In today's Washington Post, the distinguished historian of colonial and revolutionary America, Timothy Breen argues that today's tea parties are very different from the original. In particular he argues, among other things that "the American patriots of 1773 and 1774 worked hard to promote unity," and that "the colonists did not protest taxation. . . . They protested against taxation without representation, an entirely different matter."
That's fair enough, if, among other thigns, the correct comparison is with the Revolutionary movement on the whole. But the comparision is not apt. The coercive acts of 1774 changed the stakes and the nature of the tactics the were proper to resist. In 1773, the stakes were lower, and the nature of the protest was different. In 1773, few were thinking of revolution. They were simply trying to block the enforcement of one law. In every colony other than Massachuetts, local authorites let that happen. Only in Massachusetts did the governor force a confrontation.
Beyond that, there's the growing problem of unresponsive government. The modern administrative state is, in some ways, like the old Brithsh government. It is not based upon consent in a robust sense. When representatives don't read the bills on which they vote, and therefore don't truly consent to the actual contents of the bill, and when they delegate much of the actual code-writing to the permanent bureaucracy, consent ain't what it used to be. As Charles Kesler noted recently:
Today's Tea Party movement sees a similar threat of despotism--of monopoly control of health care, corrupting bailouts, massive indebtedness, and the eclipse of constitutional rights--in the Obama Administration's policies. The Tea Party patriots may mistake the President's motives when they compare him to King George. But they are right to suspect in the very nature of modern liberalism and the modern state something hostile to the consent of the governed and to constitutional liberty. The republic will owe them a debt of gratitude if Obama's plans end up just as wet as George III's, floating in the salty tea pot of Boston Harbor.
One could even say, given the size and scope of the U.S., in some ways it would not be improper to quote the resolves of the Stamp Act Congress which held that, "That the people of these colonies are not, and from their local circumstances cannot be, represented in the House of Commons in Great Britain." All Americans are represented in Washington. Even so, one can still hold that "local circumstances" mean that extensive efforts to govern the intimate details of our local communities are, by nature, improper for the central government. There's a reason why Sam Adams did not want to have a strong central government. He knew that it could, over time, grow to be remote from the people, even if the national legislature was selected by elections.
Finally, Breen seems to suggest that the patriot movement of the 1770s was not controversial. Ha! He is correct, however, to say that they were concerned with making compromises in the name of unity. But perhaps one could say that tea party support of Scott Brown resembles those efforts at unity.
"A Washington Post poll taken last week showed that more people view the [Tea Party] movement favorably than unfavorably -- and that 62 percent believe it has either the right amount or not enough influence on theYet, when questioned about his own opinion of the Tea Party movement, President Obama explained that he regarded the "core" of the movement to be "on the fringe." He dismissed them as birthers or as wild-eyed crazies obsessed with proving his secret socialist connections. Mind you, Obama was quick to say that there is "a broader circle" around the core of the movement that is what he deems "legitimate" in its concerns. But everyone knows that movements move in keeping with their core; the core provides the general flavor and tenor of a movement. Would you eat an apple that you knew to be rotten at the core? Of course not. ."
One of the primary tragedies that will largely go unnoticed by most voters is the uncreated wealth and lost innovation within the healthcare industry through the mandates, regulations, and increased taxes of Obamacare. In a manner reminiscent of Hazlitt's "Broken Window Fallacy" whereby many believe that overall wealth is made by the repair of a shopowner's busted window only because they never consider that said shopowner could have spent his money in some other productive manner, many will believe that health care goods and services have been created because of government intervention that delivers insurance policies to citizens. This will ignore the destruction of wealth accomplished by government spending and the greater costs of its primary inefficiencies. One of the primary virtues of open markets is their transparency of failure which leads to the opportunities for new investment and entrepreneurial activity within an industry. If a product and its delivery within an industry is not chosen by a critical mass then new methods will be ventured.
What seems a basic insight is missed frequently by voters unable to connect sound intentions with long term effects in political economy. Thus, the current failures of our system: favorable tax treatment to employers for provision of healthcare which create the limited out of pocket exposure the consumer has to his health care decisions and the consequent effects on escalating costs will continue. The critical function of market correction can't happen because policy misdirects resources. The costs will continue to rise for consumers and now for government expenditures. The real consequence will be the future call by liberal pols to cut out employers and have a single-payer. This makes repeal and replace all the more significant if we are to avoid that most tragic of fates when our bodies are now the wards of the state.
