Monday, January 31, 2011

Judge Roger Vinson understands more than all of the Democrats put together...

A wonderful (and obviously, almost trivially, true) passage from Judge Vinson's decision declaring Obamacare unconstitutional:
It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause. If it has the power to compel an otherwise passive individual into a commercial transaction with a third party merely by asserting --- as was done in the Act --- that compelling the actual transaction is itself “commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce,” it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted. It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place. If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain for it would be “difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power,” and we would have a Constitution in name only. Surely this is not what the Founding Fathers could have intended.
Yup. Well put, Judge Vinson.

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Another judge rules Obamacare unconstitutional

I said last July, that "for many of us, [Obamacare] will feed our desires to say "I told you so" for the rest of our lives..."

Well, I told you so...
Justice Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court in Pensacola ruled today that the primary mechanism used by the health reform legislation to achieve universal insurance coverage–the individual mandate–is illegal. If his ruling stands it would void the 2,700 page health reform bill passed last year.

Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications,” Vinson writes.
Now, we don't know what Justice Kennedy will have for breakfast when the case is heard the Supreme Court will eventually decide, but I think it's pretty clear, at this point, that the contention that many of us made that this piece of legislation was not constitutional was not frivolous.

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Soldier status update

I've posted these before, but here are a good set of videos about basic training. We got another letter today, and know that Private Beverage had successfully made it through the gas chamber and down the warrior tower ("rappelling was AWESOME").

So he was doing fine as of last Thursday, and making it through the process...

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More of that Obama bipartisanship

Jim Geraghty is fond of pointing out that "all of President Obama's promises come with expiration dates. All of them." So, does everyone remember what President Obama said in his State of the Union address? About not "re-fighting the battles of the last two years" but "fix[iing] what needs fixing and ... mov[ing] forward"?

OK, this is not a promise, exactly, but how does this story fit?
Mr. Obama last year short-circuited messy confirmation battles for Dr. Donald Berwick, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Craig Becker, a member of the National Labor Relations Board, by using recess appointments to put the men in place while the Senate was out of town. The appointments expire at the end of this year, and the president late on Wednesday renominated both men for a full term...
...knowing that neither one is confirmable, as each is radically outside of the American political mainstream, and cannot possibly gather enough votes to overcome the inevitable filibuster.

So, despite the fact that he just told us all, less than a week ago, that we shouldn't do it, I guess he's decided that re-fighting some of the battles of the last two years is OK. What this tells us, of course, is that when he says he doesn't want to "re-fight the battles of the last two years" he simply means that he doesn't want to re-fight the battles that he won. Those should be enshrined and untouched for all eternity. The battles that he lost, however - he's OK with re-fighting those suckers for as long as it takes...


This is pretty much the standard liberal and media (I know, redundant) definition of bipartisanship - both parties doing what the liberals want. It's SOP in Washington - "heads, I win, tails, we vote again."

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Quote

As with so many things I think, and say, C.S. Lewis said it first and better...

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
- C. S. Lewis in The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment, Res Judicatae (June 1953)

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Beautiful Savior

Beautiful Savior



Park Street Church Sanctuary Choir, 1/30/2011

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

"We need..."

Have I mentioned before how brilliant Michael Ramirez is? I think I have...



Yeah, that sums up the SOTU pretty well...

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Paul Ryan

I doubt that ABC news is trying to make Paul Ryan look good, but I don't think ABC news wants what I want out of government, either. So it's a decent piece anyway, despite their intentions...
"My goal with 'The Roadmap' was to get this conversation to an adult level of conversation so other people brought their ideas to the table. That didn't happen the last couple of years," Ryan told ABC News. "We created two new open-ended health care entitlements. So what happened was the other side chose to use this as a political weapon."

Ryan's budget ideas have in fact drawn fire from the opposite side of the aisle: To Democrats, Ryan is a budget villain, who would balance the budget on the backs of seniors and the poor.

"In the nicest way I have to say, he doesn't know what he is talking about," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Others have called Ryan's proposed cuts "draconian." But Ryan says he sees controlling the debt as a moral obligation.

"I would say that what is draconian is doing nothing and lying to the American people about these fiscal problems that we have," he said. "What is draconian is procrastinating on fixing our fiscal problems, because then you will have European kinds of austerity."
Amen. Sing it, brother!

And I've been hearing the wailing and gnashing of teeth about it for my entire adult life, but the next "draconian" cut I see in government spending will be the first...

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Is it really a myth if no one actually thinks it?

In the Washington Post today, Robert J. Samuelson takes the President to task for his unwillingness to address reality during his campaign State of the Union lies speech the other night:
it was a teachable moment - and Barack Obama didn't teach. Unless public opinion changes, we won't end our budget deadlock. As is well-known, Americans want budget deficits curbed. In a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 54 percent urge Congress and the president to "act quickly" and 57 percent prefer spending cuts to tax increases. But there's little support for cuts in Social Security (64 percent opposed), Medicare (56 percent) and Medicaid (47 percent), which together approach half of federal spending. The State of the Union gave Obama the opportunity to confront the contradictions and educate Americans in the unpleasant realities of uncontrolled government. He declined.

What we got were empty platitudes.
True, if trivial. It's a good column anyway.

But there's one thing that I'd like to, well, quibble about.
Myth: The elderly have "earned" their Social Security and Medicare by their lifelong payroll taxes, which were put aside for their retirement. Not so. Both programs are pay-as-you-go. Today's taxes pay today's benefits; little is "saved." Even if all were saved, most retirees receive benefits that far exceed their payroll taxes. Consider a man who turned 65 in 2010 and earned an average wage ($43,100). Over his expected lifetime, he will receive an inflation-adjusted $417,000 in Social Security and Medicare benefits, compared with taxes paid of $345,000, estimates an Urban Institute study.
Maybe he's right, and that there is some non-trivial, or even large, segment of the population that believes that. I don't know.

And I guess, now that I get here, that I'm not really quibbling with him, rather using his comment as a starting point for some comments of my own.

Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. It is utterly and completely unsustainable without major modifications. (Medicare is the same, but I'm just going to address Social Security right now.) It is a Ponzi scheme because, contrary to the way that government officials like to talk about it, it's not a savings plan, it's not an investment plan, it's not a retirement account. It's a tax, a direct transfer from working Americans to retired Americans. And the ratio of workers to retirees has fallen significantly since the law went into effect, and continues to fall. Where each retiree was supported by about 16 workers in 1950, it's now down to about three and headed to about two as the baby boomers retire1. And there is no "trust fund." The money comes in to the treasury, the money goes out of the treasury.

So it can't be sustained. The problem is, it can't be eliminated, either. I think it's a bad plan, I think it's bad public policy, bad economics, and would have fought against it if I were around when it was proposed, but since it's now been in effect for 70 years, it cannot just be eliminated. The fact is, the government has made a commitment to those who are retired, and those nearing retirement age, to provide this program, and the government is morally obligated to follow through. Those people have lived their lives under the assumption that that commitment was real. They've paid their Social Security taxes, on the belief that, when it was their turn, funds would be provided for them, too. So you can't just cut it. Unfortunately.

It's got to be "fixed," though, because if it's not, it will eventually consume the whole government, and then it will be eliminated by the fact that there just isn't any more for it by any means. A fix that would, over some period, phase it out, would be a good thing. The fact is, the taxes paid in by workers over the last fifty years are gone, spent, and there's nothing that can be done about it. But those who would be stewards of our national resources must find a way to stop throwing good money after bad and deal with this unsustainable program.

For years, they've called Social Security the "third rail" of electoral politics, the electrified rail that would kill anyone touching it. We the people have got to elect some people who are willing to touch that third rail2.




1 - http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=3523

2 - George W. Bush was willing to spend his considerable political capital on Social Security reform following his re-election in 2004. The Republicans in Congress, unfortunately, had been co-opted by the system, and the Democrats were unwilling to be serious about anything other than driving him out of office. There was a moment - the moment passed. The problem has, over the intervening six years, continued to get bigger.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Medicare actuary: Democrats' health care claims "false, more so than true..."

In testimony offered today Medicare Chief Actuary Richard Foster told the House Budget Committee that
Two of the central promises of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law are unlikely to be fulfilled, Medicare's independent economic expert told Congress on Wednesday.

