonize opposition. Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told the Huffington Post that Republicans are "going to own part of the slurs cast at members of Congress, people vandalizing members of Congress's offices."
If that were the case, then Democrats would "own" attacks on Republicans, too...
The editorial goes on to discuss the shooting at Eric Cantor's office, which is bad enough. Thank goodness nobody was hurt. But the more scurrilous charge may be the "threat" at Sen. Mel Carnahan's home. These sorts of stories can get out of hand quickly. Everyone should take a breath. But then taking a breath might not be politically advantageous.
This week's RedBlueAmerica column for Scripps-Howard delves into the question we've argued here at great length. (For the record, I don't particularly care for the headline, but neither Joel nor I have the last word on those matters.)
Here's Joel's take, in brief:
Many conservatives are no doubt sincere, if a bit hysterical, when they warn that the health reform law impedes the liberty of Americans. But they're working from a curiously abstract notion of "freedom." They believe that a larger government inevitably leads to a less-free citizenry -- and they can, in many cases, be correct. The new law, however, will liberate millions of Americans from the threat of illness and bankruptcy that makes them less able to escape debt, leave bad jobs or start new businesses.
If the Congress can command Americans to buy health insurance -- making insurance a condition of citizenship, equivalent to registering for Selective Service -- then there is nothing the government cannot command or restrict. Whatever one thinks of the draft, which the United States ended four decades ago, at least national defense is a clear, enumerated constitutional duty of government. Providing access to health care is not.
The bill Congress passed and President Obama signed on March 23 undercuts Americans' freedoms in other ways, both overt and insidious.
Turns out, this is a running theme among the commentariat this week.
Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times:
In September, Obama got into a semantic argument with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who noted that requiring all Americans to pay premiums for a government-guaranteed service sounds an awful lot like a tax. "No. That's not true, George," Obama said. "For us to say that you've got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it's saying is . . . that we're not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you." Stephanopoulos invoked a dictionary definition of a tax: "a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes." Obama laughed off the idea that a dictionary might outrank him as the final arbiter of a word's meaning.
"George, the fact that you looked up . . . the definition of tax increase indicates to me that you're stretching a little bit right now. Otherwise, you wouldn't have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition."
OK, put aside your dictionaries. The legislation allocates $10 billion to pay for 16,500 IRS agents who will collect and enforce mandatory "premiums." Does that sound like the private sector at work to you?
David Harsanyi in the Denver Post:
Surely it is inarguable that the debate over a national mandate epitomizes the central ideological divide in the country today.
In broad terms, there is one side that believes liberty can be subverted for the collective good because government often makes more efficient and more moral choices.
Then there is the other side, which believes that people who believe such twaddle are seditious pinkos.
And judging from nearly every poll, the majority of Americans disapprove of President Barack Obama and his defining legislation. Whether they understand the mugging of freedoms in legal terms or in intellectual terms or only in intuitive ones doesn't matter.
Richard M. Esenberg, professor of law at Marquette University, explained the consequences of Obamacare like this: "If Congress can require you to buy health insurance because of the ways in which your uncovered existence (affects) interstate commerce or because it can tax you in an effort to force you to do (any) old thing it wants you to, it is hard to see what -- save some other constitutional restriction -- it cannot require you to do -- or prohibit you from doing."
Andrew Busch at the Ashbrook Center:
The leftist infatuation with Ben Franklin is abruptly over. Franklin’s warning that "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security"—quoted incessantly during the war on terror, back when there was one—has been conveniently forgotten. Apparently, the security of the nation against foreign attack is not sufficient reason to forego the "essential liberty" of affording habeas corpus to paramilitary forces engaged in war against the United States, but to degrade the liberty of the whole people, which is assaulted in a myriad of ways by Obamacare, is acceptable (even commendable) when the prize is the security of government-subsidized band-aids for people with incomes four times the poverty level.
Suffice to say, I'm pessimistic.
"King of the World" director James Cameron is holding a grudge over Glenn Beck making a joke about him when Beck had a show over on the unwatched CNN Headline News network three years ago. Beck said the man who foisted "Titanic" on the world — especially Celine Dion's awful "My Heart Will Go On" upon the culture — must be at least in the running for election to become the Anti-Christ.
It was a joke. Did I mention it was three years ago?
But, apparently, a mantle full of Oscars and a few billion dollars worth of box office receipts can't heal the wounds Beck inflicted — in jest. Cameron unleashed a profanity-laced tirade Tuesday against Beck, and even The Hollywood Reporter is too dense, biased, or lazy to correctly place the easily discerned reason for Beck's "offensive" quote. Hint: It has nothing to do with Cameron's 2007 documentary, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," which (1) no one has heard of, (2) didn't air until March of 2007, and (3) aired after Beck's comments of February 26, 2007.
We'll let the rest of the story be filled in by Beck's reaction to the flap on his show Wednesday night:
Why is James Cameron so certain he'd come out on top in a gunfight against a "global warming denier?" I think maybe he has been seen too many movies and thinks of himself as Gary Cooper.
The Obama administration has set back relations with Israel to perhaps its lowest point in decades. Go to Commentary's Contentions blog, read for 30 minutes, hit "Previous Entries," repeat as necessary, and Google some other stuff for details. (This is an Instamonkey post. Get your own damned backstory! But I need to provide just a bit ...)
Jackson Diehl at The Washington Post describes the Obama policy towards Israel as appearing "ideological" and "vindictive." Proof: Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has had to bascially sneak in and out of town for meetings with the president. No joint press conference. No public, quickie sit-down in front of the Oval Office fireplace, as is the minimal standard for other world leaders calling on the White House. No post-meeting statement. Even news photographers were banned. If we get any images at all (unlikely), they'll be ones taken by White House staff.