I think I may have been misunderstood in some of my recent posts calling Republicans to account for having favored health insurance mandates and the Medicare prescription drug benefit. It's true that I don't believe that Republican politicians are trustworthy on such matters. Left to their own devices they'll fight a statist measure by Democrats by offering something only somewhat less statist. Give them control of the White House and both houses of Congress and they'll run up a massive deficit, piling earmark upon earmark, and then complain when Democrats do the same thing.
But I recognize that, as weak-willed as they tend to be, they're our best hope, the only alternative being to support some third party. This, of course, would be a disaster, splitting the conservative vote and guaranteeing Democrat control for the foreseeable future. And surely it is to the credit of the GOP that every single member remained firm in the fight over the health care boondoggle. This is not the Republicans' customary behavior; at the very least one might have expected some of the usual suspects (Snowe, Collins, Voinovich) to break ranks.
That this didn't occur has everything to do with the rise of the Tea Party Movement. This is something almost entirely new to American politics, at least at the national level--a grassroots campaign of conservatism. The Democrats never seem to have a problem finding a crowd to support some new federal entitlement; in many cases it's a matter of rounding up a bunch of college students, or visiting the local unemployment office. For Republicans it was always different. As P.J. O'Rourke put it, "conservatives have jobs."
The Tea Partiers are having an effect on the GOP similar to that of a stiff drink. They're making them defiant, feisty, unwilling to sacrifice principle for some short-term face-saving advantage. This is why the Tea Parties are such a refreshing development. It also explains why the left is apoplectic in its denunciation of them. No accusation, it seems, is too shrill. (I refuse to include a link to the infamous Frank Rich editorial from this past weekend, as I have no desire to promote the spread of his poison.) Ugly incidents are provoked or, if necessary, invented out of whole cloth. Democrats want back their old, pliable Republican Party--the one of Bob Dole, or before him Everett Dirksen and Charlie Halleck, the kind that could broker a backroom deal that succeeded only in making them seem like good losers. They understand that their GOP will not return as long as the Tea Party Movement remains; therefore it must be destroyed at all costs.
We must prevent that from happening, and to do this the Republican Party and the Tea Partiers need to stand together. Without the GOP's votes in the House and Senate, the Tea Parties are politically irrelevant. But without the Tea Parties, congressional Republicans will most likely revert to form. How long would it be before they stopped denouncing the health care plan and decide that it's acceptable, so long as it's controlled by Republicans (see Education, Department of)? What this means, though, is that conservative intellectuals need to get behind the movement. There is an understandable reluctance on our part to do so. After all, we come from the tradition of Edmund Burke, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Robert A. Taft, one that has long viewed politics as a gentlemen's game and distrusted mass action. Many of us also differ from the Tea Partiers in matters of policy; personally, I do not share their enthusiasm for Sarah Palin, and I believe more than they in things like free trade and separation of church and state. We need to get past this; the differences are too minor, and the stakes are too high, for us to remain in the ivory tower. The next couple of election cycles may be our last chance to save the Republic. We cannot afford to remain aloof.
I don't want to kick Frum when he is down, and getting to appear on the Larry King show is no compensation for losing a steady (and to me, suprisingly large) paycheck. I take him at his word that he is trying to articulate a viable right of center politics under contemporary cricumstances. I just think that his approach involves giving up too many principles, uses too little strategic imagination, and will do no long term good to conservatives or America. I think that his now famous Waterloo article is a good example of the type. Frum was upset that Republicans did not try hard enough to "compromise" with the White House. From what I gather, this compromise would have involved accepting a nationalized program of government madated comprehensive health care prepayment, in return for a different funding mechanism (he seems to want a carbon tax rather than Obamacare's taxes on high earners) and restrained Medicaid spending. This is almost a parody of Ross Douthat's unfriendly description of liberal Republicans as trying to "head in the same direction as the Democratics, but more slowly, with more attention to balancing the nation's books." No thanks.
Frum is also an eager but unconvincing salesman for how his more socially liberal, environmentally statist conservatism represents the future. Frum argues that if Tom Campbell, Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina, win statewide in Califormia, it will signal a win for "middle-class opportunity and social modernism." Now you don't think Frum may be talking about himself now do you? I have two problems with this analysis. First, so many kinds of Republicans are likely to win so many races this year that everyone will be able to point at how their kind of Republican (Rubio, Kirk, Portman, Toomey whoever) represents the way forward for the party, and all of them will be seeing what they want to see. Second, why does Frum think he needs to look into the future to see how his kind of conservatism works?