The landmark legislation probably won't hold costs down, and it won't let everybody keep their current health insurance if they like it, Chief Actuary Richard Foster told the House Budget Committee. His office is responsible for independent long-range cost estimates.
To quote BJ Honeycutt, "you could have knocked me over with a sledge-hammer."
Foster says analysis by his office shows that the health care law will raise the nation's health care tab modestly because newly insured people will be getting medical services they would have otherwise gone without.
Gosh, there's a shock, huh? There's going to add people, who are going to get more care, and it's going to cost more. Who'd'a thunk it? I mean, other than anyone who actually, you know, thought about it for 20 seconds.

None of this is surprising in the least. It was easily forseeable. And forseen. And shouted out about by many of us. As I said a year ago,
This is a delusional bill that allows the people who support it to climb into bed at night secure in their virtue, because they "care" about "the less fortunate," and ignore the fact that it's going to drive up costs, drive up premiums, put people out of work, put companies out of business, stop innovation and bring the country closer to the brink of bankruptcy.
And the President, and Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi, stood up and lied to the American people over, and over, and over again. The Democrats lied about it during the repeal debate last week, the President lied about it again last night.


Of course, it would have been nice to get this testimony before passing that monstrosity...

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Donald J. Boudreaux's Economics in Many Lessons: Ask the protectionist

There are many economics concepts that are complicated for people by the rhetoric and context around them, which you can clarify by addressing the same general topic with a different product or context. One of the discussions that I've had with people, over the years, is whether player salaries are responsible for high ticket prices at sporting events. I have always argued that there is a relationship, but that people get the causality backwards. That is to say that Red Sox tickets aren't expensive because they have a high payroll - the Red Sox have a high payroll because they can charge a lot of money for their tickets. And they can charge a lot of money for their tickets because there's a high demand for the tickets - people want them. If the demand goes down, eventually so will the price, and the payroll will follow. And the example that I always use, and which has never been refuted, is the NCAA basketball tournament, particularly the final four. If ticket prices are determined by player salary, you'd think that the National Championship game tickets would be free, given that the players aren't drawing any salary. Obviously, that's not the case.

Well, there's an excellent example of just that kind of discussion taking place in regards to trade protectionism, from Donald J. Boudreaux. I found this passage particularly clarifying:
1. You, Mr. Protectionist, say that low-priced imports harm us. Can you explain why access to low-cost goods and services makes us poorer?

2. You answer question No. 1 by saying that allowing American consumers to buy low-priced goods and services from abroad causes American producers -- who can produce those things only at uncompetitively higher costs -- to lose their markets. When these high-cost American producers lose their markets, high-wage American workers lose their jobs. You insist that it's this displacement of high-cost producers in the U.S. by low-cost producers abroad that must be stopped.

So do you, Mr. Protectionist, also believe that Uncle Sam should force us Americans to pay a high tariff on sunlight before we are allowed to use it? After all, sunlight is an enormously beneficial product that Americans routinely import at no cost at all! (The sun charges us nothing for the valuable heat and light that it exports to us daily.) Don't you worry that this dirt-cheap import that floods our market every day unfairly shrinks the market for American-made goods such as light bulbs, flashlights, central-heating units and down blankets?

If you don't support blocking sunlight with a tariff or with some other government restriction -- why not? Please explain how one low-cost yet valuable import (sunlight) differs from other low-cost yet valuable imports (such as steel from China or textiles from Malaysia).

3. If you insist that the example of sunlight is irrelevant, try this example: Would you oppose the invention and sale of an inexpensive pill that safely cures people of colds, flu, impotence and acne? Such a pill, after all, would displace many high-wage American workers, such as physicians, nurses and pharmacists.

If you would not oppose such a pill, why do you oppose low-cost imports
Obviously, that's not the only argument to be made for protectionist policies, but, by stripping away some of the context, it reveals serious flaws in that argument. There's more to the piece - I recommend it.


(Thanks, Betsy, for pointing it out...)

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State of the Union

I did not watch the President deliver the State of the Union address last night, other than a couple of minutes late in the speech1. But I did read the released version, before delivered, and tweeted some commentary before he started.

"Faster than flying, without the pat-down" - Why? Are bombs on crowded trains less dangerous than bombs on crowded planes?

"When we find ... unecessary burden ...we will fix them" would be more convincing from someone who hadn't championed Obamacare...

"new rules to prevent another financial crisis" like the last one, and promote the next one, which will be different...

"new health care law - let me be the first to say that anything can be improved" - to be first, you'd have had to say it long, long ago

"our government spends more than it takes in." - Duh. "That is not sustainable." Double Duh. There's that brilliance people talk about...

My initial overall impression of the speech? "We're gonna spend, spend, spend your money! Spend on inefficient green jobs! Spend on edjimacation! Spend, spend, spend! Punish the oil companies! Take more money from the rich! Spend, spend, spend! Oh yeah, we're going to cut the deficit, too, while we SPEND, SPEND, SPEND!"

It's safe to say that I wasn't impressed with the speech as written. There was some conservative-sounding rhetoric, some pretense to being concerned about doing the right thing, but someone who really got it, someone who was really ready to face what needs to be done wouldn't have spent so much time trying to spend so much more money on so many new things. Oh, I know he talked about "investment" but it's all just spending.



1My impression of those minutes was, "what a dreary affair. What a mechanical speaker." Whatever it is about Obama the speechmaker that has people raving continues to escape me.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An Ugly Side Effect ...

OK, this just made me laugh...

An Ugly Side Effect of New 1099 Law: More Tax Evasion
Tax pros now fear that tax evasion could go viral if the health-reform bill’s new 1099 requirement takes effect next year. They say more small businesses will likely opt to do all-cash transactions under the table to avoid the 1099 reporting requirement, and all of its onerous provisions, which are worse than small businesses may realize.

That's the direct opposite effect of what lawmakers had hoped for, and it would pose a bad development for the Internal Revenue Service, which for years has been under pressure from Congress to bring in more tax revenue.
The Law Of (come on now, all together) Unintended Consequences Rides Again!

Let's go back, for just a moment, to a few really fundamental, basic economic principles:
  • People respond to incentives.
  • Subsidize something and you get more of it.
  • Punish something and you get less of it.
The more onerous and punitive and costly you make the process of compliance, the more remunerative and profitable the act of non-compliance, the less compliance you're going to get. A blind man could have seen this coming, but not those super-geniuses that put together this legislative obscenity.

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We are "not under-taxed. The government has simply over-spent..."

Andrew Malcolm, LA Times: State of the State Address by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, as provided by her office
...[W]e must not sugarcoat it: New Mexico is in a state of financial crisis. [LB: Like the US itself, and most of the other states, particularly those which have been traditionally run by Democrats (or at least liberals) like California and Illinois and New York. New Jersey elected Chris Christie a year-and-a-half-ago and, while their problems still exist, they're headed in the right direction.]

We face an historic budget deficit that will require candor to address and courage to resolve. No more shell games. No more rosy projections. We must tell New Mexicans the truth: Our financial house is a mess and it’s time we clean it up.

The day I was elected governor, the state’s budget deficit was estimated at just over 200 million dollars. A week later, it doubled and grew to almost half a billion dollars.

In the past, New Mexico’s serious budget problems have been papered over with unrealistic projections and temporary infusions of federal stimulus dollars.
[LB: This is one of the serious, negative, unintended and generally not remarked upon side-effects of the porkulus bill - to a large extent, it has allowed state governments to keep pouring money into sinkholes that need to be fixed, and delayed the moment when those fixes would take place, worsening the problems in the meantime. Talk about throwing good money after bad...] This allowed politicians to shirk responsibility and avoid tough decisions. [LB: Exactly.] But I am here to tell the people of New Mexico that the days of kicking the can down the road are over.

We have all been elected to take action. We may not be responsible for creating this financial crisis but we are all responsible for solving it. During difficult economic times, balancing the budget is not easy, but how we choose to go about the task is critical because our budget blueprint is a statement about our values.
[LB: Where have you heard that before?]

That’s why my budget protects core priorities like classroom spending in education and healthcare for those most in need.

By making cuts elsewhere, my budget only requires the education bureaucracy to trim 1.5% from the administration. Only 1.5%.

Now, you’ve heard some special interest groups say this can’t be done. They claim there is no waste in the bureaucracy. Not even 1.5%.
[LB: Laughing very hard at this one...] I don’t buy it and neither do the people of New Mexico.

