Thoughts on the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Politics, Movies, and whatever else happens to cross my mind.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Typing through the tears...
We woke up this morning to find this heart-rending story of political gamesmanship, gamesmanship which has "cost" the United States Government the continuing "service" of Barney Frank. Poor Barney...
US Representative Barney Frank yesterday accused Beacon Hill lawmakers of drawing the new congressional map in a way that shortchanged him in favor of fellow congressmen Edward J. Markey and Stephen F. Lynch. Had they done otherwise, said Frank, he might have run again.I'm sorry, did I say "heart-rending"? I meant, of course, "heart-warming". And the tears are of laughter.
‘‘Markey and Lynch were protected, and the rest of us got what they didn’t want,’’ he said. Losing the chance to pick up some choice suburban towns for his district, Frank said, retirement became a more attractive option...On redistricting, Frank said he spoke with legislative leaders at the State House several weeks ago about the new lines for the Fourth Congressional District, to which he was first elected in 1980. They wanted him to take a reshaped district grounded in Southern Massachusetts, centered away from his base of Newton and Brookline. He rejected that idea, he said, but still ended up with a district that "unpleasantly surprised" him..."I talked to Ed Markey, and frankly I was a little disappointed there," said Frank. "I think Ed had some influence with them, but it was spent mostly on his own district.
"There was stuff that Eddie got that, if I could have shared some with Eddie, it would have been a better district."
Oh, and what about Ed Markey's influence on the process? What was he looking for?
"My influence was to ask that all nine districts be Democratic districts, and independent analysts are concluding that all nine are safe Democratic seats," Markey said.Yeah, I bet they are. No reason for Republicans in Massachusetts to have any shot at actual representation.
So let me talk, a little bit, about something that I found very discouraging in November of 2010. Some of you may remember my reaction to the elections, which produced such "great" results for Republicans nationwide. ("I'm sitting here in Massachusetts this morning, and "disappointed" doesn't even begin to describe how I'm feeling...") Well, in some ways, Republicans had a
Obviously, Massachusetts is a heavily Democratic state. But, it's also a heavily gerrymandered state. (As it's also the state where the GerryMander first got it's name, when Governor Elbridge Gerry signed a controversial redistricting plan in 1812, I suppose that's not inappropriate...)
And the current proposed map is no less contorted. No doubt they've managed to put together a plan in which all nine seats will go to the Democrats in 2012. Easy enough to do given the majority they've got, but there are certainly enough Republicans in the state for at least a couple of "fair" or competitive districts. If, you know, anyone were interested in something like that.
And what's the impact of all of the gerrymandering? Well, the more of it that gets done, the bigger the disparity between the minority party vote share and the minority party seat share. Here's a table showing what happened in 2010.
|% of vote||% of seats|
Now, there's only one governor's office, so that's included mostly for informational purposes. On statewide races, the Republicans can, fairly often, come up with 35-40 percent of the vote, and, in the right circumstances, even win the Governorship. But it's interesting to note what happens in the rest of the categories. First off, in the state rep races, the districts are all small enough that there's not really a lot of room for extensive gerrymandering. In those races, the percentage of the Republican vote is fairly close to the percentage of the races that they won. (Pitiably small percentages, obviously.) In the State Senate races, where the effects of partisan districting really start to show up, the Republicans won 31% of the vote and only 10% of the seats. The Democrats won 90% of the seats with 54% of the vote. And in the US House races, where they can get very artistic, the Democrats beat the Republicans by 58%-35%, and took all ten (100%) of the seats in the process. So, despite the fact that the Republicans took 35% of the vote to the Democrats 58%, there continues to be no representation of Republican Massachusetts taxpayers in the United States House of Representatives. And the system is rigged to prevent them from getting any in the next election, either.
This is not new, of course. Nor is it particularly partisan - in places where Republicans control the process, no doubt there are similar effects.
But is it good for anyone? Other than the politicians themselves, of course? It's not at all obvious to me that it is. Of course, since the people that benefit are the people that are doing it, it's not at all clear what mechanism could possibly force a change in the practice, either...
What Do Democrats Really Stand For Today?
There's been a lot of analysis done of Thomas Edsall's NY Times piece from Sunday, in which he states that "preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class." The most interesting and cogent of which, I think, is this bit from Jim Geraghty:
You think the Democratic Party cares about wealth? Come on. In their minds, George Soros spending his money to help out his political views is noble, but the Koch Brothers are evil incarnate. Higher taxes are good, but no one will complain if Tim Geithner or Charlie Rangel cut corners on paying them. One might be tempted to argue that the righteousness of unions represent an inviolate principle to Democrats, but in New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trimming here and there and living to tell the tale.Obviously, they've been about identity politics for a long time. But right now, there doesn't seem to be anything else. It's us vs. them, period.
