Sunday, January 31, 2010

A strange encounter

The following is a true story.

I was standing in the welcome center at church this morning, between services, visiting with a friend, when we saw a middle-aged woman come walking through, looking as if she needed something. There were a lot of people around, but they tend to be bunched up in groups, and it can feel awkward to try to get someone's attention. But we noticed her, and she, seeing us looking, walked towards us. We said, "Good morning," and asked if we could help.

"I'm new here," she said, "and I need to get my mother over to the elevator, but I need to park the car. Can you help and walk my mother to the elevator?"

"Sure," I said, "I'd be happy to." So I walked with her back to the other lobby, and met her mother, a black woman (I'd not mention her race were it not relevant to the story) who looked to be in her mid-70s, standing there with her walker. The woman introduced us, and went out to park the car, while I started walking her mother through the welcome center towards the elevator. As we walked, we chatted, and she told me that she lived in New Jersey, but had been born and raised in Mississippi. She told me that she had been a teacher for years, and that she was very concerned about the educational system. Hey, I'm concerned about the educational system, too. I'm a white man from Maine and she's a black woman from Mississippi, but in addition to the fact that we're both in the church, that sounds like some common ground. So I told her that my wife and I were home-schooling our kids, and, as we were getting on to the elevator, she told me that didn't approve of home-schooling, "the way you do it up here in Boston."

"OK," I thought. I didn't know what, exactly, she thought was "the way [we] do it up here in Boston," but that's her problem, not mine, so I just kind of nodded and smiled. At which point, alone in the elevator, she told me that, and I quote, "my people in Mississippi were better off when they were slaves."

How do you respond to that? If there's a good response to an elderly black woman who says that "her people" were better off as slaves, I'd never actually taken the time to figure out what it was. It was not a situation and comment which I'd ever anticipated dealing with, or spent any time preparing for, and it caught me unawares. While I think my eyebrows went up, I just kind of smiled and nodded. What can you say to that? And after telling me that she didn't actually approve of slavery (what a relief!) she continued:

"Martin Luther King, Jr.," she said next, "sold them out."

A brief pause. I found that I had nothing to add to that comment, either.

My habit, in conversation with strangers with whom I'm unlikely to meet again, is to be generally agreeable, to smile a lot (although I suspect that smiling is more of an intention than a habit) and to genially agree with what the other is saying, or, very politely, suggest that my opinion might differ on this topic or that. Nothing in my arsenal seemed adequate for this situation.

"We haven't had a good President in this country since Abraham Lincoln."

"So," I thought, "she's not an Obama fan." Smile and nod. Nod and smile. Praise the Lord.

We got off the elevator while she was, I believe, quoting Lincoln to me. I didn't catch the quote, as I had found myself eager to get her safely, and quickly, to a pew. Which I did, with her explaining to me that there was not enough preaching about hell, and the best way to reach people was through tracts, and people weren't doing enough of that, but she had a couple, and wanted to give them to me. Smile and nod, nod and smile, murmur polite nothings as she digs through her bag, thank her for the tracts which I'm now sticking in my pocket and smile and nod and "I hope that you enjoy the service," and I don't remember ever being at quite such a loss for words as I am right now.

But I do hope that she enjoyed the service...

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Deficit spending: Hensarling vs. Obama, Republicans vs. Democrats

President Obama didn't care much for what Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) had to say the other day, but Hensarling's not backing down:
In anticipation of Obama rolling out his budget proposal Monday, Hensarling's Saturday statement cited Congressional Budget Office statistics putting the average deficit during 12 years of GOP House control at $104 billion and the average deficit under three years of Democratic control at $1.1 trillion.

“The President challenged the facts I presented to him about House Republican budget priorities and Democrat budget priorities," Hensarling said. "I am happy to provide him with the following facts to back-up my statements. I stand by what I said."

Citing the CBO's January monthly budget review, the statement said that the deficit run up in the first three months of FY 2010 -- $390 billion -- was just $22.7 billion short of the worst annual deficit under the GOP.
You all know where I stand on this one.

I hope that the Republicans can get this message to penetrate the media as this election year continues...

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Federer question

Is Roger Federer the greatest male tennis player in history, or is he the winner of the most Majors because he's a great player at a time when there aren't any other great players? McEnroe lost Majors to Borg and Connors, Sampras lost Majors to Agassi - who's the other great player of the Federer era?

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Talking Down to the Public Will Surely Work..."

This [health care reform] is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people.
Barack Obama, State of the Union.
I don't know about you, but I've heard about all the explaining I can take from this ... President.

And apparently, I'm not the only one.

Hinkle: Talking Down to the Public Will Surely Work:
There so many things man with nice voice need to explain gooder. Like, if some people still need health insurance, why not just give them insurance voucher, like housing voucher or food stamps? Why put entire U.S. medical system in Cuisinart and set on Liquefy?

How come House bill create 111 new boards, commissions, and programs? How come, if point is to give insurance, House bill raise big chunk of revenue by fining people without insurance? How that help anyone? This seem crazy to knuckle-dragging trailer-park people, who not know no better. And how come Medicaid and Medicare not doing the job? Isn't that what they for? And if they not do job, then why should people think even bigger program will?

Many American people too stupid to see answers to questions like these, even though they totally obvious.
There more. Me like. Me link. You click link, maybe you like too...

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Stymied in his attempt to take over health care, will President Obama attempt to take over College Football next?

Because there isn't anything more important for them to be doing...
The Obama administration is considering several steps that would review the legality of the controversial Bowl Championship Series, the Justice Department said in a letter Friday to a senator who had asked for an antitrust review.

In the letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch, obtained by The Associated Press, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the Justice Department is reviewing Hatch's request and other materials to determine whether to open an investigation into whether the BCS violates antitrust laws.

"Importantly, and in addition, the administration also is exploring other options that might be available to address concerns with the college football postseason," Weich wrote, including asking the Federal Trade Commission to review the legality of the BCS under consumer protection laws.


Weich made note of the fact that President Barack Obama, before he was sworn in, had stated his preference for a playoff system. In 2008, Obama said he was going to "to throw my weight around a little bit" to nudge college football toward a playoff system, a point that Hatch stressed when he urged Obama last fall to ask the department to investigate the BCS.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Question: Why is "Catcher in the Rye" acclaimed?

With the death, yesterday, of reclusive author J. D. Salinger, there is, naturally, a fair amount of discussion of "Catcher in the Rye," which is widely acclaimed as a great or important or beloved book. Having read it twice, once as a male adolescent, and again years later as an adult, it's appeal utterly escapes me. There are some works which I don't like but I can understand how others might. With this one, I not only dislike it, I don't understand why anyone likes it.

So this is your opportunity to set me straight. If you're a Catcher in the Rye fan, click the comment link and let me know why.

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Why is Senator Kirk not yet former Senator Kirk?

SusanAnne Hiller has an excellent question:
The Senate has voted on three pieces of legislation today that required 60 votes–to raise the debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion, to reduce the deficit by establishing five-year discretionary spending caps, and Ben Bernanke’s confirmation–all of which interim Senator Paul Kirk (D-MA) has voted on. In addition, there have been other Senate votes since Scott Brown was elected as Massachusetts senator that Kirk cast a vote.

The main question here is: why is former Senator Kirk still voting on these legislative pieces? According to Senate rules and precedent, Kirk’s term expired last Tuesday upon the election of Scott Brown.
My suspicion is that, if the Senate tried to vote on a cloture motion which was going to be a 60-40 partisan vote, so that the vote actually mattered, the Republicans would make noise and fight it. None of the votes that they've taken in the past week-and-a-half have been such that it would have made any difference which way Senator MA-Jr. voted.

I think it's a bad precedent, but it hasn't made a difference in anything, so it isn't something that would be necessarily productive to squawk about.

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ESPN's top 100

Keith Law is out with ESPN's Top 100 baseball prospects.

A couple of Red Sox related notes:

  • Boston has seven players on the list.

    18Casey Kelly, RHP, BOS

    32Ryan Westmoreland, OF, BOS

    53Anthony Rizzo, 1B, BOS

    56Lars Anderson, 1B, BOS

    86Ryan Kalish, OF, BOS

    91Jose Iglesias, SS, BOS

    98Junichi Tazawa, RHP, BOS

  • Here's the list of teams with 5 or more prospects in the top 100 (and one other team, chosen not quite at random.)