New Mexicans are not fooled when bureaucrats, whose salaries are many times that of the average teacher, claim the only place to cut is from the classroom. They’re not fooled when a school district spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on PR staff and then claims it has nowhere to cut but the classroom.

Or when school districts waste education dollars hiring lobbyists but then claim that the budget must be balanced by cutting teachers.

The truth is, the waste is there and it must be eliminated.
[LB: Necessary, but not sufficient. As much as government waste and inefficiency is a problem, the far, FAR bigger problem is government doing things it just should not be doing in the first place.]

...

We must remember that the long-term solution to our budget woes is economic growth. We increase revenue by helping small businesses create new jobs -– not by government creating new taxes.

Let me speak plainly: New Mexicans are not under-taxed. The government has simply over-spent.
Governor Martinez joins Chris Christie in New Jersey as a Governor stepping up to big challenges and facing them. I have heard more good policy out of Republicans in the last three months than in the last 25 years.

But it's easy to say things. It's hard, sometimes, to do them. Only time will tell if they get it right, but some of them are clearly singing from the right hymnal...

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Monday, January 24, 2011

"...first child for mother, hospital..."

I love this story: Afghan woman bears child at Coalition hospital: first child for mother, hospital
Air Force Capt. Jennifer Buckingham, a Coalition physician assistant in northern Kandahar Province's Khakrez District, tried to deliver an Afghan woman's baby for eight hours before it was determined the woman needed to be medically evacuated.

Buckingham, with the Female Treatment Team of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan, did not have the surgical capabilities at her location to do an emergency cesarean-section procedure: a procedure that had to happen in order to save woman and child.

So doctors at Kandahar Airfield, roughly 50 miles away, determined the best course of action was to fly the mother, along with her husband and mother-in-law, to the Coalition-forces-run Kandahar Airfield Role III Hospital.

Forty-five minutes after landing on the night of Jan. 20, 2011, a healthy 5-pound, 12-ounce baby boy was born to the delight of mother and Coalition medical practitioners alike.
There's more...

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Well, yeah - what did you think it meant?

Ace notes Obama praising Reagan, and he's not buying it. As he shouldn't. Because, as he correctly observes,
...[P]raising the dead is pretty cheap theater, because the dead cannot run for election nor campaign for candidates nor write op-eds in response. (Reagan, were he alive, might have mentioned to Obama that it wasn't all about his messaging, but rather the substance of his policies, which generally worked and worked well.)

This is of a piece with liberals' dishonest comparison of all living, active politicians to the previous generation's dead or inactive ones -- and of course the current crop is always the worst ever. Praising the dead is simply a rhetorical gimmick to purchase some unearned credibility -- see, I can praise my opponents, so that means I'm objective and fair-minded and should be listened to in my other judgments.
And then finishes by asking "So is this 'civility' then? Dishonesty and hypocrisy and manipulation, and all of a cheap and shabby sort besides?" Which I answer in the post title. Or, as I put it last week, calls for civility are "not a general principle, but a political weapon that the left can use to cudgel the right." That's the sort of thing that happens when the nominal referees (the media) are actually playing for one of the teams...

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"Every Dollar Should Be on the Table"

In The Corner, Robert Costa has transcript highlights of Eric Cantor's appearance yesterday on Meet the Press:
First of all, David, we’re going to have a vote on the floor on Tuesday of this week directing our appropriations committees to go about deliberating on where those cuts are. Now, we know that there are hundreds of programs that are going to need to be cut. When you’re talking about cutting $100 billion, you’re going to have hundreds of programs in the thousands pages of spending plan that the federal government has.

...

MR. GREGORY: But look at The Wall Street Journal, the piece by Dick Armey of Freedom Works, the tea party group. He said, "What Congress Should Cut," and the sub-headline says this: "Let’s scrap the Departments of Commerce and Housing and Urban Development, end farm subsidies, and end urban mass transit grants, just for starters." Would those be on the table?

REP. CANTOR: Everything, David, is on the table.
The House Republicans continue to say the right things. Will they do them?

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I watched no football yesterday

One of the outcomes of divisional playoff weekend is that Patriots fans were left with no one to root for. Chicago and Green Bay are two of the three NFC teams to have beaten New England in the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh and the Jets...well, the only thing worse than watching the Steelers go to another Super Bowl would have been watching the Jets go.

Obviously, the Jets losing was the best-case scenario once yesterday arrived. But a football game in which the best case scenario is the Pittsburgh Steelers winning to go to the Super Bowl, where they'll face either Chicago or Green Bay, is the stuff of which nightmares are made. For this Pats fan anyway. So I didn't see any football yesterday. And may not watch the Super Bowl, either. That Patriots loss (which I still don't want to talk about) really ruined the football season for me, and the sooner it's over, the better...

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Case Against Precipitous Climate Action

Richard Lindzen (the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology):
The notion of a static, unchanging climate is foreign to the history of the earth or any other planet with a fluid envelope. The fact that the developed world went into hysterics over changes in global mean temperature anomaly of a few tenths of a degree will astound future generations. Such hysteria simply represents the scientific illiteracy of much of the public, the susceptibility of the public to the substitution of repetition for truth, and the exploitation of these weaknesses by politicians, environmental promoters, and, after 20 years of media drum beating, many others as well. Climate is always changing. We have had ice ages and warmer periods when alligators were found in Spitzbergen. Ice ages have occurred in a hundred thousand year cycle for the last 700 thousand years, and there have been previous periods that appear to have been warmer than the present despite CO2 levels being lower than they are now. More recently, we have had the medieval warm period and the little ice age. During the latter, alpine glaciers advanced to the chagrin of overrun villages. Since the beginning of the 19th Century these glaciers have been retreating. Frankly, we don’t fully understand either the advance or the retreat.

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"Give me $1 billion to cut the budget deficit"

Yes, I've made this point before. Yes, I'm sure I'll make it again. Yes, Professor Mankiw amused me with this one...

Greg Mankiw: Give me $1 billion to cut the budget deficit
I have a plan to reduce the budget deficit. The essence of the plan is the federal government writing me a check for $1 billion. The plan will be financed by $3 billion of tax increases. According to my back-of-the envelope calculations, giving me that $1 billion will reduce the budget deficit by $2 billion.

...

Healthcare reform, its advocates tell us, is fiscal reform. The healthcare reform bill passed last year increased government spending to cover the uninsured, but it also reduced the budget deficit by increasing various taxes as well. Because of this bill, the advocates say, the federal government is on a sounder fiscal footing. Repealing it, they say, would make the budget deficit worse.

So, by that logic, giving me $1 billion is fiscal reform as well. To be honest, I don't really need the money. But if I can help promote long-term fiscal sustainability, I am ready to do my part.
Hey, I'm cheap - I'd do it for $10 million, 1% of Professor Mankiw's price...

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I'll keep pointing this out until the canard dies

Charles Krauthammer
Suppose someone - say, the president of United States - proposed the following: We are drowning in debt. More than $14 trillion right now. I've got a great idea for deficit reduction. It will yield a savings of $230 billion over the next 10 years: We increase spending by $540 billion while we increase taxes by $770 billion.

He'd be laughed out of town. And yet, this is precisely what the Democrats are claiming as a virtue of Obamacare...

Explains CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf in his "preliminary analysis of H.R. 2" (the Republican health-care repeal): "CBO anticipates that enacting H.R. 2 would probably yield, for the 2012-2021 period, a reduction in revenues in the neighborhood of $770 billion and a reduction in outlays in the vicinity of $540 billion."

[LB: Remember that this is only for the 2012-2021 period, which includes ~10 years of revenues and only ~6 years of outlays. After 2021, they can't even pretend that there's deficit reduction.]

As National Affairs editor Yuval Levin pointed out when mining this remarkable nugget, this is a hell of a way to do deficit reduction: a radical increase in spending, topped by an even more radical increase in taxes.
There's been a lot of dishonesty involved with the whole Obamacare process, but this notion that it somehow reduces the deficit is possibly the most pernicious of the lies spread by the left.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

"Thus, and not otherwise, the world was made..."