Jackson is not happy, and in his must-read piece, I was taken aback by this bit:
Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arms length.
At this point, I think the leader of America's most vital ally in the Middle East wishes he could get Obama's brand of "arms length" treatment toward a Third World dictator who is not "needed for strategic reasons."
Isn't there just something wrong with the fact that Obama has no qualms about yukking it up with the likes of Chavez, but doesn't seem to have time to display even routine public respect and decorum with allies like Israel and Great Britain? As Diehl says: "That is something the rest of the world will be quick to notice and respond to."
And not favorably toward America's interests.
Asked if insurance companies might raise their rates on health coverage and blame the increases on the new health-care bill, Pelosi said that the insurance companies should be aware that they’re not “automatically included” in the new health exchanges the bill creates.
“Unless they do the right thing, they’re not going in,” she said. “They will be relinquishing the possibility of having taxpayer-subsidized consumers in the exchange,” she said.
But don't let anyone spread lies about how ObamaCare is a government take-over of the health care industry. No sir.
What if an insurance company has to raise rates but doesn't blame it on the new health care bill? Does that qualify as doing the "right thing"? Even if the rate increases are due to the health care bill, as the Congressional Budget Office said? Is an insurance company on Pelosi's black list merely for raising rates to cover rising costs? Or is it only put in exile if it dares to tell the truth about why its costs are rising? The fact that this is now a legitimate public policy question is rather depressing.
In related news, Verizon just today sent a memo out to its employees saying its analysis of the plan means its insurance rates will go up, so it will probably have to start cutting benefits in the near future. That story will be repeated thousands of times in the coming months. So much for Obama's promises that "if you like your health plan, you can keep it."
More from Dionne's post:
Under the new law, the health exchanges Pelosi referred to will be created in 2014. By pulling customers together, they will give individuals and companies a better chance of bargaining when they buy health insurance. Because the exchanges are expected to serve millions of new customers, insurance companies will want to be part of them.
That's a pretty loose use of the word "want." More accurately, the insurance companies will be have to dance to Pelosi's tune or go out of business — and I'm betting on both happening. To hell with economic forces! Washington will dictate how much health care costs in this country now. I'm betting on that plan not working out so well, either. I'd rather not win that bet, but I have the history of the failure of centrally planned economics on my side.
Richard Adams makes a very good point at NoLeftTurns:
Every bill has unintended consequences. That does not mean one can't predict what that are likely to be, if one pays attention. People don't like being told what to do, and will, if possible try to find ways to avoid laws.
He goes on to suggest what one such predictable consequence might be. Who says nationalizing health care won't be good for the economy? It just depends on what sector of the economy you're talking about...
I have a letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal today, taking issue with Karl Rove's column last week on the merits of No Child Left Behind. Needless to say, I'm expecting an exploding "turd blossom" to be sitting on my doorstep any day now.
A few days ago,
Ben H.L. Monkey registered particular disgust with the provision of health reform law that allows young adults to stay on their parents' insurance until age 27 -- urging the "miserable parasites" to kill themselves.
So I found this tidbit in today's Philadelphia Inquirer to be particularly interesting:
Young adults, ages 19 to 29, are the largest group of uninsured, and represent a third of the uninsured, according to data analyzed by Kaiser. Three in 10 don't have insurance, compared to 17 percent of those ages 30 to 64.
Half the uninsured young people work full time at jobs that don't offer health insurance. Many start at small companies, which are less likely to provide insurance.
Now there are undoubtedly some lazy still-living-with-their-parents Peter Pan wannabes among these twentysomethings who don't have insurance. But it appears that lots and lots of them do have full-time work -- and are unable to easily obtain insurance anyway. One could, I suppose, use the term "parasite" to describe businesses that use the labor of young adults without providing them the means to protect their health -- but I suspect reality is much too complicated for that to be a fair generalization. It usually is.
Update: The mighty Ed Carson links from Investor's Business Daily's Capitol Hill blog: "Defenders of the mandate are coming up with some screwy arguments." Yes, indeedy.
Update 2 (March 26): The Heritage Foundation's Foundry was also good enough to link here from an excellent post on how proponents of health care reform are misusing and abusing the Founders. One point of clarification, however, lest there be any confusion: Although the Heritage link to this post is prefaced with "Some disagree with Cuccinelli...," I'm not the one doing the disagreeing. I suspect the Heritage blogger simply didn't want to link to those chuckleheads at Think Progress. Anyway...
Look, it remains a wide open question whether the courts can strike down some of the more egregious aspects of the health care legislation that President Obama signed into law on Tuesday. So far, 14 states have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the law. In particular, the 14 Republican attorneys general who are taking action have focused on the "individual mandate." That's the part of the law that requires every American to purchase insurance or face fines and tax penalties.
The gist of the challenge is that never before in American history has the government required purchase of goods or services as a condition of citizenship. Citizenship, of course, carries certain duties and obligations. The draft -- and now selective service registration -- is one such requirement. The government reserves the right to press into service any and all able-bodied adult male in defense of the country.
Apparently, the people at Think Progress believe a requirement to buy health insurance is akin to the requirement under the Second Militia Act of 1792 that soldiers equip themselves for duty in case of invasion. The provocative title attached to this insipid argument is "Why George Washington would disagree with the right wing about health care’s constitutionality".
This is what your father meant when he said a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. What does it say about progressives -- or, at least, the sort of progressive who would nod approvingly at such stuff -- that a law enacted when the United States was young and in constant danger from foreign enemies would be cited as precedent for mandated health insurance? It almost reads like a parody of progressivism, with its slipshod conflation of national defense with the welfare state. I'm surprised we haven't heard that health care reform should be treated as "the moral equivalent of war."
For a rebuttal to Think Progress's risible misappropriation of George Washington, I give you... George Washington.