Who better personified the Frum conservative combination of social liberalism, green preening and "fiscal conservatism" than Arnold Schwarzenegger? He won two statwide races but, from a conservative perspective, it was a barren victory. He was able to win over some social liberals by hugging them on the social positions and offering the hope of fiscal competence in the face of Democratic mismanagement. He was able to make some marginal gains among nonwhites by distancing himself from the toxic conservative Republican brand - toxic in California that is. The problem was that the win was not really based on winning the voters over to shared principles or a durable issue agenda aside from better economic management. He was hired to be social liberalism's Mini-Me and economic liberalism's finance coach. The state's normal coalitional dynamics reasserted themselves and Schwarzenegger moved farther and father left in order to buy off liberal-leaning interest groups and survive.
In California and the rest of the country, there is no real alternative to doing the hard work of recruiting constituencies that are currently alientated by political conservatism, and doing so on a set of principles that can unite the current conservative base and potential converts. Bob McDonnell in Virginia has given us some insight in how to do that, though I don't think all of the answers are found in his campaign. The alternative of social liberalism + green statism + Obamacare Lite + fiscal conservative (but not very conservative) rhetoric promises policy disaster.
The more opportunistic leftists libel Obamacare opponents as racists for wanting to limit federal government powers--and presumably justify states'-rights segregationists. (Tell that to the sanctuary cities movement.) We need to remind ourselves why the Founders made the bedrock principle of federalism, the equal representation of each State in the Senate, an unamendable part of the Constitution (Article V). Consequently, thinly populated "red states" (with their guns and bibles) will always be with us. (There are of course blue states with small populations, too.) The federalist principle here is manifested most vividly in the electoral college--another institution the left would do away with. The Sage of Mt.Airy has further thoughts on Federalist #51 and federalism's role in limited government.
John Moser's post put me in mind of Ross Douthat's comment that while individual Republicans might have credibility on the health care issue, the party as a whole (and especially the top congressional leadership) does not. I mostly agree with both John and Douthat, but I would like to add my own thoughts.
1. Parties are always getting better and worse. A Republican President imposed wage and price controls. Another Republican President appointed John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court. Parties should never be trusted, and can never have clean histories, but they can be moved to better directions.
2. Republicans deserve alot of criticism for their neglect of the health care issue, but as Avik Roy pointed out in National Affairs many of the ideas for market-oriented health care only matured in the 1990s. The Republicans and most other center-right institutions were slow to pick up on and popularize these ideas, but not quite as slow as one might think. It wasn't like any of them had been taking those ideas in with their mother's milk. My first exposure to those ideas was in a Christopher DeMuth speech on CSPAN.
But the slowness in engaging with and popularizing those market-oriented health care ideas had consequences. One of them is that you get taunted for your party's past flirtation with a policy of mandating and subsidizing what amounts to comprehensive private prepaid health care as a way of avoiding a single payer system. Those taunts are actually the least of the Republican's problems. The biggest problem is that the failure to popularize those ideas in the past, imposes costs on the party leadership if they want to talk about them now.
Take Douthat's criticism of the Republicans for not offering a Ryan or Daniels approach to transforming the health care system as an alternative to Obamacare. In the real world, the past failures to popularize market-oriented healh care put all of the short term political incentives against such a strategy. There would have been no internal consensus within the party about which type of market-oriented policy to follow. There would not even have been a real consensus in favor of such a general approach. Does anyone think that the two Republican Senators from Maine would stick their necks out for any market-oriented health care policy without clear evidence that the public was strongly in favor of such an approach? Another problem is that the public starts off with zero understanding of those ideas and a great deal of anxiety about losing their access to our health care system. The Democrats would have been able to launch a devastating series of attacks (at least as effective as those launched against Obamacare) and the Republicans would have been on the defensive having to spend enormous amounts of time trying to explain what was wrong with the Democratic attacks. I wish they had. I think the long term investment would have been worth it, but I'm not trying to win a congressional election in November. As a tactical matter, it made sense to combine an attack of Obamacare's mandates, Medicare cuts, and tax increases with offering an alternative that consisted of a series of uncostly regulatory changes that would put downward pressure on premiums but leave the system untransformed. If the choice had been between Obamcare versus Ryancare (which included Medicare cuts), rather than Obamacare vs. a center-right tweaked status quo, public opinion might well have been more favorable to Obamacare in the short run. That might well have translated into an easier time passing Obamacare and fewer Republican gains in Novemeber.