I just posted Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address, which came thirty years ago today. And it is a marvelous, moving, inspirational speech. At one point, told a story of one young American who had gone off to fight - and die - in the first World War, and he had trouble getting through it.
Martin Treptow ... left his job in a small town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire. We are told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, "My Pledge," he had written these words: "America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone."
I had trouble getting through it too, in part because it recalls to me one of my favorite passages from one of my favorite books, and I'm reminded that C. S. Lewis also fought in the trenches during the first world war:
Did Maleldil want to lose worlds? What was the sense of so arranging things that anything really important should finally and absolutely depend on such a man of straw as himself? And at that moment, far away on Earth, as he now could not help remembering, men were at war, and white-faced subalterns and freckled corporals who had but lately begun to shave, stood in horrible gaps or crawled forward in deadly darkness, awaking, like him, to the preposterous truth that all really depended on their actions; and far away in time Horatius stood on the bridge, and Constantine settled in his mind whether he would or would not embrace the new religion, and Eve herself stood looking upon the forbidden fruit and the Heaven of Heavens waited for her decision. He writhed and ground his teeth, but could not help seeing. Thus, and not otherwise, the world was made. Either something or nothing must depend on individual choices. And if something, who could set bounds to it? A stone may determine the course of a river.
The first and third books of Lewis' space trilogy are wonderful, but Perelandra, the middle one, is the one that stands out for me.

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30 years ago today

On January 21, 1981, the United States faced many of the same conditions, issues and problems that it faces today. But the man entering the White House was very different from the man who resides there today...



Ronald Reagan: First Inaugural Address
So, as we begin, let us take inventory. We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our Government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.
It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government.
Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work—work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.
...
It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us to realize that we are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We are not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope.

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A rose by any other name...

House Dems vow to improve messaging
House Democrats kicked off their annual retreat here with a vow to improve the flawed messaging that contributed to the loss of their majority last fall.
Yeah, that's the ticket. Messaging - that was the problem!
The down-sized Democratic Caucus is meeting for three days at the glitzy Hyatt Regency resort on the shores of the Chesapeake, with the goal of figuring out what went wrong in 2010 and how the party can position itself on policy and politics for the next two years.

...

Yet as with a series of closed-door meetings after the election, party leaders trumpeted their gains in the 111th Congress but acknowledged the need to examine how House Democrats managed to lose 63 seats in 2010.

We never stopped to ... campaign about what we did,” Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), the caucus vice chairman, told reporters in an opening press conference.
[LB: That much is true - they ran from it as much as they possibly could. The voters knew about it anyway.] He said he told the former Speaker, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), that in retrospect, the party needed to better promote its accomplishments after the passage of the contentious healthcare law last March.

I said Madam Speaker, the problem with Democrats is we never give the public the chance to savor our victories,” Becerra said, as Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the assistant leader, nodded in agreement.
[LB: But I'm going to take a minute to savor that comment. I don't like to call people idiots, so I'm not going to characterize Congressman Becerra. Or Congressman Clyburn.]“What we didn’t do was take the time to do tap-dances about what we had just done, but we did the work of the people.”

“Too bad we didn’t message it better,” he added.
I think that Congressional offices must come with magic mirrors, where this


looks in and sees this
 
Or maybe there's something in the water...

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It's still early...

...but the congressional Republicans are on a roll right now, making good decisions and presenting them well...

Chairman Paul Ryan to Deliver Republican Response to SOTU:
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced today that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) will deliver the Republican address following the President’s State of the Union address to Congress on January 25, 2011. Last year – in an unprecedented failure – Congressional Democrats chose not to pass, or even propose a budget, punting on a duty that represents the most basic responsibility of governing. Chairman Ryan will deliver the Republican address Tuesday night from the House Budget Committee hearing room, where the Democrats’ spending spree will end and the Republicans’ push for a fiscally responsible budget that cuts spending will begin.

In making the announcement, the GOP leaders noted that Chairman Ryan is a leading voice for fiscal discipline and common-sense solutions to cut spending and create jobs. Known for his thoughtful and detailed critiques of big-government policies, Ryan has helped put to rest the Democrats’ argument that more government spending and higher taxes is the answer to most of our nation’s ills. His commitment to free enterprise and limited government make him the right choice to outline a vision for how a smaller, less costly government will help create the right conditions for the creation of good, private sector jobs.

“Paul Ryan is uniquely qualified to address the state of our economy and the fiscal challenges that face our country,” said Speaker Boehner. “We’re broke, and decisive action is needed to help our economy get back to creating jobs and end the spending binge in Washington that threatens our children’s future. I’m pleased that Paul will be outlining a common-sense vision for moving our country forward.”
I am also pleased...

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Amusing snark...

James Taranto:
...[S]ix more states--Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Ohio, Wisconsin and Wyoming--joined the lawsuit in Florida federal court seeking to overturn ObamaCare. This brings the total number of state-government plaintiffs to 26, which is nearly half of the 57 states and a majority of the 50.

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If you can't repeal, dismantle...

House GOP begins long drive to dismantle Obamacare
Everyone knows House Republicans (along with three Democrats) voted Wednesday to repeal Obamacare. But fewer people know what those same House Republicans -- this time, with 14 Democrats -- did Thursday.

By a vote of 253 to 175, the GOP directed key House committees to report on ways to lower health care premiums, allow patients to keep their current health plans, increase access to coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, and decrease the price of medical liability lawsuits. In other words, the committees are beginning work on replacing the House-repealed Obamacare with Republican health policies.
So far, they're doing the right things. Can they do enough of them before irreparable harm takes place?

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Not the adverb I'd have chosen...

Boehner on JFK
"Sadly, this is the first Congress to convene without a Kennedy since the Truman administration," Boehner said, as turned to his left.
I'm reminded of Bart Simpson, listening to Poe's The Raven during the first Treehouse of Horror episode. "You know what would have been scarier than nothing? ANYTHING!"

What would be better than "sadly"? ANYTHING! Joyfully, thankfully, happily, mercifully, gratefully, there's no Kennedy in the Congress.




(Of course, you can parse it to make it true - it's very sad that there have been Kennedy's, namely Teddy and Patrick, in the Congress for the last fifty years - but that's clearly not what Boehner meant. What this country has needed for a very long time is fewer and better Kennedy's, and given the unlikelihood of the latter, the former is just dandy, thanks...)

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Can McConnell do what he's saying he'll do?

The assumption has been, all along, that the House of Representatives would repeal Obamacare, but it would never get voted on in the Senate. Now that the house has passed the repeal bill (by a much larger bi-partisan margin than the original party-line vote passing Obamacare), it moves to its expected death in the Senate. But Mitch McConnell says that he will assure a Senate vote.
The Senate's top Republican promised a vote in that chamber to repeal healthcare reform following a successful House vote on such legislation Wednesday evening.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would "assure" a Senate vote on legislation to undo Democrats' healthcare reform law, despite Senate Democrats' opposition to holding such a vote....

"The Democratic leadership in the Senate doesn’t want to vote on this bill," McConnell added. "But I assure you, we will."

At the Heritage Foundation's blog, The Foundry, Brian Darling explains how that could happen.
Once that bill is passed, it will be sent to the Senate for consideration. Once the Senate receives the bill, any Senator can use Rule 14 to object to the second reading of the bill. This procedural objection will “hold at the desk” the House-passed bill and allow the Senate to act on the full repeal measure.

If the bill is referred to committee, it will never get to the Senate floor. This procedural objection by one or a number of Senators will stop the bill from being referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP)...Objecting to Rule 14 would hold the bill at the desk of the Senate and would put H.R. 2 on the Senate calendar. This procedure could be done with a letter or call from one Senator to the party leader. This would allow the Senate Majority Leader to commence debate on the matter when he so chooses. It is unlikely that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) would move to proceed to the bill, yet there is a procedure that any Senator can use to force a debate.

Any Senator can use Rule 22 to commence debate on H.R. 2 if they have held the bill at the desk.
It's hard to imagine that there wouldn't be a filibuster, and that it would actually make it to the floor for an up-or-down vote. But if McConnell can force the Democrats to filibuster the repeal, which is favored by the American people and passed overwhelmingly in the House, of a piece of legislation which is unpopular with the people and actually being challenged in court by 26 of the 50 states, well, he's doing the right thing.



1 - And even if it somehow did get voted on in the Senate, it would fail, and even if somehow miraculously got voted on and passed, Obama would surely veto it, making it all a waste of time. Which it is most certainly not, regardless of the outcome.