  • Had they not made the Victor Martinez trade last summer, the Red Sox would have eight players on the list, as Nick Hagadone, who went to Cleveland in that deal, is number 100.

  • Baseball prospects are a risky commodity, with a significant failure rate. This really is a case of the more, the better, because the bigger the group that you have, the more likely it is that you get a couple of good Major League players out of it.

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Wordle puzzle - 01/29/10

19th century English (Scottish) novel. This one's not "A Christmas Carol" easy, but I think that it's not too difficult, either...

The answer to last week's puzzle is Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift. I used part four, and removed the words "yahoo" and "houyhnhnm," thinking that they'd make it too easy.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Radosh on Zinn

There's a good piece by Ron Radosh on "historian" Howard Zinn, who died yesterday:
Howard Zinn's death yesterday affords us the opportunity to evaluate the remarkable influence he has had on the American public's understanding of our nation's past. His book A People's History of the United States, published in 1980 with a first printing of 5000 copies, went on to sell over two million. To this day some 128,000 new copies are sold each year. That alone made Zinn perhaps the single most influential historian whose works have reached multitudes of Americans. Indeed, Zinn found that his book was regularly adopted as a text in high schools and most surprisingly, in many colleges and universities.


Zinn ransacked the past to find alternative models for future struggles. That, of course, is not the job of the historian, but of the propagandist. Zinn did serve his country during the Second World War as a bombardier, for which he should be commended. Possibly he felt guilt at the collateral deaths of civilians his wartime service may have caused. That is understandable. It does not, however, excuse his distortions of the past or his use of it to promulgate left-wing solutions in the present.
I've had Zinn's book on my shelf for a long time, and I've read parts, though not all, of it. I can't take much. One of the reasons that I've never seen "Good Will Hunting" is the praise that Matt Damon's character gives it. The highlighted line in the quote is, I think, a good description, as is Georgetown University historian Michael Kazin's comment that Zinn "reduces the past to a Manichean fable..."

De mortuis nil nisi bonum, but it would be an understatement to say that I'm not a Zinn fan...

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"That's job creation you can believe in..."

From ReasonTV...

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"The disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality is staggering..."

Jeffrey H. Anderson:
In his State of the Union address, President Obama said he was “setting the record straight” on budget deficits. He followed that up by talking about how he had been in a tough spot when he took office. This pairing of statements — delivered in a completely serious tone — was actually greeted with some laughter in the chamber. People tend to laugh at the absurd.

Let’s really set the record straight:

The Congressional Budget Office has just released deficit projections for 2010, the first year for which President Obama and this Congress are entirely accountable. They show that the federal budget deficit for 2010, in inflation-adjusted dollars, will be the second-highest in this country’s history. The Civil War, World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II were tough times to be in office, but we never ran deficits this high during any of them — even after adjusting for inflation!

In fact, if not for President Obama’s $787 billion “economic stimulus” and its effect on last year’s deficit, the 2010 deficit would be the very highest inflation-adjusted deficit in U.S. history.
Y'all are going to be tired of seeing this, but it's important:

Obama and the Democrats didn't inherit this deficit - they created it.

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"the across-the-board freeze ... can only be seen as a joke..."

I said yesterday that "obviously, freezing spending is better than increasing it, but not as good as cutting it, and the devil's always in the details on something like that." Well, now that the framework has been proposed, Veronique de Rugy takes a look.
...the across-the-board freeze is so full of caveats and loopholes that it can only be seen as a joke...

For instance, the freeze won’t apply to the $513 trillion in unspent stimulus funds. Nor will it apply to the $247 billion of Troubled Asset Relief Program funds or to any of the programs that cash from repaid TARP funds will pay for, such as the $30 billion to prop up community bank lending to small businesses proposed by the president during his speech.

Besides, the president might ask for a freeze, but if history is any guide, Congress won’t give it to him. The president asserted his commitment to his diet by saying that he would veto any spending bill that doesn’t meet his requirement. It will be interesting to see if he can keep this promise, especially considering how unpopular this proposal was among liberals.

In the best-case scenario, the three-year freeze over the course of ten years will save on the order of $250 billion. That amounts to only 0.58 percent of the total federal spending during that period. This seems a rather meek savings especially in light of the CBO data showing ten-year baseline deficits of $6 trillion under current laws.
Yeah, that's kind of the way I expected it to be. Sounds kind of like a "gimmick," doesn't it?

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Instapundit was on fire last night

For a barrel of links and commentary on the State of the Union, check out this Instapundit post...

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I wasn't the only one, as these comments from the Corner show...

Mark Steyn:
...the petulance is all too obviously real...
Peter Robinson:
While offering up such stale, unimaginative policy proposals that liberals could only have moaned and gnashed their teeth, Obama adopted a tone of such petulance, peevishness and condescension that independents could only have recoiled.
Robinson again:
I forgot to add "petulant."

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One word State of the Union review

Here is my one word summary of the speech.


He sounded annoyed and irritated with his subjects fellow citizens. The attitude seemed to be, "don't you people appreciate all that I've done for you?"

I think he's been reading Joe Klein...

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

SotU reaction

1) More nuclear plants would be a good thing. I don't believe it will happen.

2) More fiscal responsibility would be a good thing. I don't believe it will happen.

3) It was a very unpleasant speech. The impression that I got was that we, the people, have disappointed our glorious leader. He seemed irritated with us

More tomorrow...

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I knew he'd say this...

...and it's a lie.

President Barack Obama, blaming the deficit on George W. Bush.
"We tried to do that for eight years..."
Here, again, is the deficit over the past two decades, color-coded by the party in control of the House of Representatives.

Note that the deficits increased as the internet bubble popped. Note that the destruction of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq increased the deficits.

And note that they were on their way back down when the Democrats took control of the budget-writing body.

This deficit is not George W. Bush's deficit. It's the Democrats' deficit, Nancy Pelosi's deficit. Barack Obama's deficit.

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Reality check

When the President addresses the nation this evening, one of the things that he is certain to do is to tell us how much better off we are than we were a year ago, because he's working to make things better. There will be comments about "the last eight years" or "the prior administration" and the whole tone and tenor of it will be about how much better off we are with Democrats in charge.

But there are a couple of details that people ought to be aware of.

  1. Spending bills are, constitutionally, the responsibility of the House of Representatives.
    Article 1, Section 7:
    All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives
    Presidents do traditionally send budget proposals to Capitol Hill, and negotiate for what they will or won't sign, but the budget is primarily the responsibility of the House of Representatives.
  2. The House of Representatives has been controlled by the Democrats since January of 2007, three years ago.
The controlling legal authority for fiscal year 2008, which ran from October 2007 through the end of September 2008, was a budget that George W. Bush signed, but was written by the Democrats in the House of Representatives. The controlling legal authority for fiscal year 2009, which ran from October 2008 through the end of September 2009, was a budget that George W. Bush signed, but was written by the Democrats in the House of Representatives. The $787 billion stimulus package (about 5.5% of the 2009 GDP [and no, it wasn't all spent in 2009]) was passed exclusively by Democrats and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

So when he stands up tonight and talks about the budget deficit, when he proposes a "freeze" that doesn't touch the vast majority of government spending, when he hauls out the rhetoric of fiscal responsibility and when he talks about jobs, here are two charts that you can refer to as a reality check.

This first chart shows the US federal surplus or deficit for the last 15-20 years, color-coded by the party controlling the House of Representatives for each year, because that's the party primarily responsible for the budget.

The second chart shows the US average unemployment rate, again, color-coded by the party in control of the budget process.

For all of Barack Obama's complaining about "the last eight years" and the "previous administration," you can see that the massive increase in the deficit and the unemployment rate coincide with a change in color from Republican red to Democratic blue.

I'm not going to make excuses for George W. Bush - he should have acted to curb the growth of government. The Republican Congress in 2003-2004 did a dreadful job, exhibiting profligate spending much like the Democrats of yore.

It's time for the Democrats in Congress to stop being so humble, to stop letting George W. Bush take credit for their accomplishments. The Democrats own this economy right now, and Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and their foot soldiers ought not be allowed to continue claiming otherwise. The deficit right now is the Democrat's deficit. Harry Reid's and Nancy Pelosi's deficit. Barack Obama's deficit. Period.

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"...a particular type of stupidity..."