Douthat is of course right that by not making the harder but more farseeing choice, the Republican congressional leadership missed one more chance to begin the process of educating the public about market-oriented health care. It is an irony that the political incentives that made that choice so hard were put in place by the failures of earlier Republican Presidents and congressional leaderships. It is a vicious circle. Or maybe not. Maybe the problem is one of expectations. Maybe it makes no sense to expect the congressional leadership to unite their party around a set of policies the public does not yet understand. Maybe the congressional leadership enters into the picture at some later time, when tens of millions more people have been exposed to the arguments for market-oriented health care and have heard the criticisms of market-oriented health care answered in detail. The first step of getting the public to gain a basic understanding of market-oriented health care is not going to be taken by John Boehner. It will have to be taken, if it is taken at all, by back bench or more junior leadership members of Congress, by governors and presidential candidates, and by all the institutions of the right of center that have an audience. There is no one else.
Although the government pretends otherwise, Social Security and Medicare are, in fact, welfare programs. There is no relation to today's payroll tax payments and tomorrow's benefits. In fact, we simply pay current benefits out of today's taxes.
That gives me an idea. Conservatives sometimes note that roughly 50% of Americans don't pay income tax. The Left replies by pointing to the payroll tax. If we classify it honestly, as a transfer payment, that is correct.
The only way to end the myth that social security and medicare are pensions is to kill the payroll tax. There's nothing left to cut in the income tax for close to a majority of Americans, if memory serves. Including the payroll tax in that calculation would change that. By eliminating the payroll tax, and rolling it all into the income tax we find a way working class Americans and, at the same time, create a more honest and transparent tax policy. That would also set up a major change in federal old age benefits that would help with the long-term deficit. It would make a convenient time to means-test benefits. Why should wealthy people get transfer payments. As a result, we could get a more "progressive" tax system and system of federal hand-outs, and, at the same time, we eliminate the myth that our old age hand-outs are, in any sense, pensions.
Republicans have lately been denouncing mandatory health insurance as an unconstitutional assault on personal freedom. However, in the 1990s many of them were actually touting mandatory private health insurance as a "free-market" alternative to government-run health care, as this article illustrates. Even the Heritage Foundation was pushing it, and this partly explains why Obama publicly opposed it during his presidential campaign. There are, of course, plenty of reasons to object to the recent legislation, but this demonstrates, once again, that the GOP is a weak reed on which to rely on matters of individual liberty.
Yesterday, the Washington Post argued that Congress may regulate health insturance throughout the Union because health care is a "commodity,"
The Supreme Court has given Congress wide but not unfettered latitude in regulating interstate commerce. It barred federal efforts to promulgate laws that ban guns near schools and those addressing violence against women, ruling that these activities have nothing to do with commerce. But health insurance is a commodity, and a consumer who sits on the sidelines has a significant impact on the market.
Strange argument. I thought that the Court ruled that the gun free school zone act was unconstitutional because it did not regulate commerce, not because it was regulating commerce, but, at the same time, that commerce was not interstate. The same is true of the other case. The court was saying that not all activity is commerce, even if it might, in some way, have some consequences for the market.
What's behind the Post's language, I suspect is Wickard v Filburn, a ruiling of the FDR Court which ruled that a farmer growing wheat on his own land for his own use was still engaging in interstate commerce, because his actions had an impact on the market as a whole. What was really going on is that many other farmers were doing the same thing, trying to get around the limits the federal government sought to impose on wheat production. If there was a private use exemption, the regulation would be greatly weakened, therefore, the court argued, the law must allow the U.S. government to limit a farmer's use of his own land for his own purposes.
The trouble with that ruiling is not that it is entirely illogcal. One can make a case that the decision was, indeed, necessary to regulate interstate commerce in the fashion the federal government wanted to. The trouble is that it makes a mockery of the Constitutional text. Regulating the amount of his own, private land that a farmer may use is not a constitutional means of economic regulation. If the Congress has the right to regulate "interstate commerce," and not simply "commerce" throughout the U.S., that necessarily implies that there is such a thing as non-interstate commerce. The Court ruiled that, in effect, there is no such thing. As Thomas Jefferson noted long ago, "It is an established rule of construction where a phrase will bear either of two meanings, to give it that which will allow some meaning to the other parts of the instrument, and not that which would render all the others useless." The Court violated this rule in Wickard, ruiling that, in effect, all commerce is interstate commerce, and thus interpreting an important provision of the Constitution out of existance.
P.S. As Randy Barnett reminds us, in the eyes of the Constitution, "commerce" does note mean "economic activity," even if that's how our ruiling class tends to understand it nowadays.
