Yesterday, I wondered if the bribe Sen Ben Nelson received for his vote for ObamaCare was legal — a step beyond normal scuzzy horse-trading.
But this debacle has me wondering: Is inserting language into a "managers amendment" that exempts one state from the Medicaid increases that every other state will have to suck up even legal? I'm wondering if we'll see some kind of lawsuit challenging this bit of the "compromise."
The meme is picking up steam. John Steele Gordon writes today in a Contentions blog post titled "The Cornhusker Highjack and the Constitution":
Such bribery has a long history in Congress, but so far as I know (and I’d be delighted to hear of other, earlier instances), bribes always came in the form of highways, post offices, bridges to nowhere, and other infrastructure, or in offers of higher office for the person being bribed. They were not in the form of a special deal allowing a particular, not impoverished state to have a lower share of costs in an ongoing federal program. There are, of course, plenty of the old-fashioned sorts of bribes in this bill. Connecticut will get a new hospital at federal expense, for instance.
But is it constitutional for the federal government to give some states a better deal on a national program than it does other states? It is not obviously unconstitutional, as, say, having a lower federal income tax rate for Nebraska would be, since Art. I, Sec. 8, requires that “all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” However, one could argue that Nebraskans will be getting what amounts to a rebate on federal taxes through the back door of lower state taxes.
Gordon explores in more detail the particular constitutional questions at play here, and suggests that a state (rather than a citizen) would have the best shot at establishing standing to challenge a law that relieves only Nebraskans from the tax implications of the health care bill. It's an interesting post worth reading in full.
George Will is dripping with contempt for Barack Obama's "successes" in Copenhagen and with health care "reform" in his Tuesday column: "It was serendipitous to have almost simultaneous climaxes in Copenhagen and Congress. The former's accomplishment was indiscernible, the latter's was unsightly."
And that's just the lede!
So argues Richard Epstein at PointofLaw.com. It's a fairly involved analysis and somewhat arcane argument in places, but I think this is the crux of the article:
This ill-conceived legislation has many provisions that regulate different aspects of private health-insurance companies. Taken together, the combined force of these provisions raises serious constitutional questions. I think that these provisions are so intertwined with the rest of the legislation that it is difficult to see how the entire statute could survive if one of its components is defective to its core. How courts will deal with these difficult issues is of course not known, but rate-regulation cases normally attract a higher level of scrutiny than, say, land-use decisions.
There is, moreover, no quick fix that will eliminate the Reid Bill's major constitutional defects. It would, of course, be a catastrophe if the Congress sought to put this program into place before its constitutionality were tested. Most ratemaking challenges are done on the strength of the record, and I see no reason why a court would let a health-insurance company be driven into bankruptcy before it could present its case that the mixture of regulations and subsidies makes it impossible to earn a reasonable return on its capital. At the very least, therefore, there are massive problems of delayed implementation that will plague any health-care legislation from the date of its passage. I should add that the many broad delegations to key administrative officials will themselves give rise to major delays and additional challenges on statutory or constitutional grounds.
What's that you say? It's just one commenter? How can I impugn the entire left with just one comment on one blog post? Hey, I'm just taking a cue from Yglesias himself, who seems to think that a ham-fisted post at Confederate Yankee and an oblique and clumsy remark from Tom Coburn is the same as the whole "Right-Wing Hoping Robert Byrd Dies in Time to Block Health Reform."
The analogy is so perfect, it can only be an early Festivus miracle!
And I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Atrios was right.
Liberals are, in Obama's words, on the "precipice" of enacting the decades-long dream of government-run health care — of directing one-sixth of the American economy from Washington. Sure, they didn't get everything they wanted in one fell swoop. But it's a safe bet that within a few years the liberal dream of "single payer" health care like that in Canada and Britain will be in our future — or at least it should be if the liberals' plans are as popular as they claim.
Yet even in what should be a moment of elation for liberals, they simply can't enjoy the moment. E.J. Dionne used his Washington Post column today to complain that getting this done was just so damn hard because Senate Republicans used the filibuster to slow down the progressive agenda.
Of course what has happened on the health-care bill is enraging. It's quite clear that substantial majorities in both houses of Congress favored either a public option or a Medicare buy-in.
In a normal democracy, such majorities would work their will, a law would pass, and champagne corks would pop. But everyone must get it through their heads that thanks to the bizarre habits of the Senate, we are no longer a normal democracy.