No, the party really is about identity politics now; us vs. them. And everybody knows which side they’re on.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011| Links to this post
Just beat it, Barney!
The open secret is that, as a congressman, Barney Frank has been wrong about almost every major policy in his long public career. From Reaganomics to Obamacare, his predictions of future performance have been wildly, embarrassingly off the mark. When he’s attempted to lead, he’s almost always taken off in the worst direction.Amen, brother...
Labels: barney frank
Monday, November 28, 2011
An early Christmas present...
...for the entire country. U.S. Rep. Barney Frank will not seek re-election
Longtime U.S. Rep. Barney Frank won’t be running for re-election in 2012 ending an often controversial but always outspoken tenure.
Frank, 71, has served in Congress since 1980. He will take questions about his decision to relinquish his seat at 1 p.m. today at Newton City Hall, his office told the Herald.
Earlier would have been better, of course, as Frank's fingerprints are all over the housing bubble that is largely responsible for the crash of 2008, but hey - better late than never. If there's one thing that the US body politic desperately needs, it's fewer and better Barney Franks...
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Seen on facebook...
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Let me just say this - I'm utterly shocked to see that CBS news produced and ran this story.
And I'll add one thing - the next time you see the Federal Government try to do something to help you out, whether it's providing health care, student loans, mortgages or dietary advice, stop and ask yourself one question. Are Americans healthier in 2011 than they were when George McGovern's Senate Committee, against the advice of the dietary scientists who recognized that there was, at best, insufficient evidence for the recommendations, decreed that Americans should eat less fat and more whole grains? With close to forty years of hindsight, there is now overwhelming evidence that McGovern's recommendations were damaging to real people trying to live their lives well.
Unintended Consequences. Not just a good idea - it's the law...
Monday, November 21, 2011
Democrats AP sees minefield in Dems' links to Occupy protests
Ah, the Associated Press, like the rest of the leftist US media, is nothing if not predictable. When something looks helpful to Democrats, it's promoted or praises - when something looks helpful to Republicans, it's forgotten or vilified. Remember how vitally important Cindy Sheehan was until she started criticizing Democrats? And then, "whoosh," right down the memory hole. Cindy Who?
You can clearly see the media's dawning comprehension of the typical American's feelings about the "Occupy" mobs in this Associated Press piece.
Democrats see minefield in Occupy protests
The Republican Party and the tea party seemed to be a natural political pairing. But what may have seemed like another politically beneficial alliance — Democrats and Occupy Wall Street — hasn't happened.Here's Democratic Senatorial Candidate, and current pin-up girl for leftists worldwide, Elizabeth Warren, in October, keeping the Occupiers "at arm's length."
Although both Democrats and the Occupy protesters have similar views on economic inequality and corporate responsibility, each holds the other at arm's length. There's little benefit to Democrats in opening their arms wide to a scruffy group that has erupted in violence, defied police and shown evidence of drug use while camping in public parks across the country — much as the prospect of such a pairing delights Republicans.
Many protesters, in turn, are contemptuous of Democrats, arguing that both political parties are equally beholden to corporate interests and responsible for enacting policies that have hurt the middle class.
"Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren claims much of the credit for the Occupy Wall Street protests sweeping the nation.The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee certainly kept the Occupy movement "at arm's length."
“I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do,” the Harvard Law School professor and former Obama administration consumer advocate told Samuel P. Jacobs of The Daily Beast. “I support what they do.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) — the campaign arm of the House Democrats — sent out an email Monday morning urging readers to sign a petition supporting the growing “Occupy Wall Street” protests.And then there's the leader of the Democrats in the House, Nancy Pelosi, resisting the urge to form a "politically beneficial alliance..."
House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she supports the growing nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement, which began on the streets of downtown New York City in mid-September.Back in October, the New York Times noted that
"I support the message to the establishment, whether it's Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, that change has to happen," said Pelosi in an exclusive interview with ABC News "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour. "We cannot continue in a way this is not relevant to their lives."
Leading Democratic figures, including party fund-raisers and a top ally of President Obama, are embracing the spread of the anti-Wall Street protests in a clear sign that members of the Democratic establishment see the movement as a way to align disenchanted Americans with their party.For two months, the media was enchanted by the possibility that the Occupiers would prove a political windfall for the Democrats. Now that it's clear that owning the movement would be a major political liability, the Emily Litella ("never mind") media re-appears...
H/T - John Nolte, at Brietbart's Big Journalism site, pointed out this story, and also did some more extensive deconstruction...