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$2.5 trillion in spending cuts

It would be a start, I suppose, and you've got to start somewhere.
A number of the House GOP’s leading conservative members on Thursday will announce legislation that would cut $2.5 trillion over 10 years, which will be by far the most ambitious and far-reaching proposal by the new majority to cut federal government spending.

...

[P]rogram eliminations and reductions would account for only $330 billion of the $2.5 trillion in cuts. The bulk of the cuts would come from returning non-defense discretionary spending – which is currently $670 billion out of a $3.8 trillion budget for the 2011 fiscal year – to the 2006 level of $496.7 billion, through 2021.
My initial reaction to this was, "it's great that someone's finally taking our problems seriously!" But as I read through the piece, it actually depressed me. I don't know if the Republicans will support it in the house, it's unlikely - extremely unlikely - to pass a Democrat controlled Senate, and these cuts would clearly be vilified, and the officials supporting them excoriated, as heartless, draconian, cruel, etc., etc., etc.

And yet, they wouldn't even begin to address the real issues facing the country. Yes, the Government is too big. Yes, it's spending too much money. Yes, there are thousands of unnecessary programs (and probably more that are actually counter-productive.) Yes, non-defense discretionary spending is way too high. Yes, yes, yes - I don't disagree with any of it.

But the real problem is the unfunded entitlements. Social Security. Medicare. Government pension funds at all levels. This proposal, which would bring out all of the vitriol that the left and the media (I repeat myself) could muster, would not even begin to address the real problems.

Seriously. I was encouraged when I started this post. Right now, I'm wondering what the crash is going to look like when it comes, and how to prepare to survive it. And what the world is going to look like after the US government defaults...

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The Repeal Vote

Step one: Repeal Obamacare in the House...CHECK

I like the Wall Street Journal's take on the vote:
Democrats are deriding last night's House vote to repeal ObamaCare as "symbolic," and it was, but that is not the same as meaningless. The stunning political reality is that a new entitlement that was supposed to be a landmark of liberal governance has been repudiated by a majority of one chamber of Congress only 10 months after it passed. This sort of thing never happens.

More House Members—245 in total—voted to rescind the new entitlement than the 219 Democrats who voted to create it last March. That partisan majority narrowly prevailed over all 178 Republicans and some 38 Democrats. The three Democrats who favored repeal yesterday confirmed the bipartisan opposition to the kind of vast new social program that historically has been built on a national bipartisan consensus.
Long, long way to go, but it's a good first step...

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Health Care Repeal Won't Add to the Deficit

There's an excellent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this morning By Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Joseph Antos and James C. Capretta1, on the argument still being made that Obamacare reduces the Federal Government's long term fiscal problems. Apparently, this material cannot be presented often enough...
A close examination of CBO's work and other evidence undercuts [the] budget-busting argument about repeal and leads to the exact opposite conclusion, which is that repeal is the logical first step toward restoring fiscal sanity.
...
Next up is the CLASS Act (for the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act) providing a new long-term care insurance entitlement. CLASS hitched a ride on the ACA for one reason only: premiums are collected in the first ten years, but no benefits are provided. Voila, it creates the perception of $70 billion in deficit reduction. In fact, CLASS is a bailout waiting to happen, as it will attract mainly sick enrollees. Only in Washington could the creation of a reckless entitlement program be used as "offset" to grease the way for another entitlement.
Go ahead. Read it all. And don't ever buy the argument that an unlimited, open-ended Federal entitlement program is somehow the rock on which a solid fiscal house can be built...



1 - Mr. Holtz-Eakin is president of the American Action Forum and a former director of CBO. Mr. Antos is Wilson Taylor Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former assistant director at CBO. Mr. Capretta is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former associate director at the Office of Management and Budget.

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Whose reality is this, anyway?

The NY Times editorial this morning, Poverty and Recovery, is interesting in its utter and complete disconnectedness from the reality of the world in which I live.

In 2008, the first year of the Great Recession, the number of Americans living in poverty rose by 1.7 million to nearly 47.5 million. While hugely painful, that rise wasn’t surprising given the unraveling economy. What is surprising is that recent census data show that those poverty numbers held steady in 2009, even though job loss worsened significantly that year.

Clearly, the sheer scale of poverty — 15.7 percent of the country’s population — is unacceptable. But to keep millions more Americans from falling into poverty during a deep recession is a genuine accomplishment that holds a vital lesson: the safety net, fortified by stimulus, staved off an even more damaging crisis.

Congress should take a good look at those numbers, and consider that lesson carefully, before it commits to any more slashing and burning.
A couple of things...
  • "the safety net, fortified by stimulus, staved off an even more damaging crisis" - Contrary to "staving off an even more damaging crisis," in the world in which I live, the stimulus was a key component of, and contributor to, the crisis that took place.
  • "slashing and burning..." - In exactly which universe has "slashing and burning" taken place? Or even been proposed? The Federal government spent an estimated 35% more in 2010 than it did in 2007. The Federal government is spending, as it has nearly every year since the early 40's, about one of every five dollars of wealth that Americans produce. Speaking as someone who would LOVE to see some "slashing and burning" in the Federal budget, I ask, again, where the heck is it?
Oh, one more thing on that "slashing and burning." Has not the NY Times been among the outlets that has spent the last week and a half chastising Americans for un civil language in our political discourse? Isn't "slashing and burning" a little harsh as rhetoric coming from those with the language sensitivity of the discourse nannies at the New York Times?

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Soldier status update

Update: We just heard from the soldier. We got a "Pvt Beverage has arrived postcard" this afternoon, and then, much to our surprise, a phone call tonight - he had five minutes. He has moved through the reception battalion and into a platoon, and started basic today. So I guess the 10 weeks starts today.

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Washington Post columnist channels Bobby Knight

Reliably doctrinaire liberal Eugene Robinson, a man who once (allegedly) had an original thought, tells Sarah Palin, in essence, "I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it." He doesn't even have the Clintonian courtesy to tell her to "put some ice on that..."
In the spirit of civil discourse, I'd like to humbly suggest that Sarah Palin please consider being quiet for a while. Perhaps a great while.

...Surely a former governor of Alaska - who served the better part of an entire term - would never seek to give the impression that she views any conceivable event, no matter how distant or tragic, as being All About Sarah.
Did Sarah Palin thrust herself into this "distant or tragic" event? Uh, no. Not at all. So who made it all about Sarah? How about the Washington Post, Eugene? Your newspaper, the bird-cage liner in which this astoundingly dishonest piece is printed, linked Sarah Palin to the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords, and not just once, but repeatedly. The media made up a storyline - "Sarah Palin's facebook map led to the shooting" - and then, despite the lack of supporting evidence, and the massive accumulation of contrary evidence, flogged that story mercilessly, at every turn. Your employer, the Washington Post, was a big part of that flawed storyline.

The day of the shooting, Sarah Palin's mentioned in the Post's news story. And again in Jonathan Capehart's "PostPartisan" piece. On Sunday, the day after it happened, she's mentioned in the news story. And another news story. Also on Sunday, the Post managed to get a quote from Fidel Castro linking Sarah Palin to the shooting. Again on Monday in a news story. On Monday in a news analysis piece. On Monday in your colleague EJ Dionne's column. On Monday in your colleague Joe Davidson's column. Joe Davidson's next column went back to the utterly non-existent Palin connection on Tuesday.

There are 10 pieces linking her to a mass murder in your newspaper over just four days. Your paper alone, Euguene. And I've linked 10 only because I was tired of gathering links, and 10 is clearly sufficient evidence. I would be willing to bet that there are more. And that's the Washington Post, which is, on occasion, a smidge (just a smidge) less outrageously liberal than much of the rest of the mainstream media. That's not including the NY Times and the LA Times and the Boston Globe and CNN and CBS and MSNBC, Eugene - it's just the Washington Post, your employer, the organization for which you ply your trade, putting that spectacular and original intellect on display. On Wednesday, the morning that Sarah Palin's video was posted, Eugene, you dishonest hack, your colleague Jonathan Capehart described her, accurately (unfortunately) as "the woman who has been at the center of a stormy national debate over our super-heated political discourse." Why is that accurate? Because your paper, and the rest of the media, populated by you and your ilk, made her the center of attention. You couldn't publish a single freakin' Tucson story without linking in Sarah Palin, accusing her by implication of complicity in a mass murder, an event with which she had no link whatsoever outside the fevered imaginings of what passes for minds on the left. And now you have the unmitigated gall to offer the world your opinion that Sarah Palin has made it "All About Sarah"? You have the temerity to accuse her of egocentrism for simply responding to the character assassination that you and your colleagues have been committing? You have the chutzpah to tell her to be quiet? "Sit down and shut up - you'll take it and you'll like it."