James Taranto:
"People will never know" is gentler than "a nation of dodos," but the underlying message isn't that different. Axelrod, speaking of the president, tells the Washington Post: "This is someone who in law school worked with [Harvard professor] Larry Tribe on a paper on the legal implications of Einstein's theory of relativity." That's got to be a joke, but the message is clear: President Obama and his men are a lot smarter than the average voter.

It is likely that this is true. Shockingly, half of all Americans have IQs below the median. But intelligence is not the same thing as wisdom or sense. Very intelligent people have been known to advance very compelling arguments on behalf of very bad ideas.

What's more, there is a particular type of stupidity to which intelligent people are uniquely prone: intellectual snobbery, or the tendency to cultivate an attitude of contempt toward those who are not as bright. This may appeal to New York Times readers or voters in, say, Hyde Park--that is, to people who think they're better than everyone else too. But it may prove Barack Obama's undoing as a national politician.
Does anyone suppose that Barack Obama or David Axelrod or Joe Klein have ever read Gulliver's Travels? The whole thing, that is, and not just the journey to Lilliput? Everyone who wants to impose projects and plans on the people on the ground that they represent an intellectual elite should read Swift's account of Gulliver's trip to Laputa. And then watch the They Saved Lisa' Brain episode of The Simpsons. And then take some time to try to develop a little bit of perspective about themselves and their elitism...

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"it’s unclear how, if at all, the White House can set the agenda..."

Jennifer Rubin:
the real impact of the polls and the Democratic departures/retirements: those struggling not to be swept out in the 2010 wave will increasingly look at each and every vote through the prism of their own electorate and re-election self-interest. Yes, what a novel concept! But that was not the story in 2009, when congressmen and senators were persuaded over and over again to ignore everything else (e.g., polls, town hall attendees, jammed switchboards) and adhere to the Obama-Reid-Pelosi line. That dynamic is very likely to reverse itself — leaving the “leadership” to chase after members, while members attune themselves to voters back home. In this environment, it’s unclear how, if at all, the White House can set the agenda. After all, it was Obama who got his party into this position, and his fellow Democrats may be less than amenable to taking further direction from the guy that sunk their party’s fortunes.

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Around the blogosphere - Joe Klein edition

Some others talking about Joe Klein, as I did earlier...

Mark Steyn:
Having elected the Smartest Administration of All Time, the Obammysoxers are understandably drawn to the notion that the problem right now is that you knuckledragging rubes are too dumb to understand all he's done for you. If I were Mr Klein, though, I'd surely be smart enough to wonder if stating it quite so explicitly is really the way to go.

The Philipic:
Do I think a “magical” $60 a month is nice? Sure. Do I think it actually solves anything? No, and neither, it seems, does Klein. So why is he so dismissive of the argument that adding $288 billion to the deficit, when we’ve managed to add several trillion over the last two years, is probably a bad idea? Because he’s a partisan and an arrogant elite without a sense of hubris (except to point out the flaw in others).

I “get” the idea behind the stimulus. At it’s basic core, it’s Keynesian economics. That doesn’t mean that I agree with it, or that I think that even within the framework of Keynesian economics it would work, but I at least understand the intellectual ground from whence it sprang. It’d be nice if Klein at least gave those of us in opposition to it the same courtesy and at least conceded that we aren’t just a bunch of ignorant hicks that take our marching orders from Roger Ailes. Of course, I get the feeling that Klein isn’t too upset at the idea that we’re ignorant hicks, but that we aren’t taking our marching orders from *him*.

The Jawa Report:
Joe, let me put this in terms that someone like you, a sheltered ultra-liberal media parasite, can understand. The stimulus package operates on the economy in a zero-sum manner. If the government, which produces nothing, decides to spend however many tens of billions of dollars on "shovel-ready" boondoggles and buy-the-vote projects, that money comes from taxpayers, the people who are actually producing things.

So the wealth gets spread around the way the politicians see fit, with a big healthy dollop off the top to support the grotesquely inefficient government bureaucracies administering the socialist money grab redistribution of resources. Instead of letting market forces steer the money to where it will do the most good for the economy, the stimulus funds are steered by bureaucrats to where they'll give the best spin for the political party in power.

In other words, it's rearranging the deck furniture instead of manning the lifeboats or trying to fix the big, gaping hole in the hull.

Doug Ross
You can almost visualize the drool gumming up Klein's keyboard as he secreted this pathetic paean to his Democrat overlords. A Democrat leadership, by the way, that is in so far over its head it needs scuba gear.

The bureaucrats, the public sector unions and the trial lawyers are ripping Americans off and Joe here is telling us we're not paying enough.

No, Joe, the real dodos are the legacy media propagandists that publish state-approved press releases straight from the mouths of Axelrod and Emanuel. And judging by the circulation of your noxious rag, it won't be long before you're officially on their payroll.

Maybe three out of four Americans are smart enough to realize that the “magical” money isn’t really magic. It’s all being borrowed from China and will have to be repaid with interest. Maybe 3/4 of Americans would rather not run up the national credit card right now for the sake of $60 a month.

Rick Moran:
Sure it would be great if everyone could intelligently discuss cap and trade or the latest Commerce Department regs dealing with sales of restricted items overseas. We could all sit down in Klein’s drawing room, good cigar smoke wreathing our heads, a glass of Courvoisier giving everything an agreeable blurriness around the edges, while Klein and his friends could tell us what we should be thinking.

Until then, Joe is just going to have to put up with people and their own, flawed perceptions of government and politics. After all, we can’t all be as astute and brilliant as Joe Klein. If that were the case, who would pay him too much money to write like an elitist pig?

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One dodo's take on the brilliance that is Joe Klein

Do you think that some of the money that was allocated in last spring's stimulus bill might have been wasted?

If so, you're an idiot. A dodo. You are too stupid to understand the awesomeness that is Barack Obama and the blessings that he has bestowed upon you.

At least, that's what Joe Klein says:
Absolutely amazing poll results from CNN today about the $787 [sic] stimulus package: nearly three out of four Americans think the money has been wasted. On second thought, they may be right: it's been wasted on them. Indeed, the largest single item in the package--$288 billion--is tax relief for 95% of the American public. This money is that magical $60 to $80 per month you've been finding in your paycheck since last spring. Not a life changing amount, but helpful in paying the bills.
A few comments, Joe. (May I call you Joe?) First, that's some nice paternalism you've got going on there. Those of us who don't live in the center of the universe, Washington, DC, sure are lucky to have you there watching out for our interests. I must confess, however, that I'm a little bit less impressed with you and your position than you are.

  • The stimulus bill was for $787 Billion, not $787. Typo, I know, but it's still sitting there 24 hours later. It's the kind of thing that might strike people's sense of irony, as you're berating their stupidity. Even those of us out in the hinterlands (sorry - make that "flyover country") understand the difference between a dollar and a billion of them.
  • For one of them nuanced fellers, you appear to have misunderstood the poll results. (Or you're intentionally mischaracterizing them with a somewhat less-than-nuanced presentation.) If you look at the questions asked, you'll see that only about 21% of the respondents think that "nearly all" has been wasted. About 50% think that significantly more than half of it has been wasted, and the "nearly three out of four" includes 29% that thinks that "about half" has been wasted. So your characterization of the results is, to be charitable, uncharitable towards your fellow citizens.
  • The next point that I'd like to make is that that wasn't the only question in the poll. Prior to being asked how much of the money spent thus far had been wasted, the respondents were asked, "Do you think that the projects that the government has spent money on under that bill have mostly been useful projects that will benefit the economy, or have mostly been projects that were included in the bill for purely political reasons and will have no economic impact?" 63% think that projects have been primarily political in nature. Logically, the answer to the next question is going to be that the money was wasted.
  • Of course, we haven't yet gotten to the question-begging assumption that the money has not been wasted. Let's remember how the administration sold the stimulus, and what the effect has been. They stood up and declared to the American people that if they didn't spend all of this money, unemployment might reach 9%, so it was a national emergency.
    If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years. The unemployment rate could reach double digits. ...There is no doubt that the cost of this plan will be considerable. It will certainly add to the budget deficit in the short-term. But equally certain are the consequences of doing too little or nothing at all, for that will lead to an even greater deficit of jobs, incomes, and confidence in our economy...That work begins with this plan – a plan I am confident will save or create at least three million jobs over the next few years. It is not just another public works program...Our government has already spent a good deal of money, but we haven't yet seen that translate into more jobs or higher incomes or renewed confidence in our economy. That's why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan won't just throw money at our problems – we'll invest in what works...I urge Congress to move as quickly as possible on behalf of the American people. For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs. More families will lose their savings. More dreams will be deferred and denied. And our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse...It will not come easy or happen overnight, and it is altogether likely that things may get worse before they get better. But that is all the more reason for Congress to act without delay. I know the scale of this plan is unprecedented, but so is the severity of our situation. We have already tried the wait-and-see approach to our problems, and it is the same approach that helped lead us to this day of reckoning.
    - Barack Obama
    So what's happened to unemployment?