Because of a front of Republican obstruction and the ludicrous idea that all legislation requires a supermajority of 60 votes, power has passed from the majority to tiny minorities, sometimes minorities of one.
This is asinine on many levels.
For one, "substantial majorities" are against the mess the Democrats cooked up in Congress. Second, we are not a "normal democracy," but a republic. The Founders were careful to set up a system of government that did not let majorities quickly "work their will." The bicameral legislature with different responsibilities and procedures was designed to be a protection from mob rule, by both the public and the "mob" in the House.
Third, the Republicans don't have the numbers to filibuster. The Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority, something the press made a pretty big deal about while waiting for Al Franken to be seated. Harry Reid worked to get moderate Democrats on board. If Reid reached out to any Republicans seeking their vote, it has escaped the notice of the entire American press. Peeling off one or two Republicans would have probably gotten this health care debacle passed before the summer as originally planned, but during the entire legislative process, the "other side" was not just ignored, but mocked and slandered.
And, as Ramesh Ponnuru points out:
If legislation required 51 senators' votes to pass, that 51st senator would be in a position to be "a minority of one."
It would be easier to swallow this newfound liberal disgust for the filibuster if it wasn't so heartily applauded by liberals when it was used in an unprecedented way a few years back: To block scores of Bush's appointments to the federal bench. Again, Ponnuru:
If you're willing to have a system in which filibusters and supermajority rules are ever permitted, isn't the health-care bill exactly the type of legislation to which you'd want them to apply? It would be decidedly odd to say that it should take 60 votes to get a judge on an appeals court but only 51 to remake American health care.
Yes, it is odd — if you're expecting intellectual consistency from the likes of Dionne.
In a cleverly titled post, "Blue Dogs in Heat," W. James Antle III notes that Sen. Ben Nelson once said he was holding out for strong language protecting the 30-year precedent of not using taxpayer funds for elective abortions in America, and because the Reid health care bill had too much taxes and spending.
As Antle recounts:
That was last Thursday. By Saturday, Nelson caved and became the 60th vote to rubberstamp Harry Reid's health care bill. What had changed? According to the officially nonpartisan but effectively Democratic-run Congressional Budget Office, the "compromise" raised taxes and spending even more than the original legislation Nelson opposed. It also contains a Nelson-Reid abortion funding deal denounced by nearly all major pro-life leaders as a sham.
But Nelson collected his three pieces of silver. Nebraska will receive a permanent federal subsidy to cover the costs of increased Medicaid eligibility under the bill while all other states will have to start picking up the tab for their share in 2017. "That's what legislation is all about," Reid explained to reporters. "It's compromise."
Yeah. OK. Nelson is a fraud. And if Reid wants to call bribing Nelson (and other senators) "compromise," he's free to do so. There is no question that such horse-trading is the normal flotsam and jetsam of legislative sausage-making. It is just rare that such bribes are so blatant, or that so many Americans are paying attention to them. I call it a bribe, but Mark Steyn won't even dignify this "compromise" with such language:
You can't even dignify this squalid racket as bribery: If I try to buy a cop, I have to use my own money. But, when Harry Reid buys a senator, he uses my money, too. It doesn't "border on immoral": It drives straight through the frontier post and heads for the dark heartland of immoral.
How Reid got his precious 60 votes was, indeed, immoral. There are only two substantive differences from, say, the insurance industry paying Nelson for his vote and Reid doing it. In the former case, Nelson and the insurance company handing over the manila envelope would go to jail. In the latter case, it's "legal," and Reid is using our money.
But this debacle has me wondering: Is inserting language into a "managers amendment" that exempts one state from the Medicaid increases that every other state will have to suck up even legal? I'm wondering if we'll see some kind of lawsuit challenging this bit of the "compromise."
Let's put it another way: Liberals who adhere to static budgeting say all tax cuts "cost" the government money, just as much as a federal outlay "costs" the government money. I don't agree with that definition of government "cost," but let's grant it for the sake of argument. ...
(Please click "read more" below.)
Massie, remarking on how the health care disaster unfolded with nary a Republican vote, observes:
Consequently, the Republican party's unanimous opposition -- thus far -- to the health care bill is actually a healthy development, not a descent into vulgar tribalism. Perhaps the GOP interpretation of the bill is correct (it may be) and, certainly, they might have helped build a bill less poisonous to their preferences had they participated in the process. But I see no reason to mourn their failure to do so. Alea iacta est and let the voters decide.