Mr. Robinson - You, sir, are an ass. An unmitigated, irredeemable ass. You're entitled to your own opinion, sir. You are entitled to dislike Sarah Palin, to think her speech was ineffective, inappropriate, poorly presented, or any other damn thing. But you're not entitled to your own facts, and the facts clearly show that, contrary to her making it "all about Sarah," it was you and your employer and your colleagues that dragged her in to the story by associating her with a mass murder in every story that was written about it. This is as disgusting a dishonest column as I've ever seen, and if you were capable of shame, you should be ashamed of yourself.

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House Set to Launch Health Law Challenge

Remember how the Democrats reached across the aisle during the health care debate? Remember how every Republican objection was respected? How they sought for a bipartisan compromise and avoided any hint of partisanship? Remember the high "tone" of the debate, the respect for those that disagreed, from President "I won" Obama all the way down to Rep. "Republicans want you to just die quickly" Grayson?

Yeah, me neither. But they're all for it now...
Democratic Rep. James Clyburn told Fox News he welcomes the upcoming debate. "The question is, what will be the tone?" he added, urging Republicans to stop describing the bill as "job-killing." [LB: "because that makes it harder for us to get re-elected when we support it."]

Clyburn predicted that an all-out repeal would go nowhere. But he indicated a willingness to "modify" parts of the legislation that could be improved.

"I believe that we all remember that when we passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we had to modify three or four times -- it was done in a bipartisan way. Same thing with the Voting Rights Act. So let us modify the health care law in a bipartisan way. But this whole stuff of repealing it, throwing it out and starting all over, that's not going to happen," the South Carolina congressman said.
I actually had a fairly strong reaction to this. But I'm watching my words now, trying to elevate and maintain a "civil" level of discourse. So let me just say this:
Dear Representative Clyburn,
Go to hell.
Sincerely...

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Legislating morality

I got a note from a friend last night, in which she asked whether two talking heads thought "that one can legislate morality?" In particular, did these pundits think that the right set of laws would have prevented the mass-murder in Tucson last week? And the answer is, probably they do. As I've written before, one of the markers of the American left is the utopian belief in the "perfectability of the human condition," if only we can put the right laws in place. Naïve, of course, but there it is.

But what I want to address this morning is the phrase "legislating morality." It is the keystone of one standard piece of American rhetoric, that "you can't legislate morality." It's one of those things that many people will agree with eagerly, and with which others will generally acquiesce. After all, none of us wants our own particular morality legislated away. We don't want our vices or pleasures (which are so often the same thing) taken away because some, or many, or most of our fellow citizens don't share them, or approve of them.

In actuality, the objection to "legislating morality" turns out to be, much like the current call for "civil discourse," not a general principle, but a political weapon that the left can use to cudgel the right. It isn't "legislating morality" that the left is opposed to, it's "legislating morality" with which they don't agree. Restrictions on sexual behavior or personal conduct with regards to drugs are the kind of "legislating morality" that are abhorrent to them. Other things, well, not so much. Many of them are all for "legislating morality" when it comes to guns or speech.

It turns out, moreover, that when you exam it philosophically, the whole facade of objection to "legislating morality" crumbles. The fact is, we legislate nothing but morality. What is a budget other than a moral statement? It is a statement that we, the people, believe that the work and wealth of some citizens are best used by the state for purposes which the state wishes but the citizens wouldn't necessarily support voluntarily. It is easy to see that laws against adultery or drug use are "legislating morality." But what about restrictions on access to guns? What about civil rights legislation? Child labor laws? How are the National Endowment for the Arts or National Public Radio or the National Park System not statements of morality? When has there been a bigger legislation of morality than the "Affordable Care Act" (Obamacare), in which it was determined that it was practical or efficient or praiseworthy or desirable, i.e., right, for the government to take away from some (many) and coerce many others in order to provide benefits for a few?

All politicians couch all legislation in moral terms. They want support for doing the "right" thing. Sometimes because they believe that it's the right thing, sometimes because they merely think that it will benefit them politically. In either case, you never see someone pushing legislation which cannot be supported as the "right," i.e., moral, thing to do. And that goes equally for politicians politicians on the left pushing for gun restrictions and on the right pushing for abortion restrictions. It goes for tax increases and tax decreases, welfare programs and welfare reform, funding for the arts and cuts to funding for the arts. Yet somehow, the cries to avoid "legislating morality" tend to be aimed only at those on the right. It tends not to be a good-faith criticism, and when someone uses it, he ought to be challenged to point to a single law that doesn't "legislate morality." He won't be able to...

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Reporting for Duty online

Reporting for Duty online
Some interesting videos. Our soldier should be through reception at this point...

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I don't want to talk about it.

OK? I know that people are going to come in here this morning looking for commentary, but I just don't want to talk about it. I'm disgusted with what I witnessed yesterday, and I don't want to talk about it. It has rendered some activities that I enjoy absolutely toxic for the near future, and I don't want to talk about it.

I don't want to talk about Belichick's ridiculous decision to cut off his nose to spite his face by sitting Welker on the first drive. I don't want to talk about Brady's interceptionless streak, the regular season version of which will still be news when they take the field next fall despite his throwing the ball to Jet linebacker David Harris on the first drive yesterday, which completely altered the game. I don't want to talk about Alge Crumpler dropping a touchdown that completely altered the game. I don't want to talk about the defense's experiment to see if they could make Mark Sanchez look like a pro quarterback by playing "five Mississippi" pass rush. I don't want to hear, ever again, about Tom Brady's record home winning streak, as they've now lost two straight home playoff games while that meaningless streak continues. I don't want to talk about the raft which we used to play on out at the island, lovingly nicknamed "the leaky sieve," or the celebrated impersonation of said sieve performed by the offensive line. I don't want to talk about big play Deion Branch dropping a pass that would have converted a critical first down, forcing a punt. I don't want to talk about the defense, which spent the year not allowing big plays, giving up a 58 yard catch and run as soon as the offense got back into the game.

It was a revolting spectacle, and has rendered the remaining three games of the NFL season completely unwatchable, as well as the sports media in both Boston and New York, which I generally enjoy, and several football websites which I peruse. And, for all of the "big time" cachet that Belichick and Brady built up over the years, they've now lost three straight playoff games, two at home, two as enormous favorites over freakin' New York teams!


But I don't want to talk about it. Man, spring training can NOT get here soon enough...



P.S. - Yes, I had some thoughts on the other games, as well. I don't want to talk about it.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

NY Times on Giffords shooting

Abridged version:
If only our racist, murderous enemies on the other side of the aisle would tone down their rhetoric...

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"The illness is spending..."

John Boehner, as reported by Robert Costa, hitting exactly the right notes again:
Washington has an illness. The illness is spending. The debt is a symptom of that illness. The American people want it cured. President Obama and congressional Democrats have been on a job-destroying spending spree that has left us with nothing but historic unemployment and the most debt in U.S. history. If they want us to help pay their bills, they are going to have to start cutting up their credit cards. "Cutting up the credit cards" means cutting spending – and implementing spending reforms to ensure we keep on cutting. We know the American people will settle for nothing less.
Of course, the right words are great, and important, but if they aren't ultimately followed by the right actions, they may end up doing more harm than good. If the Republicans screw up now and let the Democrats off the hook to firm up the disastrous policy decisions of the past four years, well, there's no situation so bad that it can't be made worse...