    Right. Clearly $787 Billion well spent...
  • If that's not enough, Joe, to make you think that maybe, just maybe some of that stimulus spending wasn't as productive as it could have been, consider the following analogy. I've got a house, and my roof is leaking. But I'm already in debt, my credit cards are maxed out, etc. So I go off to my friendly banker (and let's ground the analogy, a bit, by making my banker Chinese) and beg for a loan. Which he gives me. And I go out and buy a new television, because mine was old and standard def and Best Buy's having an awesome sale. And I take my family out to eat at a restaurant that isn't really upscale, per se, but is more expensive than Wendy's. And we do that a couple of times, go out to the movies, buy a couple of DVDs that we don't need, and all of a sudden, the money's gone. And the leak in my roof is getting worse.

    If my wife and kids started bemoaning the fact that I'd wasted the money, should I berate them for their stupidity? "Hey, we've got this great television, and we had to eat, didn't we?"

    That, Joe, is the equivalent of the stimulus bill. We've borrowed money that must be repaid and haven't used it to fix the problem we borrowed the money to fix - indeed, it's made the problem worse. It's surely not inconceivable that some might look on that as "wasteful" spending.
  • A quick look at suggests that in my state, Massachusetts, the stimulus bill has made 3860 awards totaling $3,884,242,219. And those funds have "created or saved" 12,367.73 jobs.

    I may be a dodo, but I was well-trained in school, and I can do long division, double-check it with a calculator, triple-check it with a calculator, and see that that works out to $314,062.47 per job.

    You're going to have to do a lot of tap-dancing to convince me that the money hasn't been mostly wasted...

So, two thoughts:

1. The Obama Administration has done a terrible job explaining the stimulus package to the American people...especially since there have been very few documented cases of waste so far.

2. This is yet further evidence that Americans are flagrantly ill-informed...and, for those watching Fox News, misinformed.
Here's a third option, Joe, that might be both more charitable and fairer to your fellow citizens - the people have heard and understood the explanations, they understand what the impact of the bill has been, and they still think that the spending was wasteful...

It is very difficult to have a democracy without citizens. It is impossible to be a citizen if you don't make an effort to understand the most basic activities of your government. It is very difficult to thrive in an increasingly competitive world if you're a nation of dodos.
There is, unfortunately, some compelling evidence that we're a nation of dodos. Harry Reid's the leader of the Senate, Nancy Pelosi's the Speaker of the House and Barack Obama's the President of the United States.

But the fact that people are recognizing the Porkulus bill has wasted money is certainly a step in the right direction...

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Bible-blogging update

I mentioned earlier that I'm blogging my Bible reading this year. Those with sharp eyes may have noticed a couple of additional links up in the left sidebar here. I've linked the blog where I'm doing my daily writing. And I've added a web page for each book that I finish, reachable from a page here. So far, I have finished with Genesis and Mark. Feel free to look around.


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Tuesday, January 26, 2010


This looks very interesting...

To my reader who loves "Harrison Bergeron" - if the video is any good (and I should know in a couple of days), I'll get you a copy...

UPDATE: For anyone who hasn't read it, the full story is online here...

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Obama on spending freeze

Tomorrow night, the President of the United States is going to stand in the well of the House of Representatives and make a campaign plea for Democrats in the 2010 elections. This plea will be called the "State of the Union" address, and will be filled with the kind of lies and blame-shifting and vapid, inane rhetorical flourishes that have characterized all of this President's communications. Amidst all of the political lies, he is, according to various reports, going to propose a three-year spending freeze. I don't want to evaluate that particular proposal right now - obviously, freezing spending is better than increasing it, but not as good as cutting it, and the devil's always in the details on something like that.

But this video should be kept in mind whenever he talks about a spending freeze. The media should bracket any Obama mentions of a spending freeze with it.

Yes, we may have to cut some spending, although I disagree with Senator McCain about an across-the-board freeze. That's an example of an unfair burden-sharing. That's using a hatchet to cut the federal budge. I want to use a scalpel so that people who need help are getting help and those of us like myself and Senator McCain who don't need help aren't getting it. (10/7/08)


I think that we do have a disagreement about across-the-board spending freeze. It sounds good, it's proposed periodically. It doesn't happen and in fact an across-the-board spending freeze is a hatchet, and we do need a scalpel because there are some programs that don't work at all. There are some programs that are underfunded. And I want to make sure that we are focused on those programs that work. (10/15/08)


The problem with a spending freeze is that you are using a hatchet where you need a scalpel. There are some programs that are very important that are currently underfunded. I want to increase early-childhood education, and the notion that we should freeze that when there may be, for example, this medicare subsidy, I think doesn't make sense. (9/27/08)


That's why Washington's broken, because we offer gimmicks instead of solutions.
So, keep that in mind tomorrow night, when the President pre-empts all of the networks in order to propose a gimmick to take a hatchet to federal spending...

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"There's a tax for that..."

Excellent ad from a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Illinois...

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IPCC, like CBS News, is fake but accurate

Climate change deniers, of course, are foolish, uneducated, partisan know-nothings. They're deniers because the science is settled:
THE United Nations climate science panel faces new controversy for wrongly linking global warming to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

It based the claims on an unpublished report that had not been subjected to routine scientific scrutiny — and ignored warnings from scientific advisers that the evidence supporting the link too weak. The report's own authors later withdrew the claim because they felt the evidence was not strong enough.

Well, I'm sure they mean well. This is no real reason not to just give over control of the world's economies. They aren't really lying - they wanted it to be accurate, so there is a certain kind of metaphysical truth to it, even if it isn't exactly true. And besides, it was 2007 and they had to fight against George W. Bush's attempted destruction of the planet. So really, it's all Bush's fault.
Professor Christopher Field...the new co-chairman of the IPCC working group overseeing the climate impacts report, said the 2007 report had been broadly accurate at the time it was written.
It's just like CBS news - fake but accurate!

Field: "The 2007 study should be seen as a snapshot of what was known then. Science is progressive. If something turns out to be wrong we can fix it next time around."
So the science is settled. Unless it isn't. If you are skeptical about the results, if you think something's wrong, you're an evil denier, but we reserve the right to correct any errors later.

(H/T: Instapundit, Tim Blair)

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Optimistic? Or just delusional?

Barack Obama:
I'd rather be a really good one-term President than a mediocre two-term President.
And I'd rather win an Oscar than a Golden Globe.

It says something disturbing about his level of narcissism that he can see any possibility of either of those options coming true...


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Monday, January 25, 2010

This is Spinal Tap Barack Obama...

So, I linked this picture earlier.

Apparently the President was not addressing the sixth graders while using the full ToTUS1 setup (which is a relief.) No, he was addressing the media crammed in to the sixth grade classroom. Much better.

Whoever's in charge of image control for the adminstration should be fired. He looks like Spinal Tap on stage at the amusement park. One can just imagine Axelrod or Emmanuel walking in past the school sign-board with him, saying, "honest boss - the puppet show was supposed to be after the President of the United States, not before..."

1 - Teleprompter of The United States

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Steyn, brilliant again

Mark Steyn is almost always good. This week, he's excellent...
So what went wrong? According to Barack Obama, the problem is he overestimated you dumb rubes’ ability to appreciate what he’s been doing for you. “That I do think is a mistake of mine,” the president told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “I think the assumption was if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on this provision or that law or if we’re making a good rational decision here, then people will get it.”

But you schlubs aren’t that smart. You didn’t get it. And Barack Obama is determined to see that you do. So the president has decided that he needs to start “speaking directly to the American people.”