Update: I wrote the above in a bit of haste as I was rushing off to a meeting. I fear I didn't quite complete my thought. It may be true that one could argue that all farming is, somehow, connected to interstate commerce. That was no less true in 1789 than it is today. The logic of the constitution suggests that simply having an impact, however remote, on the general flow of commerce across statte lines, is not a sufficient condition for concluding that an activity may be regulated as "interstate commerce" in the eyes of the constitution. Beyond that. the language of the constitution is built upon a deepter understanding of the nature and purpose of government, and that deepter understanding is the criterion which we should use to interpret the text.
Supposing, in my old house, for example, I discover the dry-rot beginning in the timbers, or that my foundation is settling a little, or perhaps my neighbor is setting up a business that affects the purity of the air. . . . What am I to do then? Must I be conservative here too? The true conservative policy in such a case is not submission, but reform--something that will restore to me the advantages of my old way of life; something that will prevent me suffering by a most unpleasant change.--Speech of Charles Francis Adams to the Republican National Convention, 1860
1. Patrick Ruffini says alot of the stuff I've been trying to say only better. He is right to mention all the honorable conservative policy analysts who have been trying to develop free market-oriented health care policies. He is also right that the failure of the right to sell the public on those policies (or even make the average citizen aware that such policies exist) gave liberals the initiative, and made it much easier for liberals to pass a government takeover. My one reservation is that a free market-oriented approach that gets traction won't be a "Republican" approach. To the extent that a free market-oriented approach will tend to first appeal to conservative Americans, and to the extent that those Americans are concentrated in the Republican party, free market-oriented health care will tend to win most of its earliest and most fervent converts among Republican voters and leaders. But if supporters of free market-oriented health care start winning the argument (HUGE if), converts from the Democrats will be found for both reasons of principle and calculation. Some of that happened in the debates over tax cuts and welfare reform. Its not for nothing that one of the best recent articles in favor of moving in the direction of free market-oriented health care came from a Democrat writing in a liberal-leaning general interest magazine.
2. Ross Douthat is wasting his sympathy on Stupak, but he otherwise makes some good points. Stupak is a discredit to every category with which he is associated - to include Democrats, politicians and carbon based life forms. But Douthat is right that there is a pro-life constituency out there that is uncomfortable with the liberal position on abortion, but also uncomfortable with much conservative rhetoric they are hearing on economic issues. A well thought out, well articulated, pro-family economic agenda might go a long way to winning over many voters that are not impressed by what they hear at the Tea Parties.
3. John Cornyn demonstrates some of the problems inherent with trying to repeal Obamacare without having a better alternative in sight. There are parts of Obamacare that poll well and some that poll really badly. The problem will be in trying to cherry pick what gets repealed based on what will help Republicans make short term gains in November. The problem is that the popular stuff (like guaranteed issue) and unpopular stuff (like the mandates, tax hikes, and Medicare cuts) tend to go together. As Douthat points out, getting rid of the unpopular stuff that pays for the popular stuff makes Obamacare worse rather than better. The regulations like guaranteed issue would make premiums higher (indeed would make health insurance a joke), and getting rid of the tax increases and Medicare cuts would balloon the deficit by hundreds of billions more dollars. The only responsible way to beat the combination of popular and unpopular elements of our new Obamacare system will be to convince the public that there is a better alternative on offer.
Richard Adams explains why one of the unintended consequences of the recently-passed health care reform is likely to be a rise in medical tourism. Here is one more, courtesy of economist Steven Horwitz:
Requiring that insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions is like asking an auto insurer to cover a car with demonstrably bad brakes. That is, it's not so much insurance as it is an outright subsidy. Larger firms will probably be able to afford this, particularly with the individual mandates, but smaller ones will be pushed to the wall. The result will be an oligopoly. Of course, for most liberals the bill is only supposed to be a way station on the road to a single-payer plan, so they might not see this as a problem.
Men and Women
I think that the initial job of selling conservative approaches to health care will have to be a decentralized approach in which dozens and dozens of center-right elites make it a mission to explain health care to the public on many different platforms over of period of years.
The passion against this intrusion goes beyond the mind-numbing numbers. Health care affects each of us in an intimate and personal way. The American people's engagement is driven by our deep aversion to the federal government's unprecedented reach into our lives. The entire architecture of this overhaul is designed, unapologetically, to give the government greater control over what kind of insurance is available, how much health care is enough and which treatments are worth paying for . . .
. . . The proponents of this legislation reject an opportunity society and instead assume you are stuck in your station in life and the role of government is to help you cope with it. Rather than promote equal opportunities for individuals to make the most of their lives, the cradle-to-grave welfare state seeks to equalize the results of people's lives.