The entire (short) piece is a delightful and provocative read.
James Delingpole of the Telegraph has a round-up of the rending of clothing and gnashing of teeth that followed the miserable conclusion of the climate change conference in Copenhagen.
"Copenhagen was worth it, after all – if only for the sphincter-bursting rage its supposed failure has caused among our libtard watermelon chums. (That’s watermelon, as in: green on the outside, red on the inside)," Delingpole writes.
George Monbiot is particularly emotional. You might say even hysterical.
Over at the Corner, Mark Steyn takes in the show.
"The climate has been 'changing' for billions of years. Who are you to presume to 'prevent' it?" Steyn observes. "From the barely veiled neo-fascistic whiff of Polly Toynbee's final paragraphs, you get the feeling that what most annoys this crowd is that they've been denied a shot at the ultimate exercise in universal Big Government."
Americans for Tax Reform has a comprehensive list of the tax hikes in the health reform package. My favorite? A 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services. But there is more. Lots more.
Gotta love Keith Olbermann. I can't stand him, actually — except as occasional entertainment when he goes off on one of his rants. But I love this delicious contrast.
In the summer, when non-liberals were protesting the health care plan with rallies and tea party protests, Olbermann was aghast. On his August 7, 2009 program, Olby said this:
"The truth is out about the societal sabotage dressed up as phony protests against health care reform....When Hamas does it or Hezbollah does it, it is called terrorism. Why should Republican lawmakers and the AstroTurf groups organizing on behalf of the health care industry be viewed any differently — especially now that far too many tea party protesters are comparing President Obama and health care reform to Hitler and the Holocaust?"
Got that? Those on the right who wanted to kill the bill in the summer were engaging in "societal sabotage" (whatever that is, exactly). The protests were "phony," a Trojan horse for the "health care industry" (read: insurance companies and drug companies). By God! It was akin to Hamas terrorism!!
Here's Olby on December 17, 2009:
“The Senate Bill with the mandate must be defeated, if not in the Senate, then in the House. Health care reform that benefits the industry at the cost of the people is intolerable and there are no moral constructs in which it can be supported. And if still the bill, and this heinous mandate become law, there is yet further reaction required. I call on all those whose conscience urges them to fight to use the only weapon that will left to us if this bill as currently constituted becomes law. We must not buy federally-mandated insurance, if this cheesy counterfeit of reform is all we can buy. No single payer? No sale. No public option? No sale. No Medicare buy-in? No sale.
I am one of the self-insured, albeit by choice. And I hereby pledge that I will not buy this perversion of health-care reform. Pass this at your peril, senators. And sign it at yours, Mr. President. I will not buy this insurance. Brand me a law-breaker if you choose. Fine me if you will. Jail me if you must. But if the Medicare buy-in goes but the mandate stays, the people who fought so hard and and sincerely to bring sanity to this system must kill this mutated, ugly version of their dream because those elected by us, to act for us, have forgotten what must be the golden rule of healthcare reform. It is the same rule to which physicians are bound by oath: First, do no harm.
Goodnight, and good luck.”
Welcome to the tea party, pal. That last bit about first doing no harm was a major point the tea party protesters, rally attendees and town hall speakers were making. Of course, we were coming from the opposite direction politically, but it is nice to see Olby's now on the same page — even if he's only reading from the left-hand margin. A demand that Americans buy government health insurance? That's OK. A demand that Americans buy private health insurance? That's not OK. Allowing Americans to decide these matters for themselves in a truly free market for health insurance? Also not OK ... except for Olby, who retains his right to buy the insurance he wants.
I find it hilarious that now — at long last, sir! — Olby has decided it's OK for Americans to actively "fight" with the "weapons" they have at their disposal to defeat ObamaCare. Since Olby's such a smart and intellectually honest guy, I'd love him to explain this: If the summer protesters were AstroTurfers doing the bidding of the insurance companies, why are they not now taking to the streets in favor of ObamaCare since (in Olby's view) it would be a sop to those very same insurance companies?
Last I checked, all those summer protesters are still against it.
It's the holidays. Hanukkah is just about over and Christmas is just a few more shopping days away. So what do we decide to talk about? Sedition and liberty during wartime, that's what.