Wait, wait! Come back! Don’t all stampede for the hills! He only gave (according to CBS News’s Mark Knoller) 158 interviews and 411 speeches in his first year.


In that interview about how he hadn’t given enough interviews, he also explained to George Stephanopoulos what that wacky Massachusetts election was all about:

“The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office,” said Obama. “People are angry and they’re frustrated, not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years but what’s happened over the last eight years.”

Got it. People are so angry and frustrated at George W. Bush that they’re voting for Republicans. In Massachusetts. Boy, I can’t wait for that 159th interview...
Read it all...

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NFL Championship Weekend

Odds and ends on the NFL's just concluded Championship Weekend...

  • We finally got a good game. Saints vs. Vikings was a bit sloppy to be a classic, but it was competetive all the way through, with some great plays as well as some really bad ones.
  • I've said before that Brett Favre is one of the most overrated great players in NFL history. I've said that no quarterback ever did more to keep both teams in the game. One play doesn't provide proof that either of those things is true, but it's hard to argue against either of them this morning.

    Look, the best QBs will sometimes throw bad picks. And there are a lot of things that cost the Vikings the game, including a very questionable (OK, BAD) pass interference call in overtime. That said, Favre did what he's done so many times before - he cost his team dearly because he was undisciplined and threw a ball that he should not have thrown. Scrambling to his right, throwing across his body into coverage. Had he run five yards and gone out of bounds, the Vikings would have lined up for a game-winning field goal with less than 10 seconds left in the game. But he didn't. He had a clear path to pick up that yardage and go to the sidelines, but he threw the ball into triple coverage instead, and the Saints picked it off. End of drive. End of game for the Vikings offense. End of season for Minnesota.

    Maybe they wouldn't have been there without him. But that's the essence of Brett Favre's career - lead his team to the brink of success, and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
  • Has there ever been a worse penalty than the Vikings' 12 men in the huddle? Coming out of a timeout? It moved them out of field-goal range and set up the Favre interception.
  • The Vikings put the ball on the ground six times, and lost three of them.
  • The overtime rule is just plain not fair. I know the arguments - defense and special teams are part of the game, those players get paid, too. And the team winning the toss only wins about 50% of the time. (I don't know that that's still true.) Those arguments would carry a lot more weight if you ever saw someone win an OT coin toss and choose to kick. But you don't. The advantage of having the ball first in a sudden-death period is a significant advantage, and everyone knows it.
  • I wanted the Saints to win, and I'm glad that they did, but they had a lot of help from a) the Vikings, b) the officials and c) the coin.
  • The AFC Championship game was painful in that there was no way both teams could lose. While it's always good to see the Jets lose, I would have derived more pleasure yesterday from a Colts' loss. Oh, well...
  • The Colts played very well after the two-minute warning of the first half. It took them a little bit of time and a couple of blown coverages to wake up, but once they did - well, the second half was not competitive.
  • For the Boston media Chicken Littles claiming that the Patriots dynasty is over, the Patriots were 1-2 against the two teams in the AFC Championship game, with the two losses coming on the road by 6 and 2 points, the loss to the Colts being a loss by mere inches resting on a questionable spot by an official. There's no reason whatsoever to think that they aren't going to be one of the top teams in the AFC again next year.

UPDATE: One more thing I meant to mention. The play on which Brett Favre's ankle was injured should have been flagged. He was hit below the waist from behind, in as dangerous a play as a DL could make in that situation. It was unacceptable, and I couldn't believe that it didn't get called - it should have.

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No comment, because what can you say?

No, this is not a photoshop.

The President of the United States addressing sixth graders at the Graham Road Elementary School January 19, 2010 in Falls Church, Virginia.

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Obama administration: "Effects of stimulus unplottable, but trust us - they're wicked good..."

Look, we all know that the PorkStimulus Bill damaged the economy. We know that the real number of jobs "saved or created" by that piece of economic idiocy is large and negative. So you'd think that the administration claiming that it worked, sending flacks out to defend it with fictional numbers, would at least send them all out with the same fictional number, if only as "corroborative detail to give an air of verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative."

You'd think so, but you'd be wrong...
White House advisers appearing on the Sunday talk shows gave three different estimates of how many jobs could be credited to President Obama’s Recovery Act.


Valerie Jarrett had the most conservative count, saying “the Recovery Act saved thousands and thousands of jobs,” while David Axelrod gave the bill the most credit, saying it has “created more than – or saved more than 2 million jobs.” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs came in between them, saying the plan had “saved or created 1.5 million jobs.”
If they made up one number and everyone used it, it would take some work, some examination, to demonstrate that it was false. When they're all just making up their own, it becomes obvious that there isn't a real one.

Barack Obama - combining the honesty and forthrightness of Bill Clinton with the competence of Jimmy Carter...

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More "data" issues at the IPCC

The data is overwhelming - mankind is destroying the climate. We know this because the IPCC tells us so. And they wouldn't lie, would they?
The scientist behind the bogus claim in a Nobel Prize-winning UN report that Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 last night admitted it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.


The claim that Himalayan glaciers are set to disappear by 2035 rests on two 1999 magazine interviews with glaciologist Syed Hasnain, which were then recycled without any further investigation in a 2005 report by the environmental campaign group WWF.

It was this report that Dr Lal and his team cited as their source.

The WWF article also contained a basic error in its arithmetic. A claim that one glacier was retreating at the alarming rate of 134 metres a year should in fact have said 23 metres – the authors had divided the total loss measured over 121 years by 21, not 121.
Hey, they obviously meant well - we should just cede control of the world's economies to them anyway...

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

"It's just a flesh wound!"

White House Spokesmoronperson Robert Gibbs was on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace this morning. If the first step to finding a solution is recognizing that you've got a problem, then this suggests that Obama White House is not yet headed anywhere near the right direction...
WALLACE: Scott Brown explicitly campaigned against the — campaigned against the Obama agenda.

GIBBS: That may be what he campaigned on but that's not why the voters of Massachusetts sent him to Washington. If you look at exit poll, done by the ""Washington Post"" —

WALLACE: It wasn't an exit poll. They did a poll.

GIBBS: Poll where voters participated to why they voted. More people voted to express support for Obama than to oppose him. His approval rating among the electorate was 61%. The enthusiasm for Republican policies among that electorate was for republicans 40%
I don't know what poll he's talking about, but I'm in Massachusetts, talking to people, and the idea that this election produced anything other than a "stop-Obamacare" result is delusional. Seriously, dementedly delusional...

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Some thoughts on disaster relief logistics

The Associated Press addresses an important issue in the continuing response to the earthquake in Haiti.
More than a week after an earthquake leveled swaths of the Haitian capital, the recriminations are circulating faster than clean water. From CNN's Anderson Cooper to blogs and social networks, questions echo: Why is help taking so long? Why can't the relief process be streamlined? Can't this thing go any faster?

"What on Earth has gone wrong?" the Arab News, an English-language newspaper in the Middle East, wondered in a sharp editorial this week.

But take a step back. While the difficulties of negotiating the decimated Haitian infrastructure are clear and the logistical and administrative problems formidable, could a perception gap be at play, too? Are the expectations of the virtual world colliding with the realities of the physical one?

In the space of a single generation, ours has become a world of live video chats, one-click online ordering, overnight delivery, on-demand movies and instantaneous electronic fund transfers — including sending aid to Haiti via your cell phone. It becomes only natural, in such a society, to bristle at any delays.

Trouble is, the physical world can't move as fast as the virtual one and, barring the invention of a "Star Trek"-style transporter, probably never will. Unlike medicine and food and water, information no longer has to travel via plane and boat and road and foot. News can arrive immediately. But doing something about it? That's another thing entirely.
I don't disagree with any of that. I think it is correct and perceptive.

I thought so in September of 2005, too, though I seemed to be pretty much the only one:
. But there is a huge amount of bad faith mixed in with legitimate questions about FEMA's performance. People are assuming that things are possible without taking into account what has happened, the full scale and scope of the efforts that a) are needed and b) are underway. The logistics involved with the number of people, the amount of water, the size of the area, are all staggering. There are huge areas, hundreds of square miles, that cannot be reached by car, truck or boat. How long and how many helicopters would it take to evacuate 100,000 people from a 300 square mile area, people that are bunched in 10s and 20s? As I write this, it has been approximately 96 hours since Katrina hit the Gulf coast. What, realistically has not been done which should have been done?