The indefatigable Michael Barone has an excellent piece this morning on federal bond prices over the last few days. In short, U.S. bonds are ascending to higher levels of risk in the eyes of investors. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and Proctor & Gamble are now safer investments. Of course, the increasing expense for the government to borrow, made exponentially worse by Obamacare, raises the next move for Obama. The markets are obviously making decisions that incorporate the future effects of this legislation on U.S. fiscal policy. Thus, the bond markets, not the CBO, accurately reflect the true consequences of the Healthcare reform bill.
We now come to Obama's next move and this is to push for tax increases and some new tax to stabilize this process of escalating borrowing costs for the Treasury. I fear that on a push for a national sales tax or other increases in taxation Obama will be able to paint himself as the responsible one trying to manage government growth and ensure broad equality. Conservatives will have to engage in persuasion, actually making real arguments and not just venting at Obama, across the electorate to stop this eventuality. The case will have to be made along the lines of Ryan's RoadMap, and the notion, classically expressed by Hayek that we must reintroduce the price system and its crucial role in allocating resources and services back into the healthcare market. To do this in a convincing fashion is now the real test.
Every bill has unintended consequences. That does not mean one can't predict what that are likely to be, if one pays attention. People don't like being told what to do, and will, if possible try to find ways to avoid laws.
In the case of the increasing concentration of health care regulation and payment by the federal government, the predictable consequences is the likely increase of medical tourism. The more the U.S. market is squeezed, the more incentive there will be for quality doctors to offer their services abroad, and let Americans who can pay come to them. One interesting, and related, question, is whether U.S.insurance would cover the costs. On one hand, it would probably be less expensive for each procedure. On the other hand, part of the reason why that would be the case is that doctors would be less well regulated.
On the other side, would a U.S. citizen be allowed to buy a basic, high-deductable, catastrophic-care policy from a foreign company? Would that qualify as meeting the insurance mandate, assuming the Courts don't have the guts to strike it down.
It is difficult to imagine the Ninth Circuit as any more radically liberal than it already is. Despite a few stellar judges, the Court is full of liberal activists who have earned it the reputation of having the highest Supreme Court reversal rate of any court in the nation. But, with his latest judicial nominee, President Obama just may do what seemed impossible.
There are many red flags in the judicial record of Ninth Circuit nominee Goodwin Liu, who is Associate Dean at the University of California Berkeley Law School.
Judicial Philosophy: Though Liu has stressed "constitutional fidelity" in several articles, he has also stated that he "envisions the judiciary...as a culturally situated interpreter of social meaning." While this statement makes it ever so clear that Liu is an academic, it also makes clear that he does not understand the judiciary's role. Judges are not interpreters of "social meaning." They are interpreters of the Constitution and laws. Regrettably, it is just this sort of loose theory that allows judges to ignore the plain and ordinary meaning of the Constitution and statutes, and to instead replace it with what they personally think is best based upon their subjective interpretation of "social meaning."
Constitutional Welfare Rights: Liu has a strong penchant for redistribution, and it is clear that he believes judges should play a role in it. In an article titled, "Rethinking Constitutional Welfare Rights," he lays out his vision for the creation of a constitutional right to welfare. He desires a "reinvigorated public dialogue" about "our commitments to mutual aid and distributive justice across a broad range of social goods." Once this dialogue takes place among policymakers, Liu wants the courts to recognize "a fundamental right to education or housing or medical care...as an interpretation and consolidation of the values we have gradually internalized as a society."
In another article, he stated that "negative rights against government oppression" and "positive rights to government assistance" have "equal constitutional status" because "both are essential to liberty."
Unfortunately for Liu, our Constitution's Framers disagree. They recognized that these two concepts are indeed mutually exclusive: if we allow the government to "assist us" by giving it a redistributive power over our personal property and the power to control health care, education, etc., individual liberty will necessarily erode. Indeed the Framers sought to prevent such redistribution by limiting government's power and providing what Liu considers as "negative" property rights. These protections have already been eroded by activist judges, and it is clear that Liu would like to erode those protections still further.
Radical on Death Penalty: Liu has been outspoken in his opposition to the death penalty. Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has stated that, "To anyone familiar with the death penalty debate, it is painfully evident that Professor Liu takes the murderers' side on every debatable point. If confirmed, there is no doubt in my mind that he will be a vote to obstruct the enforcement of capital punishment in virtually every case."