Friday, November 18, 2011
Should We Be Bullish on Solar?
Megan McCardle has an interesting and worthwhile piece on the likelihood of solar energy costs falling below those of conventional energies any time soon. But she finishes it with a pretty silly question...
I'd close by restating Tyler's question in a slightly different way: if the price of solar is really likely to keep falling until it's cheaper than coal, why don't we see this revealed in the behavior of global warming activists? Where are Greens saying "We've decided to move on to more pressing issues, because clearly, the carbon emissions problem is just about solved."For some people, maybe even most, the concern is, in fact, carbon emissions. For many of the activists, however, all of the evidence suggests that the concern is not carbon emissions as much as it is concern about the consumption and lifestyle of the US population. For my entire lifetime, the people in the vanguard of this movement have responded to any proposed crisis with the same set of policy prescriptions - more central control, more rationing, less freedom for individual movement, less individual autonomy. In short, for the most dedicated of the global warming activists, carbon emission control is simply a pretext for the actual goal - socialism.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Is Partisanship Responsible for the Success of Constitutional Challenges to ObamaCare?
Is Partisanship Responsible for the Success of Constitutional Challenges to ObamaCare?
Does it really require rank partisanship to be skeptical about the merits of a never-been-tried legal requirement that regulates doing nothing based on the argument that doing nothing is in fact a form of activity?
I think not...
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Obamacare odds and ends...
From the Washington Examiner, CSPAN requests televised Obamacare oral arguments:
CSPAN chairman Brian Lamb wrote Chief Justice John Roberts today requesting that he break with Supreme Court tradition and allow for a televised broadcast of the oral arguments in the Obamacare case.I'd watch...
We believe the public interest is best served by live television coverage of this particular oral argument," Lamb wrote. "It is a case which will affect every American's life, our economy, and will certainly be an issue in the upcoming presidential campaign."
Investor's Business Daily suggests that Elena Kagan should recuse herself from the Obamacare case:
Here are the facts on Kagan: She was the administration's solicitor general when ObamaCare became law last year. She has acknowledged that she was at a meeting in which state litigation against ObamaCare was discussed, though she said she was not involved in any legal responses concerning the states' litigation.I have two things to say about that. The first is that the editorial is clearly correct about her conflict of interest and pre-expressed opinion - she's made it clear that there's no chance of her even considering the possibility that it might be unconstitutional, so that recusal is the only ethical approach. The second is that Barack Obama will demand that Congress repeal it before that happens. Zero chance.
We also know that Kagan enthusiastically supported ObamaCare. This is made clear in emails released last week by the Justice Department.
"I hear they have the votes, Larry!! Simply amazing," Kagan wrote on the day ObamaCare passed the House in an email to Laurence Tribe, the Harvard law professor who was working at that time in the Obama Justice Department...Nearly lost in this is the possibility that Kagan lied during her confirmation. She told the Senate Judiciary Committee that she had not been asked about the legal issues of ObamaCare nor had she offered any views on them. The emails, however, seem to tell a different story. Two exclamation points plainly show that in her legal opinion, ObamaCare was constitutional.
Walter Russell Meade comments on a New York Times story of one of the unexpected consequences of Obamacare:
the New York Times reports that the controversial health care reform act has accelerated the destruction of small medical practices at the expense of large firms. And if the Times is right, these are part of some fundamental changes in the American health care system that no Supreme Court decision can undo...Is this what the social engineers who redesigned the American health care system really wanted to do? Is big better in health care, and is bigger still better still?Unintended or not? As we say in the software world, bug or feature? Well, let's just consider, for a moment, that age-old question, cui bono? Who benefits? Probably not the patients or the doctors, who end up breaking what is ideally a long-term and important relationship. But the politicians, who are then able to extract their
If the Times is right, so far the principal effect of the plan has been to accelerate the decline of family doctors and small medical practices in favor of larger, bureaucratic health care providers along the lines of HMOs.
Whether that was intended or just, from the politicians' point-of-view, a "happy accident" doesn't seem particularly relevant...
H/T: Instapundit, who linked all of these...
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
The Case Against President Obama's Health Care Reform: A Primer for Nonlawyers
From the Cato Institute comes The Case Against President Obama's Health Care Reform: A Primer for Nonlawyers
An essential aspect of liberty is the freedom not to participate. PPACA’s directive that Americans buy an unwanted product from a private company debases individual liberty. And it’s unconstitutional.Questions about what's at issue? Click the link...