And contrary to the "Bush doesn't care" nonsense, he actually declared disaster areas before the storm even arrived to expedite the federal response. FEMA's been there since before the storm arrived. The Navy is moving the hospital ship USNS Comfort to New Orleans. But it takes time to travel from Baltimore to New Orleans by sea. Likewise with all of the different units that the President outlined on Wednesday, 48 hours after the catastrophe. I know that the New York Times wants him to bite his lip and "feel your pain" but what he was doing instead was making sure that actual rescue efforts were taking place.

I understand that this is an instant gratification nation. We want what we want, and we want it now. But sometimes the real world gets in the way. The laws of physics prevent everything from happening at the same time, and prevent multiple vehicles from operating in the same space simultaneously. Everyone stranded in the middle of the flood knows that a helicopter could rescue them in the next hour, but again, how many helicopters are there? Pilots? How much area is there to search? It takes time. Time while crews open roads, while work crews remove downed power lines and trees, while flood waters recede. Has FEMA reacted appropriately and fast enough? Are there enough National Guard troops to do what needs to be done?

I have no idea. Neither do the people criticizing the relief efforts.
Among that group criticizing the relief efforts in the aftermath of Katrina was...the Associated Press.

One would love to think that a media organization made up of fine impartial journalists wouldn't cover similar stories differently just because of the party identification of the President of the United States at the time the story was taking place. But, of course, there's no reason whatsoever to think that the Associated Press actually is made up of fine impartial journalists...

(H/T: Mark D. Roberts)

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cato on Free Speech and Citizen's United

An excellent presentation from the Cato Institute on why the Supreme Court were right on Citizen's United.

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"Going down this road would destroy constitutional rights for just about everyone..."

Another Citizen's United post - Ilya Somin is addressing many of the same things that I did yesterday, albeit more formally and with far, far more legal training. The conclusions are similar.
If you define “state-created entity” narrowly, then it won’t include most corporations. But if you define it broadly as any legally defined status that carries government-granted rights or privileges, then pretty much every important private organization is a state-created entity. Individual citizens may be “state-created entities” as well, and naturalized citizens certainly are. Going down this road would destroy constitutional rights for just about everyone. That may be why even the liberal justices most enthusiastic about campaign finance regulation have been unwilling to really bite this particular bullet. True, Justice Stevens’ dissent does note that “A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law. Being the mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it.” Yet even Stevens stops short of stating that this by itself proves that corporations don’t have free speech rights. I doubt that Stevens and the other liberal justices are willing to really follow that logic. For example, they’re not going to overrule New York Times v. Sullivan or conclude that the government has the power to search corporate property unconstrained by the Fourth Amendment. Yet that is where the “creature of law” argument inexorably leads. The better approach is the common sense conclusion that people are entitled to full constitutional rights whenever they use their privately owned resources to exercise them, whether those resources are legally assigned to “state-created entities” or not.
Bottom line - there are satifying (to some) emotional rants which can be made about the decision, but there's no real legal justification for them, and the majority decision is clearly correct.

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Is this what the Times was concerned about?

One of the things that New York Times hyperventilated about on the Supreme Court's Citizen's United ruling was the idea that it enabled "special interests" to "corrupt" the political process.
If a member of Congress tries to stand up to a wealthy special interest, its lobbyists can credibly threaten: We’ll spend whatever it takes to defeat you.
So one expects that they'll run an indignant and ferocious editorial decrying this:
SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.

“It’s gonna be incredibly difficult to stay focused on national politics if by the end of 2010 we have minimal health care and minimal changes on what’s important to our members,” he said in an interview, ridiculing the emerging Dem approach as “fear masquerading as a strategy.”
My advice for all those awaiting the Times to demonstrate intellectual consistency and condemn this threat: Don't hold your breath.

(H/T: Daniel Foster)

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Friday, January 22, 2010

One more Citizen's United comment

I want to make one addition to my earlier comments on the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision. One of the things that the Times editorial implied, and I scoffed at, was the idea that this decision is great for Republicans. I hadn't considered that aspect of it at all, and can think of no obvious reasons why that would be the case. There are as many Democrats running corporations as Republicans - indeed, if I'm not mistaken, big corporate executives have disproporionately supported Democrats, in which case Republicans should be opposed to this decision.

I don't care whether it helps Republicans and hurts Democrats, or helps Democrats and hurts Republicans. I haven't spent a single second thinking about that aspect, but a little bit of surfing shows me that others have. Again, I don't care. What I care about is that the Supreme Court of the United States follows the Constitution in evaluating laws. So I don't know which party wins and which party loses, if either party wins or loses, but I believe that all Americans are winners, because the Supreme Court said, "the Constitution matters."

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Citizen's United vs. The New York Times

The New York Times doesn't agree with the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. "Doesn't agree" being, in this case, synonomous with acting like a proper Victorian lady getting the vapours at the sight of some unseemly display of a bared calf.
The Court’s Blow to Democracy

With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century.
It's good to start with some dispassionate rationality, isn't it?
Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment,
According to the OED, "disingenuous" means "lacking in candour or frankness, insincere, morally fraudulent." How the majority's references to the First Amendment, which is, after all, the key to understanding and resolving this issue, is "insincere" or "morally fraudulent" is apparently so obvious that they don't need to explain it. In any event, the assumption of insincerity is made with no explanation forthcoming. One suspects that they would struggle to find a justifiable reason for using that particular adverb, but it's good and nasty and pejorative, so in it goes.
the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding.
Corporations like, say, the New York Times Corporation? Oh, wait. They could already do that. In fact, they've spent much of the 150 years of their existence attempting to do exactly that.

Congress must act immediately to limit the damage of this radical decision, which strikes at the heart of democracy.
What form, exactly, does this "strike at the heart of democracy" take? Are they taking away the vote from citizens? Changing the rules about who wins and loses elections? No, they're saying that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech or of the press." That doesn't sound like much of a "strike at the heart of democracy" to me.
As a result of Thursday’s ruling, corporations have been unleashed from the longstanding ban against their spending directly on political campaigns and will be free to spend as much money as they want to elect and defeat candidates.
Corporations like the New York Times?
If a member of Congress tries to stand up to a wealthy special interest, its lobbyists can credibly threaten: We’ll spend whatever it takes to defeat you.
Which never, ever happens now. No sirree. The NRA or NARAL or the SEIU or the UAW or the Sierra Club or the NAACP or PFAW never, ever exert influence over political candidates. And the New York Times and Washington Post and CBS and NBC, corporations all, never attempt to influence the results of elections either.
The ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission radically reverses well-established law and erodes a wall that has stood for a century between corporations and electoral politics.
It doesn't just reverse the law, it "radically" reverses it. They don't just object to this decision, they "strenuously object."
(The ruling also frees up labor unions to spend, though they have far less money at their disposal.)
Really? "Far less money?" Do all unions have "far less money" than all corporations? If not, should wealthy unions, say the Major League Baseball Playerrs Association, also be banned from speaking as a group about electoral issues?

And if this ruling frees them up to spend, what were they doing previously? Is the New York Times seriously arguing here that labor unions haven't advertised in the past in the attempt to affect elections? If I had a nickel for every ad that the Massachusetts Teachers Association had run over the past five years, I'd be a much, much wealthier man.
The founders of this nation warned about the dangers of corporate influence.
This is the kind of comment that would be interesting to see them try to justify with citations. I don't remember any warnings of the dangers of corporate influence from the founders, but I haven't read everything they wrote, either. In any event, none of those warnings were written into the constitution as restrictions on corporations.
The Constitution they wrote mentions many things and assigns them rights and protections — the people, militias, the press, religions. But it does not mention corporations.
True. It also doesn't mention universities, teacher's unions, glee clubs, professional sports leagues, church choirs and garden clubs. Does that mean that that Congress can establish laws abridging freedom of speech for those groups, too?
In 1907, as corporations reached new heights of wealth and power, Congress made its views of the relationship between corporations and campaigning clear: It banned them from contributing to candidates. At midcentury, it enacted the broader ban on spending that was repeatedly reaffirmed over the decades until it was struck down on Thursday.
True. True. And True.