Joel and I had the great pleasure of interviewing University of Chicago Law Professor Geoffrey Stone about civil liberties and dissent for the latest podcast. Stone takes us on a brief history of seditious libel law and wartime dissent. He compares and contrasts earlier efforts by the government to bend the Constitution in service of war fighting with recent policies by the Bush and Obama administrations. Stone is author of Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism, War and Liberty: An American Dilemma, and Top Secret: When Our Government Keeps Us in the Dark.
Among the questions we discuss:
• Is it fair to say Fox News is guilty of sedition?
• Is there a difference between seditious speech and seditious action?
• How does Barack Obama's record on civil liberties compare to George W. Bush's?
• Should John Yoo go to jail?
• Should Yoo be fired from Berkeley?
• What does the War on Terrorism have in common with McCarthyism?
• Which is better: Jailing dissenters or wiretapping phones?
• Is the right to privacy doomed?
Music heard in this podcast:
• "Tradition" - Fiddler on the Roof OST
• "For Beginners" - M. Ward
• "Gut Feeling" - Devo
• "I'm Free" - The Rolling Stones
• "Every Breath You Take" - The Bad Plus
• "Freedom of Speech (Watch What You Say)" - Ice T
An interesting Q&A with Hentoff, the 84-year-old civil libertarian and jazz maven, by the Rutherford Institute's John Whitehead. The stand-out comment for me:
I am an atheist, although I very much admire and have been influenced by many traditionally religious people. I say this because the Left has taken what passes for their principles as an absolute religion. They don't think anymore. They just react. When they have somebody like Obama whom they put into office, they believed in the religious sense and, of course, that is a large part of the reason for their silence on these issues. They are very hesitant to criticize Obama, but that is beginning to change. Even on the cable network MSNBC, some of the strongest proponents of Obama are now beginning to question, if I may use their words, their "deity."
There is a great deal more, of course.
Hentoff, who spent half a century writing for the Village Voice, is now a fellow of the Cato Institute.
(Hat tip: Reason on Twitter.)
Joel and I do our level best to bum everyone out in what's likely our last Scripps-Howard column for 2009. (Dunno. We might file one more between Christmas and New Year's...)
Sez I: "'Enjoy yourself,' a wise man once advised. 'It's later than you think.' If nothing else, be pessimistically optimistic about 2010."
Sez Joel: "We're going to be OK. Maybe not right away, and maybe not soon enough to suit, well, any of us. But we're going to be OK. We've been through this before and we'll probably go through it again. But please, God, not too soon."
After we filed the column early this morning, I saw the latest poll from Pew Research reaffirming that America remains essentially a 50-50 nation:
Public opinion about President Barack Obama and his major polices continues to be divided as the year comes to a close. His overall approval rating is 49%, which is largely unchanged from November (51%). However, the percentage expressing at least a fair amount of confidence in Obama to do the right thing when it comes to fixing the economy has slipped from 59% in October to 52% currently. Smaller percentages express confidence in Obama on health care reform (44%) and reducing the budget deficit (41%).
The "new politics" is the same as the old politics.
Looking for a comprehensive round-up of news links on climate change skepticism? I just discovered, perusing our referral logs, Tom Nelson's blog. Nelson kindly linked to my snarky little post last night about China's reluctance to sign on to any economy-killing agreements at Copenhagen.
One good turn deserves another, so I encourage you to pay Nelson's site a visit.
Here's the lead paragraph of Dan Henninger's column in Thursday's Wall Street Journal:
If President Obama's health-care initiative fails, there is no longer a rationale for being a liberal in the United States. Everything else on liberalism's to-do list is footnotes.
Everything else is a footnote? Cap-and-trade is a footnote? Regulating climate change makes health care look like rural electrification or mohair subsidies.
Cato's Gene Healy writes in the Washington Examiner today about an alarming government trend:
The Founders viewed the criminal sanction as a last resort, reserved for serious offenses, clearly defined, so ordinary citizens would know whether they were violating the law.
Yet over the last 40 years, an unholy alliance of big-business-hating liberals and tough-on-crime conservatives has made criminalization the first line of attack -- a way to demonstrate seriousness about the social problem of the month, whether it's corporate scandals or e-mail spam.
At one point on Tuesday, Breyer protested: "I thought there was a principle that a citizen is supposed to be able to understand the criminal law." Good luck with that.