Monday, November 14, 2011
Court sets 5 1/2-hour hearing on health care
Yeah, well, it may or may not be tossed out, but obviously the constitutionality is not a foregone conclusion. SCOTUSblog:
Setting the stage for a historic constitutional confrontation over federal power, the Supreme Court on Monday granted three separate cases on the constitutionality of the new federal health care law, and set aside 5 1/2 hours for oral argument, to be held in March...The Court will hold two hours of argument on the constitutionality of the requirement that virtually every American obtain health insurance by 2014, 90 minutes on whether some or all of the overall law must fail if the mandate is struck down, one hour on whether the Anti-Injunction Act bars some or all of the challenges to the insurance mandate, and one hour on the constitutionality of the expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled.I've already made up my mind, of course. I find no valid reading of the Constitution that allows the Federal Government to impose the kind of program that this law imposes. The Supreme Court may agree with me, it may disagree, but it won't change my opinion on that. There are too many decisions which have already expanded the Commerce Clause jurisprudence far beyond anything I believe the founders would have sanctioned for me to have confidence in the outcome.
I am curious to see what Scalia and Thomas, at least, have to say about it. One way or the other, we'll know the outcome when we head to the polls next November...
Service music for a Missions Conference...
Sunday, November 13, 2011
How Lovely Are The Messengers
Friday, November 11, 2011
Scenes from Arlington National Cemetery
For Veterans Day, The Old Guard: Scenes from Arlington National Cemetery - YouTube
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Will Western Civilization Rediscover The Moral Foundations Of Sound Money?
Bill Frezza has an excellent piece at Forbes.com...
Wealth, or capital, is simply deferred consumption that is put to work. When done wisely, wealth multiplies, leaving more to consume tomorrow.
Money’s unredeemed promise might be tokenized by a paper note, a gold coin, or a few bits in a computer database. Every form of tokenization has its strengths and weaknesses. History demonstrates that the soundness of the token is directly proportional to the difficulty of its creation, as this helps ensure stability of the money supply.
The moral claim real money places on society on behalf of its bearer comes not from the intrinsic value of the token but from the fact that the bearer had previously produced some good or service deemed valuable by others. This is what gives money its moral legitimacy.
Western Civilization has forgotten this, and we are all paying the price.
Read it all.
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
Obama Couldn't Wait: His New Christmas Tree Tax
Does someone want to explain to me how this is a rational function for the Federal Government?
In the Federal Register of November 8, 2011, Acting Administrator of Agricultural Marketing David R. Shipman announced that the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint a Christmas Tree Promotion Board. The purpose of the Board is to run a “program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expend existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry” (7 CFR 1214.46(n)). And the program of “information” is to include efforts to “enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States” (7 CFR 1214.10).
To pay for the new Federal Christmas tree image improvement and marketing program, the Department of Agriculture imposed a 15-cent fee on all sales of fresh Christmas trees by sellers of more than 500 trees per year (7 CFR 1214.52). And, of course, the Christmas tree sellers are free to pass along the 15-cent Federal fee to consumers who buy their Christmas trees.
Go ahead. Make the case...
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Just a little revisionism...
I'm generally a fan of Stephen Moore at the Wall Street Journal, but I think part of his review of Bill Clinton's new book, has a ... convenient interpretation of some fairly recent history.
Bill Clinton ascended to the White House as a New Democrat, wisely repudiating what had been a quarter-century of big-government liberalism and embracing instead welfare reform, deficit reduction, spending restraint, a strong and noninflationary dollar, and free trade. One might thus expect "Back to Work" to be a sharp condemnation of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and, of course, Barack Obama for their abandonment of his centrist policies...But instead of offering Democrats a road map for a return to the center, "Back to Work" is an ode to big government.
Certainly, he claimed for himself the mantle of the "New Democrat" during the campaign, and certainly "welfare reform, deficit reduction, spending restraint, a strong and noninflationary dollar, and free trade" were all hallmarks of the period during which he was President.
But I take issue with the idea that he "ascended to the White House" on those issues. On the contrary, his first two years, with a Democrat-controlled House and Senate, was characterized by his attempt to pass the next great goal of the progressive left - National Health Care. Like Obamacare, Hillary-care was extremely unpopular with the voters, and cost the Democrats control of the Congress in the middle of the President's first term. Unlike Obamacare, Hillary-care was defeated.
The differences between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, therefore, are not, as implied by Moore, differences in policy goals. One key difference is circumstance. Clinton, after the Democrats' 1994 drubbing at the polls, did not have to defend Hillary-care any further. Obamacare is the law of the land, and Obama's chained to it. The other big difference is that Clinton was more pragmatist than ideologue, more interested in maintaining the Presidency in 1996 than in furthering his agenda. Obama is more interested in the agenda. (Clinton was also a much better politician than Obama.)