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Friday, January 14, 2011

NFL Divisional weekend preview

So, gathered in one spot, are my predictions for Divisional weekend in the NFL:
AFC Game 1 (Saturday afternoon): Pittsburgh over Baltimore
NFC Game 1 (Saturday evening):   Green Bay over Atlanta
NFC Game 1 (Sunday afternoon):   Chicago over Seattle
AFC Game 1 (Sunday afternoon):   New England over NY Jets

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NFL Playoff previews: AFC Divisional game 2

Sunday, January 16 - AFC Divisional Game 2
New York Jets (11-5) at New England Patriots (14-2)

By the numbers:
NY Jets @ New England
TeamWLPFPADifPyth
NY Jets 11536730463.610
New England 142518313205.767

OK, let's get this right out in the open to start with - this game scares the hell out of me. Not because I think the Patriots can't win, but because I can't see how they can lose. I've seen set-ups like this before, and there's virtually no upside to this game, emotionally, for a Patriots fan, while the potential downside is devastating. As wonderful and exhilarating as it is to win as a big underdog, losing as a big favorite is a bigger downer. So the possibilities that I see, as a Patriots fan, are devastation or relief.

Looking at the numbers here, we can see that Patriots had a much better regular season than the Jets did. It's pretty good to outscore your opposition by 63 points - it's historic to outscore them by 205. (There have been two teams with a 200+ point differential since the 2001 Rams - the 2007 Patriots [again, this game scares the hell out of me] and the 2010 Patriots.) There's a big gap in pythagorean percentage, obviously, and while the Jets allowed fewer points, there's only a marginal difference which is dwarfed by the points scored difference.

But there's more, that's even more compelling. Football teams change over the course of the year, and seldom more than this Patriots team did. When the Jets handed the Patriots one of their two losses this year, Logan Mankins was holding out and Tom Brady was forcing the ball to Randy Moss, while Danny Woodhead and Deion Branch hadn't been added or integrated yet. Gronkowski and Hernandez and McCourty had all played one NFL game. They changed the team after week four with the Moss and Branch trades, and took about a month to adjust, climaxing with a loss in Cleveland in week nine that left them at 6-2. Since then...

Last 8 games
TeamWLPFPADifPyth
NY Jets 53185174110.536
New England 802991251740.888

Of course, one could argue that those numbers are skewed, a little bit, because New England hammered New York in week 13, 45-3. So, just for kicks, let's pull that one out.

Last 8 games without 45-3 game
TeamWLPFPADifPyth
NY Jets 52182129530.693
New England 702541221320.850

The Patriots haven't simply been a better team than the Jets over the past two months, they've been a vastly superior team. For all of the talk of the Patriots' defensive weakness and the Jets' defensive strength, the Jets allowed only 9 fewer points for the season, and 49 MORE over the last half of the season. Even without the 45-3 drubbing, the Jets allowed more points per game over the second half of the season than the Patriots did.

The fact is, there's not a single thing that you can point to as a legitimate reason to believe that the Jets win this game. It inevitably comes down to "any given Sunday" and "the Patriots barely beat Green Bay [a better team than the Jets]" and "they've got a puncher's chance." All of which is true. And none of which is a good reason to expect the Jets to win.

But the last time I saw a playoff game be this much of a mismatch, the Seahawks beat the Saints. The last time before that, the Giants beat the Patriots. This game scares me, because despite the fact that there's no reason for it to happen, it could happen, and the potential for pain from the Jets talking, the NY media and the national media gloating about Belichick/Brady failing, is enormous.

Reason to pick the Jets:
I can't find one.

Reason to pick the Patriots:
They are a much better team, with a better coach, a better QB, a better defense, and playing at home.

New York wins if
They can hold the ball for 35+ minutes while scoring 28+ points.

New England wins if:
They play a decent game.

My pick:
New England

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NFL Playoff previews: NFC Divisional game 2

Sunday, January 16 - NFC Divisional Game 2
Seattle Seahawks (7-9) at Chicago Bears (11-5)

By the numbers:
Seattle @ Chicago
TeamWLPFPADifPyth
Seattle 79310407-97.344
Chicago 11533428648.591

So the worst of the four bye teams, the Chicago Bears, hosts the worst of the four Wild Card teams. And if I thought that Seattle was going to get blown out at home by a Wild Card team, surely I think that they'll get blown out on the road against the NFC's second-best team, right?

It's not quite that simple. New Orleans is a good offensive team, and the Seahawks have been dreadful defensively. Chicago is not an offensive powerhouse, and any time Jay Cutler's playing, there are going to be opportunities for the opposing defense to take the ball away.

And while the Seahawks had lost in New Orleans by two touchdowns, they actually won in Chicago. Yes, it was by three, back in October, but they've done it once, and that leads to the suspicion that they could do it again. Do I think that they will?

No. I think that the Bears are a bit of a mirage, but they're a better team than the Seahawks. (To be fair to Chicago, the one half of football that I've really seen from them this year, they lost 33-0 on their way to a 36-7 drubbing by the Patriots.) Would I be shocked if the Seahawks won, the way I was last week? No, but I don't expect them to.

Reason to pick the Seahawks:
They've already won in Chicago this season, and they're coming off a huge win in their best performance of the year.

Reason to pick the Bears:
They're a better team, playing at home, with a week's rest.

Seattle wins if:
Hasselbeck plays the way he did last week and the defense comes up with three turnovers.

Chicago wins if:
Jay Cutler doesn't have a meltdown game and the defense plays sound football.

My Pick:
Chicago

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lefty blogosphere, raising the tone of the debate yet again...

So here's the latest rage in the left-wing media - Sarah Palin's Arizona speech with all of the speech cut out, leaving only her breathing. Because, you know, none of them, or their idol Barack, would sound foolish with all of their words edited out.

It's a big hit with the brain surgeons providing content at Salon.com ("weird, creepy"), the rocket scientists writing for the HuffingtonPost and the nuclear physicists peddling their intellectual wares at TheDailyBeast ("freaky"). And many, many more. Because nothing says "I'm vastly superior to you" better than a childishly edited, out-of-context video.

Heartening to see them respond to the President's speech by raising the tone of the political discourse. Again...

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NFL Playoff previews: NFC Divisional game 1

Saturday, January 15 - NFC Divisional Game 1
Green Bay Packers (10-6) at Atlanta Falcons (13-3)

By the numbers:
Green Bay @ Atlanta
TeamWLPFPADifPyth
Green Bay 106388240148.757
Atlanta 133414288126.703

These two teams played one of the big games of the regular season, when the Falcons beat Green Bay in Atlanta in week 12. The Packers never led in the game, and Atlanta never had a two-score lead, with the team's alternating scores and the Falcons breaking a 17-17 tie with a 47 yard field goal with 7 seconds remaining.

But the Packers actually played better. There was one turnover in the game, an Aaron Rodgers fumble on the Falcons one yard line which was recovered in the end zone by the Falcons. If Green Bay scores there, they go up by a touchdown and the game probably plays out differently.

The Falcons did score more than the Packers did in 2010, but Green Bay's defensive advantage is larger than the Falcons' offensive advantage, as the Packers finished the season 2nd in the NFL in points allowed (behind Pittsburgh). They also finished 2nd in the NFL in point differential and Pythagorean winning percentage (behind New England).

Reason to pick the Packers:
Points allowed, point differential and pythagorean all suggest that the Packers are the better team.

Reason to pick the Falcons:
The Falcons have been excellent at home, they're coming off a bye, and Mike Smith hasn't had the kinds of late game tactical difficulties that Mike McCarthy has.

Green Bay wins if:
They can avoid the stupid mistakes, turnovers, tactical errors, clock management problems, etc., that has had them underperform over the past couple of years.

Atlanta wins if:
They can jump out in front early and control the pace of the game.

My Pick:
Green Bay

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NFL Playoff previews: AFC Divisional game 1

Saturday, January 15 - AFC Divisional Game 1
Baltimore Ravens (12-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

By the numbers:
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
TeamWLPFPADifPyth
Baltimore 12435727087.660
Pittsburgh 124375232143.757

The AFC divisional weekend features two divisional matchups. So this is the third meeting of the year for the Ravens and Steelers. Conventional wisdom is that these are two physical teams, built on defense and running games. There's some truth to that, but it's also probably overstated.

They split the first two, with Baltimore winning in Pittsburgh and the Steelers returning the favor in week 13 in Baltimore. Over the past four years, the Steelers lead the series 5-3, splitting in '07, '09 and '10, while the Steelers swept in 2008. In addition, the Steelers beat the Ravens in the playoffs in 2008. All of which makes it sound like there's been a Steeler advantage, but not a big one.