So what? Congress also enacted fugitive slave laws which were reaffirmed by the courts. Just because someone made a mistake in the past isn't a reason for repeating the mistake.
This issue should never have been before the court.
Absolutely true.
The justices overreached and seized on a case involving a narrower, technical question involving the broadcast of a movie that attacked Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2008 campaign.
No, it shouldn't have been before the court, because the laws shouldn't have been passed in the first place, and they shouldn't have been signed into law by past Presidents. The first amendment (if I may refer to it in a hopefully non-disingenuous fashion) says that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech or of the press." What exactly is the law that was struck down if not a law abridging the freedom of speech?
The court elevated that case to a forum for striking down the entire ban on corporate spending and then rushed the process of hearing the case at breakneck speed. It gave lawyers a month to prepare briefs on an issue of enormous complexity, and it scheduled arguments during its vacation.
How unreasonable of them. It isn't like there's a major biannual election cycle starting in, oh, right about now, for which people need to understand the rules.

Oh, wait. Yes, there is.
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., no doubt aware of how sharply these actions clash with his confirmation-time vow to be judicially modest and simply “call balls and strikes,” wrote a separate opinion trying to excuse the shameless judicial overreaching.
This is just embarassing. How is it not "call[ing] balls and strikes" to look at a law and determine that, yes, this law is not allowed by the text and meaning of the constitution? They didn't make anything up. They didn't create a new right out of "emanations and penumbras." They looked at the constitution, saw that "congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech," they looked at the law, saw that it, in fact, "abridg[ed] freedom of speech," and said, "hey, that's not constitutional." The only possible definition of "overreach" under which this would qualify is "decision with which the New York Times does not agree."

And the Chief Justice's opinion does nothing whatsoever to "excuse...shameless judicial overreaching." It does, however, explain very clearly and concisely precisely why this decision represents no such thing.

It should go without saying, however, that we cannot embrace a narrow ground of decision simply because it is narrow; it must also be right. Thus while it is true that “[i]f it is not necessary to decide more, it is necessary not to decide more,” sometimes it is necessary to decide more. There is a difference between judicial restraint and judicial abdication. When constitutional questions are “indispensably necessary” to resolving the case at hand, “the court must meet and decide them.”

Citizens United has standing—it is being injured by the Government’s enforcement of the Act. Citizens United has a constitutional claim—the Act violates the First Amendment, because it prohibits political speech. The Government has a defense—the Act may be enforced, consistent with the First Amendment, against corporations. Whether the claim or the defense prevails is the question before us.

Any further questions? Any of that sound tortured or sophistic or difficult?

Yeah, I thought not.
The majority is deeply wrong on the law.
Argument by assertion. If you're going to say something like that, you need to specify how, exactly, the majority is "deeply wrong on the law." Lamentably for those of us they hope to educate, such specificity fails to appear.
Most wrongheaded of all is its insistence that corporations are just like people and entitled to the same First Amendment rights. It is an odd claim since companies are creations of the state that exist to make money. They are given special privileges, including different tax rates, to do just that. It was a fundamental misreading of the Constitution to say that these artificial legal constructs have the same right to spend money on politics as ordinary Americans have to speak out in support of a candidate.
And here's the nub of the argument, the place where the New York Times is most deeply, fundamentally wrong.

The Constitution does not exist to grant rights to anyone. It exists to limit the power of the government. The first amendments does not say, "Congress shall protect the right of people to engage in freedom of speech" - it says "Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech."


It is inarguable that this law, which the Supreme Court has correctly overturned, abridged freedom of speech. Even the Times isn't arguing that it doesn't - they're arguing that corporations have no right to freedom of speech. (Well, they're arguing that some corporations have no right to freedom of speech. They're quite happy excersizing their own, and one can just imagine the editorials were Congress to extend the ban on corporate speech to media companies issuing editorials.)
The majority also makes the nonsensical claim that, unlike campaign contributions, which are still prohibited, independent expenditures by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” If Wall Street bankers told members of Congress that they would spend millions of dollars to defeat anyone who opposed their bailout, and then did so, it would certainly look corrupt.
Wall Street bankers can already do that. But they hide the fact by doing it through bundled contributions and political action committees with pretty names. It's hard to imagine that out in the open politicking would result in a system more corrupt than the one which we've currently got.
After the court heard the case, Senator John McCain told reporters that he was troubled by the “extreme naïveté” some of the justices showed about the role of special-interest money in Congressional lawmaking.
And I'm troubled by the extreme contempt for the constitution that Senator McCain demonstrates every time this topic comes up.
In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens warned that the ruling not only threatens democracy but “will, I fear, do damage to this institution.”
Still waiting for an explanation of how this "threatens democracy?" Yup, me too.
History is, indeed, likely to look harshly not only on the decision but the court that delivered it. The Citizens United ruling is likely to be viewed as a shameful bookend to Bush v. Gore. With one 5-to-4 decision, the court’s conservative majority stopped valid votes from being counted to ensure the election of a conservative president. Now a similar conservative majority has distorted the political system to ensure that Republican candidates will be at an enormous advantage in future elections.
Evidence came there none. Except yet another piece of evidence that the editorial board of the New York Times lives in a fantasy world, where evil corporations ally with evil Republicans to the detriment of everyone else. For an elite that prides themselves on nuance and decries the black-and-white world of George W. Bush, this is a pretty strong us-vs.-them attitude on display.
Congress and members of the public who care about fair elections and clean government need to mobilize right away, a cause President Obama has said he would join.
Mobilize how, exactly? Pass another law to re-implement the same restrictions that the Court has just determined to be unconstitutional? Amend the constitution? Kill one of the five so the President can change the balance? What's the end-game here?
Congress should repair the presidential public finance system
With the help of the same President that promised to abide by it last time and then changed his mind when he saw that it was advantageous?
and create another one for Congressional elections to help ordinary Americans contribute to campaigns.
Because, as Senator-elect Brown knows, there's no way for ordinary Americans to contribute now.

Or not.
It should also enact a law requiring publicly traded corporations to get the approval of their shareholders before spending on political campaigns.
I'll have to think on that. Despite the fact that it's coming from the Times editorial board, it's not obviously insane. But the source suggests that it may be. This requires carefull consideration.
These would be important steps, but they would not be enough. The real solution lies in getting the court’s ruling overturned.
Because, Supreme Court precendents, so vital and precious and important five paragraphs back, should definitely be overturned if we don't like them.
The four dissenters made an eloquent case for why the decision was wrong on the law and dangerous. With one more vote, they could rescue democracy.
This threat to democracy which is so apparent to them continues to escape me. It would have been nice, I think, if they'd devoted a couple of words to why this is a threat to democracy, or why this is an incorrect decision. I don't see either of those things, just a paranoid temper tantrum that someone's taken away their monopoly on corporations influencing elections.

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The will of the people vs. the won't of the Speaker

Gallup finds that:
In the wake of Republican Scott Brown's victory in Tuesday's U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts, the majority of Americans (55%) favor Congress' putting the brakes on its current healthcare reform efforts and considering alternatives that can obtain more Republican support. Four in 10 Americans (39%) would rather have House and Senate Democrats continue to try to pass the bill currently being negotiated in conference committee.
But Nancy Pelosi's running around like Miracle Max (albeit looking slightly older) with her fingers in her ears crying, "I'm not listening! I'm not listening!"

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Looking back

While digging around for something else earlier, I ran across
this commentary from 10/16/2008. From my favorite non-widely read pundit...
1. Barack Obama is the next President of the United States*. I am, obviously, not happy about that. I think it has the potential to damage the country significantly, particularly as he will be unchecked by any legitimate opposition at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

2. The reason that Obama will be the next President is because he gets up on the national stage and speaks and acts as if he's a moderate. This country is about to elect the most liberal administration ever, but it's still a center-right country. Obama's winning by running as a center-right guy.

3. He gets away with it because he is able to sit there, in front of God and the American people, and lie with impunity. He can lie with impunity about McCain's health care proposals, his campaign ads, abortion, taxes, Ayers, ACORN**; he can lie about whatever he wants or needs to, secure in the knowledge that the press won't call him on it, and if McCain does, the press will "tsk, tsk" McCain's "negativity."
Is there a single word there that looks, in retrospect, like it's wrong? I don't think so. I suppose it doesn't really warrant mention, because it was so bleeding blindingly obvious, but a lot of people missed it.

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Wordle puzzle - 01/22/10

One section from a late 17th-early 18th century English novel which is most famous for a different section. I have removed two words. With those words, it would have been trivially easy (for those who have read it), without them it becomes, I think, quite difficult.