Welfare reform wasn't a Clinton policy - it was a Republican policy to which Clinton acquiesced. The "deficit reduction and spending retraint" that Moore mentions came from the Republicans in the House of Representatives. To his credit, Clinton acquiesced. His "era of Big Government is over" speech came, not during his campaign, not during his first two years in office, but in the State of the Union address that followed the voters repudiation of his first two "big government" years in office.
But the idea that Clinton's policy goals differed significantly from those of Pelosi/Reid/Obama strikes me as revisionism. It's almost a Conservative version of the media/leftist trope of looking back with affection at the reviled conservatives of the past as a means of denigrating the current conservatives. It's not necessary. Clinton was a better, more pragmatic politician than Barack Obama, but the idea that he came into the White House with a substantially less "progressive," leftist ideology, is not accurate.
Monday, November 07, 2011
Who can afford a a Chevy Volt anyway?
One of my complaints about the Cash for Clunkers program was that it represented a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier. The only people who benefited from the program were people who, with the $4500 clunker allowance, could afford a new car. It's unlikely that the group of people who could afford a new car with the credit but could not have afforded a new car without it is a large group. Furthermore, the program removed thousands of functioning used cars from the highways and, more importantly, the used car marketplace, raising prices for anyone that needed one. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that reducing the price of new cars while raising the cost of used ones is not a good-for-the-working-poor kind of exchange.
Which leads to the quote of the day (topic: tax credits for purchase of electric vehicle Chevy Volts), which is politically incorrect in all the right ways...
Tax credits like this merely take from those too poor to afford a coal fired white elephant and give to those that already live in mansions.
Busting the budget myths
Robert Samuelson is right about some of this:
The conservatives’ fiction is: We can reduce deficits and cut taxes by eliminating “wasteful spending.”
The liberals’ fiction is: We can subdue deficits and raise social spending by taxing “the rich” and shrinking the bloated Pentagon.
You will notice one similarity. Both suggest that reducing deficits involves little real pain. No one, after all, favors “wasteful spending.” Similarly, taxing “the rich” doesn’t threaten most people who aren’t rich. Liberals and conservatives alike can reconcile all good things: fiscal rectitude (for both), tax cuts (for conservatives) and high social spending (for liberals). I wish it were so.
I've said some of this before...
There are trade-offs that have to be made at the national level, too. If we want a cradle-to-grave welfare system, guess what? It has to be paid for. And there's not enough money in the pockets of the "rich" to pay for it all. So poll results like the above CNN poll are not useful. They're not helpful. They offer a bunch of a la carte options that people can't actually simultaneously get. They present "or" choices as "ands." You can have a cradle-to-grave welfare state which provides all things for all people OR you can have low middle class tax rates and economic freedom. One or the other. Not both. The math doesn't work.
That all remains true.
And the second of his fictions, the liberals' fiction, appear to me to be dead-on accurate. As near as I can tell, the left in this country has no other argument, no other position than raising taxes on "the rich" and the only cutting they are willing to contemplate is the military budget.
But I don't think that the conservatives' fiction is accurate. At least, it's not accurate in the way those terms are usually used. Do conservatives really believe that you can reduce the deficits simply by cutting "wasteful" spending?
At least, not in the way that the term "wasteful" spending is usually used. "Wasteful," in common political parlance, refers to the anecdotal $500 hammers, the "waste and abuse" of the Medicare system, spending that is allocated for useful purpose and then gets lost or spent badly. There is, I suspect, far too much of the taxpayers' money that's squandered in that way, but it's unlikely to be enough to close the current deficits.
And that isn't the problem that most conservatives have with Government spending. The problem is not the money that the Government is "wastefully" spending on things that it should be doing. The problem is all of the money spent, "wastefully" or efficiently, on things that the Government shouldn't be doing at all. I don't want an "efficient" Federal Department of Education - I want the Federal Government out of the Education business entirely. I don't want to crack down on "fraud and abuse" in Federally guaranteed student loan programs - I want the Government out of the student loan business entirely. I don't want to crack down on "fraud and abuse" in Federally guaranteed mortgage programs - I want the Government out of the mortgage business entirely. I don't want to crack down on "fraud and abuse" in Federal health care programs - I want the Government out of the health care business entirely.
You see, the biggest waste of taxpayer dollars doesn't result from the Federal Government "wasting" money on things that it should be doing. It comes from the Federal Government spending money on things that it should not be doing. Spending money on things that not only don't benefit the private sector, and the general welfare, but actively impede and obstruct it.
We, as a nation, would be a lot better off if all politicians would be bound by the Hippocratic oath - "first, do no harm..."