Which is not quite true. Here's the interesting thing - the last time that the Ravens beat the Steelers with Roethlisberger starting was Christmas Eve in 2006. They've beaten Pittsburgh three times in the last four years, but in none of those games did Pittsburgh's starting QB play. Over the last four years, Ben Roethlisberger is 6-0 against the Ravens as a starting QB.

Does that mean that Pittsburgh wins this week? No. But that, combined with the facts that Pittsburgh was a better team both offensively and defensively, and they're playing at home, means that the Steelers are probably a better bet than one would think, given that they split this year and each finished 12-4.

Reason to pick the Ravens:
They've already won in Pittsburgh this season, the losses have all been close, and they're certain to beat Roethlisberger at some point.

Reason to pick the Steelers:
They've scored more points and allowed fewer, and the Ravens haven't beaten their QB in four years.

Baltimore wins if:
They can protect a lead against a good team, something they've had trouble doing this year.

Pittsburgh wins if:
They can play well early, allowing them to play from ahead instead of behind.

My Pick:
Pittsburgh

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Revere Speaks

This is very neat...

The Testimony of Paul Revere:
I, PAUL REVERE, of Boston, in the colony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England; of lawful age, do testify and say; that I was sent for by Dr. Joseph Warren, of said Boston, on the evening of the 18th of April, about 10 o'clock; when he desired me, "to go to Lexington, and inform Mr. Samuel Adams, and the Hon. John Hancock Esq. that there was a number of soldiers, composed of light troops, and grenadiers, marching to the bottom of the common, where there was a number of boats to receive them; it was supposed that they were going to Lexington, by the way of Cambridge River, to take them, or go to Concord, to destroy the colony stores."

And there's a lot more...

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Travel update 2

The soldier has arrived at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, for basic training.

Our thoughts and prayers are with him...

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Troops get Saco send-off

It's a small world...
The soldiers, drill sergeants from Maine and Massachusetts, deploy Wednesday for Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where they will be on active duty for one year, training army recruits to be soldiers.

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There's a surprise...

So, he's acquiring one of the required skills of adulthood...
Me: so tell me about your day
Lyf: its all "hurry up and wait"

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Travel update (UPDATED and bumped)

The soldier landed in St. Louis last night. When we last heard from him, he was at the military affairs office in the airport with his travel companions, and some unknown other quantity of recruits from other places, waiting for bus transportation to Fort Leonard Wood. We may hear from him when arrives on base, but he may already be there and we may not hear from him again for awhile. I'll update when I know more.

We appreciate all of the kind words, good will and prayers...


Update: (1/11/2011 - 1:26 PM ET) They were housed in a hotel in St. Louis last night. The bus to the base is planned for this afternoon.

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Utopianist idiocy

Because obviously this would have prevented the Tucson tragedy...
Rep. Peter King, a Republican from New York, is planning to introduce legislation that would make it illegal to bring a gun within 1,000 feet of a government official, according to a person familiar with the congressman's intentions.
Now it's possible that this information is not correct. I hope, for Congressman King's sake, that that's the case. But if it isn't, well, he's an idiot. I'm sorry, I don't know how else to put it. The idea that this law, if in place, would have done ANYTHING to prevent the incident which has provoked, or that it would prevent any other lunatic from attacking any other government official, is sub-moronic.

Again, the logic of bad laws:
Something must be done.
This is something.
Therefore, we must do this.
Idiocy. This would be a classic demonstration of the Utopian impulse that inevitably leads to increased government authority over the citizenry - "if we just pass the right laws, bad things will stop happening." It's idiocy, and anyone pushing it is, in this case, an idiot.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Thoughts on Wild Card weekend

With some important other things going on this weekend, I didn't see all of any of the games, with Baltimore-KC being both the least interesting game of the weekend and the only that I really saw in more-or-less real time. But there are a couple of odds and ends:
  • Obviously, the Seahawks pulled off a huge upset. I had seen the halftime score on this one, and assumed that Seattle had jumped out to a lead and managed to keep it. I was shocked, when reviewing it on the DVR later, to discover that the Saints had actually jumped out to the lead. And scored a late touchdown. In between, Seattle beat them 41-10. Absolutely shocking. They scored 25% more points than in any of their regular season games. Even if you could envision the Saints' offense struggling without its running backs, how did they give up 41 to the moribund Seahawk offense?

    Part of that was a highlight run that we'll see for the rest of our lives, as Marshawn Lynch broke tackles from almost every New Orleans player on the field in the course of a 67 yard touchdown run that put the game away. For you young football players, this is why you keep your legs moving, this is why you don't arm tackle.
  • I thought that the Colts mis-managed the end of the game. Badly. They were in field goal range and, instead of forcing the Jets to use one of their timeouts, they threw an incompletion that stopped the clock and preserved the Jets' first timeout, then later used on of their own preserving the Jets' second. And obviously, the kickoff return just killed them. It's a very different situation if Sanchez takes the field with one timeout needing 45 yards instead of needing only about 20 with two.
  • I said last week that the Chiefs were a fraud team. This game would seem to have provided some validation for that position.
  • The Packers-Eagles game should have been compelling. It finished close. But I never got into it, and have no comment other than it appeared to me that both teams were a) talented and b) sloppy.
  • Three of the games went about the way that I envisioned, the obvious exception being in Seattle. I did expect the Colts to win, and when they got to the 36 with less than two minutes less, I was confident that they had. But they didn't, so I was 0-2 on Saturday and 2-0 on Sunday.

Let me just say one thing, as the week dawns, about the upcoming New England-New York re-rematch: I'm not predicting, I'm not talking trash, and anyone can win anywhere on any given Sunday, as we saw this weekend in Seattle. All that said, it's hard for me to imagine a scenario in which New England plays poorly enough on Sunday to lose to the Jets.

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Saturday, January 08, 2011

Postseason contenders and pretenders

Cold, Hard Football Facts.com
But those final numbers don’t tell the whole story. The Patriots have been absolutely scorching hot over the second half of the year, and especially in the past six weeks.

New England’s Defensive Passer Rating over the past six weeks is a tremendous 56.2. Tom Brady’s passer rating over that period? Try 130.4 on for size.

That adds up to a truly unbelievable Passer Rating Differential of +74.2 down the stretch! That’s the kind of territory inhabited only by the 1940s Bears in the shock & awe era of the early T-formation. (Cap tip to reader Lyford Beverage for sending us the 411 about the PRD down the stretch).

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ObamaCare's Reality Deficit

There's a great piece in the Wall Street Journal about the fraudulent accounting that allowed the Democrats to claim that Obamacare would reduce the deficit, and allows them now to attack the Republicans as deficit hypocrites for attempting to repeal it.

Of all the claims deployed in favor of ObamaCare, and there are many, the most preposterous is that a new open-ended entitlement will somehow reduce the budget deficit. Insure 32 million more people, and save money too! The even more remarkable spectacle is that Washington seems to be taking this claim seriously in advance of the House's repeal vote next week. Some things in politics you just can't make up.

Terminating trillions of dollars in future spending will "heap mountains of debt onto our children and grandchildren" and "do very serious violence to the national debt and deficit," Nancy Pelosi said at her farewell press conference as Speaker. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius chimed in that "we can't afford repeal," as if ObamaCare's full 10-year cost of $2.6 trillion once all the spending kicks in is a taxpayer bargain.

The basis for such claims, to the extent a serious one exists, is the Congressional Budget Office's analysis this week of the repeal bill, which projects it will "cost" the government $230 billion through 2021. Because CBO figures ObamaCare will reduce the deficit by the same amount, repealing it will supposedly do the opposite. The White House promptly released a statement saying repeal would "explode the deficit."

...

The government can't subsidize coverage for tens of millions of new people and simultaneously reduce the deficit, as most Americans seem to intuitively understand. The real offense Republicans are committing in the eyes of Washington is exposing its illusions.
Read it all - there's a lot more, and it's all good...

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Friday, January 07, 2011

A good first step...

After two days, I think it's fair to say that the 112th Congress is vastly superior to the 111th...
Confronting President Obama, the new Republican-led House took a first step Friday toward a symbolic vote to repeal his landmark health care overhaul law, which would provide coverage to more than 30 million Americans without health insurance.
Yes, yes, it's not going to pass the Senate, and if it somehow did, it would get vetoes and the veto wouldn't be overridden. So yes, it's merely a symbolic victory.

Symbolism can be important...

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