There are now more than 4,000 federal crimes, spread out through some 27,000 pages of the U.S. Code. Some years ago, analysts at the Congressional Research Service tried to count the number of separate offenses on the books, and gave up, lacking the resources to get the job done. If teams of legal researchers can't make sense of the federal criminal code, obviously, ordinary citizens don't stand a chance.
A revised edition of Angelo Codevilla's classic book, "The Character of Nations," has been published this year, and it too is an education in itself. "The Character of Nations" is less focussed on immediate domestic political issues-- though it does analyze the contrasting responses of the intelligentsia to Sarah Palin and Barack Obama-- but it is focussed more on the underlying cultural developments that affect how nations work-- or don't work.
The very title of "The Character of Nations" is a challenge to the prevailing ideology that denies or downplays underlying differences among individuals, groups and nations.
I reread "The Character of Nations" earlier this year, in tandem with Codevilla's latest book, "Advice to War Presidents" (which I see Amazon is offering at a bargain price).
My friend John Kienker included Codevilla on his list of in the Claremont Institute's Christmas gift symposium. He writes:
Newly updated and expanded to take account of the September 11 attacks and the 2008 bailout, Codevilla surveys dramatic changes in prosperity, civility, family life, religion, and national defense around the world, with examples drawn from the Soviets to the Swedes, from Italy to Israel, and a dozen other countries. When he turns his attention to modern-day America, he no longer finds the nation of free citizens described by Tocqueville, bound together by a devotion to limited, constitutional government; but one that more and more resembles Europe or even the Third World: a nation of favor-seekers profiting from their connections to government and content to be ruled by a powerful, decadent elite.
I agree. And, although it might seem a bit dour for the holiday, I really can't recommend "The Character of Nations" highly enough.
Steven Hayward has a short-ish op-ed in Sunday's New York Post that sums up the "Climategate" scandal beautifully.
The piece is a nice abridgment of Hayward's 6,000-word take on the Climate Research Unit e-mail row that appeared last week in the Weekly Standard.
I'm up to my eyeballs in California land-use regulations, so I didn't actually listen to President Obama's speech in Oslo today and just read it quickly. I haven't quite digested it enough to have an opinion, but I see that Joel played off of Justin Paulette's analysis at NoLeftTurns. I think Joel is a bit to quick to dismiss "just war" theory, what with its centuries-old intellectual pedigree and all.
I do think Daniel Drezner's post-speech challenge is worth highlighting, however:
A contest for readers: pour over the speech and look for evidence suggesting Obama favors the following approaches:
• Neoliberal institutionalism
• Social construcivism
• Democratic peace theory
• Feminist IR theory (I think it's there, but you have to squint)
• Human security
It's easy... and fun!!
The Heritage Foundation's Conn Carroll seems to have noticed the same thing, but offers a more dour take: "What comes first — freedom or peace, interests or values? For those with a taste for textual deconstruction, President Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech offers ample opportunity."
Jules Crittenden, rarely one to play coy, praises the speech with faint damns: "Maybe, like Nixon going to China, it takes an Obama to make the defense of freedom acceptable. I wonder what happened to him in that Situation Room. Hard, inescapable dose of responsibility?"
Even Commentary's Jennifer Rubin found much to like: "But this speech is perhaps the closest he has come to throwing the American antiwar Left under the bus. America will defend itself. There is evil in the world. And yes, we are at war with religious fanatics... It is not at all what the netroot crowd that lifted him to the presidency had in mind. It seems that reality may be dawning, however dimly, on the White House."
Obama is no neoconservative, and just as it was too early to hand him this rather overblown "honor", it's still too early to say whether this administration is waking up to reality. As always, I recommend anything and everything Angelo Codevilla has to say about foreign policy generally, and Obama's foreign policy in particular.
Barack Obama's trip to Oslo to pick up his Nobel peace award is in danger of being overshadowed by a row over the cancellation of a series of events normally attended by the prizewinner.
Norwegians are incensed over what they view as his shabby response to the prize by cutting short his visit.
The White House has cancelled many of the events peace prize laureates traditionally submit to, including a dinner with the Norwegian Nobel committee, a press conference, a television interview, appearances at a children's event promoting peace and a music concert, as well as a visit to an exhibition in his honour at the Nobel peace centre.
He has also turned down a lunch invitation from the King of Norway.
According to a poll published by the daily tabloid VG, 44% of Norwegians believe it was rude of Obama to cancel his scheduled lunch with King Harald, with only 34% saying they believe it was acceptable.