Reasonable people can disagree on death penalty policy, but it is not up to judges to determine that policy or undermine it through judicial obstruction. The American people decide through the democratic process whether their respective states will utilize the death penalty. The judge's role in capital habeas corpus cases in the federal court of appeals system is predominantly to assure that grave errors were not made in the process--the questions of guilt or innocence and sentencing are reserved first and foremost for juries and are decided by multiple state and federal appeals before a federal appeals court judge takes a first look at the case. But too many activist federal court of appeals judges treat death penalty cases like they are hearing them de novo--like it is their job to put themselves in the place of the jury, so that they can impose their own preferences, rather than simply review for actual legal errors. Given Mr. Scheidegger's warning, there is little doubt that Liu would be just this sort of judge.
Racial Preferences and School Choice: Ed Whelan has pointed out that, in an article titled "School Choice to Achieve Desegregation," Liu never embraces or even states his agreement with the Supreme Court's 2002 ruling in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris that school-choice programs that include religious schools are constitutional. However, Liu is willing to embrace school choice if it is directed to the illegal end of ensuring racial quotas in schools. For example, Liu advocates "a funding set-aside in federal and state charter programs to create and reward charter schools that reflect the racial and socioeconomic diversity of the metropolitan area...where they are located." These set aside programs should "use the racial composition of the broader metropolitan area as the reference point for measuring and rewarding diversity."
Liu's other writings also make clear that he would impose racial preferences directly if he could.
Lacking Experience: Ed Whelan and The Washington Times have noted that Liu does not even meet the standard for federal judgeships outlined by the American Bar Association, which includes substantial courtroom and trial experience and at least 12 years practicing law. Thirty-nine year old Liu has no experience as a trial lawyer and has not even been out of law school for twelve years. (The fact that the ABA nonetheless rated him "well-qualified" suggests that their ratings are perhaps based on something other than qualification.)
Many pundits are speculating that the Ninth Circuit may be Liu's stepping stone to the Supreme Court. If this is the case, he could potentially be one of the most activist justices the High Court has seen yet. Even the Washington Post admits that Obama's other federal nominees have been "more moderate" than Liu.
Liu's confirmation hearing before the Senate is tomorrow.
Cross-posted on the Foundry.
For reasons ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous the conservative movement must focus on the politics of repeal. Failure to make this argument because of the difficulty and challenges involved in achieving repeal of Obamacare are I believe beside the point. Many conservative intellectuals will point to the difficulty of rolling back elements of the democratic welfare state. While the facts of this particular argument are hard to ignore, there are crucial moments will retrenchment, if not repeal, of welfare state programs are eminently possible. I believe we are in such a moment. Reuven Brenner of McGill Business School has written on these possiblities in the course of his broader reflections on democratic finance and its ability to level government spending and power. In short, voters will turn on profligate government spending when they clearly understand that the funding model for these policies is no longer juiced. This requires information and awareness that an entire political-fiscal-social model is no longer viable. To refuse to act is to accept death. We seem obviously to be at the end of a fiscal model that has powered government spending and its entitlement programs for decades. Moreover, the voters are aware of this fact. Assuming the accuracy of Brenner's reflections, and solid precedent is available, even in our own country, then repeal is not just a strategic political calculation to energize activists and focus the tea party movement, but is something doable that will stabilize our country. If not, then conservatism in America will again find itself playing on terms set by the Progressives. We can look forward to another generation of arguments where we eventually do nothing but urge adjustment and try to retard rapid fiscal growth.
David Frum is very wrong in his argument that Republicans should have tried to compromise with the Senate health care bill as the basis for some right of center tweaks. The problem was that a national version of state-mandated comprehensive health care prepayment really is a move in the wrong direction whether it is financed by taxes on income, investments, energy (seemingly Frum's preferred method) or high-end health insurance policies. And Obama wasn't going to go for a real left/right compromise (one that might have included direct subsidies for health insurance with opening up the market for HSAs and high deductible policies). Obama wanted a reform that would be transformative from the left. His first preference was for a straight single payer system. His second choice was for a public option that would get us to single payer on the installment plan. His third choice was the corporatist arrangement we just got. This was the leftmost bill he could get past his swollen congressional supermajorities. It was never about the Republicans (though it would have been nice if they would have signed up for some bipartisan cover). It was about what "moderate" [spitting sound] Democrats could be bribed and browbeaten into accepting.