The answer to last week's puzzle is The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Apparently, it's not over yet...

If there is one thing that was made absolutely clear this week, it's that the American people do not want the Health Care Reform bill that has been working its way through the Congress. The polls have shown it, the tea parties have shown it and the message in Massachusetts could not have been more clear.

Guess what, America? Nancy Pelosi doesn't care.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, tells National Review Online that House Democrats are planning to use the budget-reconciliation process in order to pass Obamacare. “They’re meeting with each other this weekend to pursue it,” says Ryan. “I’ve spoken with many Democrats and the message is this: They’re not ready to give up. They’ve waited their entire adult lives for this moment and they aren’t ready to let 100,000 pesky votes in Massachusetts get in the way of fulfilling their destiny. They’ll look at every option and spend the next four or five days figuring it out.”

If the Democrats pass a health-care bill through reconciliation, it means they would need only 51 votes in the Senate for final passage. To start the process, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) would need to bring a new health-care bill to the House budget committee with reconciliation instructions, with the Senate doing the same. “They’d have to go back to the beginning of the process,” says Ryan. “They’d need to affix reconciliation instructions to a new bill.” Doing so, he says, wouldn’t be too hard. “There’s nothing we can do to stop this from a technical standpoint, since all they need is a simple majority vote and our ratio on the committee is terrible. ”
I said earlier that, "it sure looks unlikely that they're going to be able to accomplish anything too bad."

But apparently they're going to try...

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Explaining away Republican victories...

Charles Krauthammer hits one of my pet peeves:
Every time the Republicans succeed, it's all about anger and irrationality. When you had the Gingrich revolution 16 years ago, it was called "the year of the angry white male" and Peter Jennings declared on the evening news that the country had thrown a tantrum — as if when conservatives win it can only be an expression of irrationality and emotionalism.

Of course, when Obama wins in '08, it's hope and change and peace and light and all the goodness in the American soul.
This is so true. And it's indicative of, and the result of, a pervasive media bias against Republicans. Media personalities consider Democratic victories as the way things ought to be, and Republican victories as aberrant results that need to be explained away.

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Pelosi: House doesn't have the votes for the Senate bill...

This gives me happy feet:
Emerging from a closed-door meeting with her caucus, the House speaker vented frustration with the massive version of the legislation.

"In its present form without any changes I don't think it's possible to pass the Senate bill in the House," said Pelosi, D-Calif. "I don't see the votes for it at this time."


Pelosi didn't present a blueprint for how Democrats might proceed on health care, except to say that "everything is on the table."

"We're not in a big rush. We'll pause," Pelosi said. "We have to know what our possibilities are."
That's why we voted on Tuesday.

Of course, the Law of Unintended Consequences is always lurking. It's not inconceivable that they'll put together a bill that is able to get the support of Snowe or Collins or Voinivich, something that they can present that might be more popular than not, and pass something. But right now, it sure looks unlikely that they're going to be able to accomplish anything too bad, and that's a very good thing...

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Derb, noting the 60th anniversary of the death of George Orwell, engages in a bit of British understatement (emphasis mine):
Orwell was tubercular from an early age. Writing of his prep-school days: "I had defective bronchial tubes and a lesion in one lung which was not discovered till many years later. Hence I not only had a chronic cough, but running was a torment to me." Things certainly got much worse in those last three years, though. His habit of chain-smoking home-rolled cigarettes, made with the coarsest shag he could find, while living in a drafty stone house on the damp side of Scotland, probably didn't help.

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"Well Done, Captain Obvious"

George Stephanopoulos didn't call him on it, but someone noticed the insanity of President Obama's contention that people are angry with him because he's not doing enough communicating to the people about how hard he's working for us.

Only ten months or so after the first Tea Parties, six months after the August town hall recesses, and only three months after his campaigning for candidates in New Jersey and Virginia does jack squat, the President of the United States recognizes that a large number of Americans are increasingly angry with the direction of the country.

And yet, he seems to chalk it up to a lack of communication: “"We were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

Really? This guy’s been on the television more than the Geico lizard, morning, noon and night, and the only time he stopped talking to the American people was the three days or so that we really wanted to hear from him, when somebody tried to blow up a flight to Detroit on Christmas. It’s not the lack of talk, Mr. President, it’s what you’re doing.

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Someone put some time and effort into this one, and it is brilliant...

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Krugman agrees with Friedman: Dictatorial powers would be great!

Paul Krugman:
Progressives are desperately in need of leadership; more specifically, House Democrats need to be told to pass the Senate bill, which isn’t what they wanted but is vastly better than nothing...
It's funny, but I would have sworn that, not all that long ago, we were supposed to be offended and outraged at the exercise of Presidential power. People were up in arms at the idea that President Bush considered himself the head of a unitary executive branch, but apparently with Obama in the White House, there's no reason for the President not to be ordering Congress around, too.

And what does it say about the New York Times that its columnists are so gung-ho for authoritarianism in the pursuit of progressivism?

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Hitler finds out that Scott Brown won Massachusetts...

Yes, you've probably seen the clip elsewhere. Hitler finds out that USC beat Ohio State, or finds out the ending of Harry Potter, or finds out that Sarah Palin resigned. But is can be amusing, and here, he finds out that Scott Brown won in Massachusetts. [Mild language warning]

Best line: "Now we know why Obama won't release his school records. Bush got C's. Obama probably failed lunch."

(H/T: The Right Coast)

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Obama to Congress: You'd better not do what I've been demanding that you do!

Great news, everybody!
President Obama warned Democrats in Congress today not to "jam" a health care reform bill through now that they've lost their commanding majority in the Senate, and said they must wait for newly elected Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown to be sworn into office.
That's great to know, isn't it? President Obama is going to protect us from the predatory depredations of that out-of-control Congress which has spent the last year trying to do exactly what President Obama demands that they do!

I'm reminded of The Office's Secret Santa episode:

"When you need my help because I am ruining everything, don't look at me!"
- Barack Obama Michael Scott, the Oval Office

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Another steroid post

Great post from Joe Posnanski:
Yes, players were using steroids, and that use of steroids does indeed — as Bob Costas put it the other day — make their numbers inauthentic. But let’s talk about that for a second. Did illegal amphetamines that were apparently a part of every day baseball in the 1960s, ‘70s, 80s, 90s make those numbers inauthentic? I don’t know. There is pretty good reason to suspect that Babe Ruth corked his bat — does that make those numbers inauthentic? I don’t know. There is every reason to suspect that the Los Angeles Dodgers broke baseball’s rules — in letter and in spirit — by raising the mound above the limits. Does that make those numbers inauthentic? I don’t know.

And beyond cheating: Does playing in an all-white league make every number before 1947 inauthentic? And it’s not like the league was fully integrated the day Jackie Robinson stepped on the field — it took a decade or more, so maybe all numbers before 1961 are inauthentic. And the game did not really open up to Latin players until the 1980s — just look at one country, the Dominican Republic. The only regulars from the Dominican Republic throughout the 1960s were the Alou brothers, Julian Javier, Rico Carty and Manny Jiminez (for one year). Even in 1979, there were only five regulars in the big leagues (Carty, Cesar Cedeno, Pepe Frias, Alfredo Griffin, Frank Taveras).

In 1985 alone, there were 12 regulars — including stars like George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Pedro Guerrero, Tony Pena and my guy Julio Franco. And of course the last 20 years, you have MannyBManny, Papi, Tejada, Vlad Guerrero, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Beltre, Alfonso Soriano, on and on and on. And these are just the hitters — we’re not even getting into Pedro and Bartolo Colon and so on.

So what is authentic? I am not defending those players who cheated — they knew it was wrong, they knew why they were doing it, they knew — but I don’t even know who were those players and neither does anyone else. Was it 50% of baseball, like Ken Caminiti said long ago before he was bullied into backtracking? Was it MORE than 50%? Were teams complicit? Were people behind the scenes in baseball quietly cheering? Or, worse, were they putting subtle and perhaps even not-so-subtle pressures on players to get stronger, however necessary? And how much of what we saw was steroid induced? Was it 90%? Was it 40% How much?

We don’t know.
He touches a lot of things that I've addressed before, and it's an excellent piece. There's so much noise without context - Joe has a lot of context with almost no noise...

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