Now, I'm a bit biased here. My wife's grandfather, Jack Moore, was knighted by the Norwegians for his service on The Shetland Bus in World War II. But, still. Obama has lots of time for lots of things. Like lapping Bush in golf outings. Stumping for ObamaCare. Parties. Etc. Would it kill him to show a modicum of respect the country that just gave him a great honor?
Let's put aside questions about whether Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize — and even the fact that he announced an increase in troops to Afghanistan days before departing for Oslo (I, unlike many, think fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida is a noble cause that will foster more peace). This is bad form, and yet another international embarrassment.
It's about the Article II prerogatives of the executive branch. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
The Obama administration has asked an appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit accusing former Bush administration attorney John Yoo of authorizing the torture of a terrorism suspect, saying federal law does not allow damage claims against lawyers who advise the president on national security issues.
Such lawsuits ask courts to second-guess presidential decisions and pose "the risk of deterring full and frank advice regarding the military's detention and treatment of those determined to be enemies during an armed conflict," Justice Department lawyers said Thursday in arguments to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Other sanctions are available for government lawyers who commit misconduct, the department said.
(More from Harper's here: "Indeed, this has emerged as a sort of ignoble mantra for the Justice Department, uniting both the Bush and Obama administrations.")
Joel will almost certainly disagree (and perhaps soon find himself exploring the mysteries of Taoism), but this is a wise strategy on the administration's part. Quite simply, what goes around, comes around. And when it becomes potentially criminal for lawyers to offer candid advice to presidents -- even bad advice, even morally reprehensible advice -- then it becomes more difficult for presidents to carry out their constitutionally prescribed duties. We have ways of correcting the excesses of policy without sending people to jail -- as Joel and I will discuss with University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone on the podcast this weekend.
If you peruse Memeorandum, you might have seen this odd post by a blogger named Suzi Gablik titled "Why I'm Not a Liberal Anymore." Right... what's all this then? A Charles Johnson in reverse? Not exactly.
The stuff coming out of "progressive" mouths is all too often on a par with Glenn Beck's abusive rants--both sides (right and left wingers) playing thousand-pound national football with the President as the ball--meaning, kick kick kick, until you bust his dick. This truly makes me sick. (It's meant to be the rhyme from hell.)
Yes, there is some wicked rhetoric in the fever swamps of the left-o-sphere. And...? Turns out, Gablik is upset with her friends and fellow travelers on the left-side of the political spectrum who have lost faith in the Hope and Change that Barack Obama promised. If liberals can turn so quickly on the president, Gablik seems to be arguing, then she doesn't want to be a liberal anymore. (I don't think Gablik would be a fan of Joel's, although he clearly hasn't given up on the president altogether yet.)
So, if Gablik isn't a liberal anymore, what is she?
The answer is I'm a Taoist, even though there isn't a political party yet that goes by that name. And now I can add that I'm also "three in the morning"--which means, in considering both sides of a question, I'm willing to follow two different courses at once. And I'm really glad to have a president who is brave enough and willing to do exactly that, too.
Is there anything in Gablik to be admired? Not really. She slams Beck for "abusive rants," yet what did she write last October?
Palin's cultivated malice almost makes the KKK look untutored.
So much for consistency. And who exactly is Gablik? An art critic with a penchant for grandiose abstraction:
A new paradigm of an engaged, participatory and socially relevant art is emerging . . .
Within the modernist paradigm under which I grew up, art has been typically understood as a collection of prestigious objects, existing in museums and galleries, disconnected from ordinary life and action. . . .
Many of the beliefs about art that our culture subscribes to, that the problems of art are purely aesthetic and that art will never change the world, are beliefs that have diminished the capacity of artists for constructive thought and action. . . .
As many artists shift their work arena from the studio to the more public contexts of political, social, and environmental life, we are all being called, in our understanding of what art is, to move beyond the mode of disinterested contemplation to something that is more participatory and engaged. . . .
Verbose nothingness, the familiar incantation of buzzwords -- "paradigm," "socially relevant," "participatory" -- that function primarily as signifiers of membership in the intellectual ranks. And now, because some liberal critics have turned their guns on Obama, she decides that HuffPo is coterminous with liberalism, and therefore she is not liberal.
Remember this next time somebody tells you conservatives are anti-intellectual morons.
On McCain's last point, it's fair to say conservatives have our own crosses to bear. And God knows we've had our share of family squabbles lately. (This is nothing new, of course. Just look at all the people with whom Harry Jaffa has done battle over the decades.)
Our friends on the left, many of whom count themselves as members of something called the "reality-based community," apparently believed all of the things they said about George W. Bush. That was a mistake. I read somewhere that elections have consequences. That they do. One of those consequences is governing. Governing is not the same as campaigning. And although the majority party might wish the vanquished would just step aside, shut up and let the president have his way, that's just not the way it works in a democratic republic. Almost one full year into Obama's presidency, the idealists who saw Hope and Change realize that he is a politician after all, and politics has limits.
Conservatives might do well to remember that, too. For the moment, however, I'm content to sit back and watch if Taoism stages a comeback.
When will our current president stop blaming every difficulty on "the previous administration"? I'm guessing sometime around year three of his second term.
Barack Obama on the TARP program, December 8, 2009:
"Launched hastily — understandably, but hastily under the last administration — the TARP program was flawed. And we have worked hard to correct those flaws and manage it properly."
Barack Obama on the floor of the U.S. Senate, October 2008:
"There may be other plans out there that had we had two or three or six months to develop might be even more refined and might serve our purposes better. But we don't have that kind of time. And we can't afford to take a risk that the economy of the United States of America and as a consequence the worldwide economy could be plunged into a very, very deep hole."
Not only is that a red-handed gotcha quote, it points to the fact that when Obama blames "the previous administration" — be it for TARP or domestic spending in general — he is, in fact, equally culpable. If there was "haste," he was advocating for it on the Senate floor. And it's not as if Bush took all these actions on his own. Congress (and Obama) voted for TARP — and Obama's soon-to-be Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was among its biggest advocates. Congress (and Obama) voted for more domestic spending, which added to a debt that Obama inherited ... but has managed to triple in six months.
Enough, already. I'd hope even Obama supporters have had it up to here with this "tic" of the president, as Charles Krauthammer put it tonight on "Special Report."
Sarah Palin on Thursday told radio talk show host Rusty Humphries that the provenance of Barack Obama's birth certificate is "a fair question, just like I think past associations and past voting record — all of that is fair game."
Well... ain't that a gas? AllahPundit at Hot Air writes: "Something for (almost) everyone here: For the left, smoking-gun proof that she’s a fringe character, and for Birthers, smoking-gun proof that their concerns are mainstream."
And how. Joel Mathis is so upset, in fact, he's threatened to eat some baronial linen fine art paper.
Moments before, responding to the question of whether she would "make the birth certificate an issue" if she ran, Palin said: "I think the public, rightfully, is still making it an issue. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t know if I would have to bother to make it an issue ’cause I think there are enough members of the electorate who still want answers."
Allah again: "It’s the same thing as Truthers saying that all they’re doing is 'asking questions.' The answers have already been provided; they just reject them because they’re married to their conspiracies."
Meantime, Pajamas Media's Rick Moran, whose work I'm liking more and more lately, utterly destroys Palin's assertions:
No, it is not a “fair question.” It is a silly, stupid, ignorant question. No, “the public” is not making this an issue — only looney tune numbskulls are pursuing it. No, there aren’t “enough (whatever that means) members of the electorate who still want answers.” Only a small subset of the entire electorate cares.
By even entertaining the question the way she did, Palin has lent some mainstream legitimacy to a fringe theory. Doing so doesn't help her chances at anything other than winning the goodwill of nutters. And, indeed, her stake puts every Republican elected official on defense. Writes Moran:
(S)he is now going to force every GOP candidate for the House and Senate to come out and declare whether they are birther nuts or not. Even if they’re not, being forced to answer in the first place makes the party look even kookier than it has to this point in time. You can bet Democratic opponents of Republican candidates will be asking whether they agree with Palin or not — and they will do it every chance they get. The press will gleefully repeat the question, no matter how many times the GOP candidate answers it.
That is correct.
Joel and I dispensed with the Birther business in a Scripps-Howard column in August. I wrote:
Every calorie burned and every neuron fired on the subject of President Obama's birthplace -- yes, contrary to what you might have heard Alan Keyes say, he is president -- is energy better spent elsewhere.
It is energy not spent opposing the president's very real policies. Congress is busy debating a $1 trillion health-reform bill that would fundamentally change the way Americans get medical care, and yet some Americans would rather argue over Obama's certification of live birth.
Why? Because of the fallacy of "if only." If only we can show that Obama is constitutionally unqualified to be president, it would all just go away -- the crazy socialized medicine schemes, the cap and tax energy legislation, the suicidal debt increases, the ridiculous posturing to Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, all of it.
If only politics were so simple. Forget the fringe. Obama isn't going anywhere. But his agenda presents conservatives with real opportunities to craft and articulate sound alternatives. Conspiracy theories, like the poor, will always be with us. But they don't win elections.
For her own part, Palin revised and extended her remarks on Facebook under the headline "Stupid Conspiracies":
Voters have every right to ask candidates for information if they so choose. I’ve pointed out that it was seemingly fair game during the 2008 election for many on the left to badger my doctor and lawyer for proof that Trig is in fact my child. Conspiracy-minded reporters and voters had a right to ask... which they have repeatedly. But at no point – not during the campaign, and not during recent interviews – have I asked the president to produce his birth certificate or suggested that he was not born in the United States.
If the conspiracy theories are as stupid as Palin says, she ought not do her part to fuel them. By the way, notice how well parsed her last sentence is. Very deft. And who could be against regular folks asking questions...?
I have some problems with Obama's Afghanistan speech tonight, but I think it's important to begin by excerpting a laudable passage that (gasp!) George Bush could have delivered — and often did.
Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions — from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank — that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.
We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades — a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty.
For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for — and what we continue to fight for — is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.
Bravo! A welcome declaration from a president who, heretofore, has emphasized America's mistakes and has seemed loath to speak of the triumphs for liberty and unparalleled generosity that preceded his administration. Then again, Obama wasn't speaking tonight before a foreign audience, but a gathering of West Point cadets — about as "domestic" as you can get.
Obama needs to emphasize this point more if he really believes that the Afghanistan project shares this noble context.
I have a new op-ed in Friday's Sacramento Bee about the folly of Race to the Top, which is the Obama Administration's futile exercise in imposing innovation on the schools from the top down. Because if at first you don't succeed, spend hundreds of billions over four decades until you can claim some semblance of success. (Save your wisecracks about America's misadventures abroad, please.)
My piece is a rebuttal to The Bee's Sunday editorial urging the Assembly to pass legislation that would make California eligible for up to $500 million in Race to the Top grants. The Bee argues that the money could help patch over the state's horrific budget situation.
Well, sure it could -- for about a year or so. One of the problems with Race to the Top, like so many other reforms that emerge from Washington D.C., is that the mandates they create last forever.
But that isn't the only drawback. My piece could just as easily be a rebuttal -- albeit indirectly -- to the commentary that appeared in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal under the byline of Harold E. Ford Jr., Louis V. Gerstner, and Eli Broad. The authors worry that the feds are "being pressured to dilute the program's requirement that states adopt performance pay for teachers and to weaken its support for charter schools. If the president does not remain firm on standards, the whole endeavor will be just another example of great rhetoric and poor reform."
I argue that those reforms in and of themselves are inadequate to the task. What fundamentally ails the schools isn't a lack of competition or accountability -- although those are surely disabilities -- but what E.D. Hirsch has called the anti-curriculum ideology. So more charter schools won't help if they're using the same curriculum as the traditional public schools, for example.
I'm pretty sure that the Legislature will come through at the last minute anyway, with predictable results: "But if history teaches anything, it's that these mad dashes for dollars amount to little in the long run. Just look at the expensive results of Title I, Head Start, Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind. In five years, when we're debating the next great reform initiative -- call it 'Speed to Success' -- it's a fair bet we'll ignore the wreckage of Race to the Top as well."
One last thing: Good grief, I really need to get a new headshot. I've lost weight since that photo was taken. And I've got the Leninesque facial hair now. In all, I come off as a goober, when I should really look more like a bookish thug.
The American Enterprise Institute's Nick Schulz shares a graph depicting the percentage of cabinet officials since 1900 with prior private sector experience. It includes secretaries of State, Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Energy, and Housing & Urban Development, but excludes others, including Postmaster General, Secretaries of the Navy, War, Health, Education & Welfare, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security. In all, 432 cabinet secretaries are represented.
Schulz observes: "When one considers that public sector employment has ranged since the 1950s at between 15 percent and 19 percent of the population, the makeup of the current cabinet—over 90 percent of its prior experience was in the public sector—is remarkable."