I think that the strategic error made by conservatives and Republicans was more subtle and older. I think that if conservatives and Republicans had done a better job (and worked alot harder) at explaining right-leaning ideas about health care policies, the Democrats would not have been able to seize the initiative in quite this way even if with their supermajorities. There is a reason why Obama and Pelosi aren't trying to return to the pre-Reagan marginal tax rates or launch a principled frontal attack on 1996's welfare reform or try to ban a bunch of rifles. Conservative victories in the realm of public opinion placed limits on what a liberal President and liberal congressional leadership are willing to do. The conservative error was in things that were unsaid and undone since the failure of Clintoncare. So much time time wasted on arguments about my tax cut is better than your tax cut, compassionate conservatism, John Kerry looking French, and elitists picking on Sarah Palin because she grew up in a small town and didn't go to an Ivy League school. Now, when conservatives try to explain the Ryan Plan or the Goldhill strategy of the incremental Levin-Capretta strategy, they start at square zero with the average American,
One Democratic talking point about the health care bill is that it is not a national takeover because citizens will still be purchasing insurance from private corporations, rather than simply going to a government paid doctor. At some point in time, however, an industry grows so heavily regulated that the businesses are no longer truly private enterprises. Perhaps utilities fit this bill. Hence we should ask whether, after these new regulations become law, insurance companies are still truly private corporations.
I am reminded of a bit of wisdom, or something like it, from the editors of the Legal Papers of John Adams: "It was common 18th-century practice to divide the proceeds of such suits, a third each to Governor, informer, and Crown. In many situations, fees and forfeitures were used to encourage an element of private enterprise which helped to keep salaries low and place the cost of government on those who invoked its powers." To call the work by government officials, backed by the powers and instruments of law "private enterprise" because they could exercise individual initiative, is a perversion of language. The same might be true of health care in the U.S.
National Review has a symposium on what to do in the wake of Obamacare. I mostly agree with Tevi Troy's idea that Republicans should push for particular changes to the health care bill in the direction of tort reform and the liberalization of the health care market to allow the offering of low cost high deductible policies and connecting those policies to a relentless political operation that tries to sell the benefits of those policies to the public. The changes won't happen in 2011, and they might not happen in 2013 or 2015, but if the public can be won over to such policies, the chances of moving away from Obamacare increase a lot.
The first instinct among many conservatives is to argue for a simple repeal of Obamacare. That is what most conservatives want - even more than any particular reform. Repeal also has the seeming advantage of uniting conservatives with nonconservatives who were happy (or at least not too unhappy) with the pre-Obamacare status quo. The problem is that this alliance of conservatives and cautious nonconservatives will weaken with time if it is based on mere opposition to Obamacare. No matter what happens in November, Obamacare will not be repealed for as long as Obama is President. The veto pen will see to that. The cautious nonconservatives will, over the next few years, get used to the new status quo. Most Americans are happy with the quality of their medical care and that quality will not be change much or at all in the next few years. Fears of government rationing are well founded, but it will take years and years of overpricing and overuse to get there. Many of the cautious nonconservatives will become invested in the new system, and only a well argued positive alternative will get them to to take the risks of major change. And soon enough, changing back o the pre-Obamacare status quo will be just as big a change as moving forward to a more free market-oriented alternative.
My great worry is that conservative passion about the health care and the public's attention to what conservatives have to say will be wasted in an unproductive cause that lets conservatives vent their spleen in the short term but leaves them with no real political or policy gains. I look at the Sotomayor confirmation hearings. Conservatives could have used them to highlight widely shared concerns about judicial liberalism related to issues like the Second Amendment, partial birth abortion, and the death penalty. Sotomayor might have dodged, but the public would have heard conservatives on those issues and every time Sotomayor voted with the Supreme Court liberals on those kinds of issues, conservatives would have been in a stronger position to tie Obama and the Democrats in general to her positions. Conservative instead wasted too much time and energy on the "wise Latina" crack. It just felt too good to tweak liberals that one of their own had made such a slip, even though that attack didn't go anywhere (it was never going to sink her nomination and it is doubtful she will be some kind of racist Latino supremacist from the bench) and might have alienated some Latino voters.
I suggest that the best course for conservatives (and that includes the Republican leadership, prospective 2012 Republican nominees, and the right of center pundit and popularizer community) is to start making the long term investment of explaining to the public the benefits of various conservative health care reforms. Paul Ryan, the think tankers, and the people at National Affairs can't do it all by themselves.
Over the weekend, I was on the exercise bike reading the March Madness issue of Sports Illustrated when I was surprised by a full page ad placed by the U.S. Census Bureau. Written in an average Joe script, it said: "If we don't know how big our community is, how do we know how big our hospitals need to be?" Coming on the weekend ObamaCare passed, this ad almost perfectly expresses the "administrative despotism" that Tocqueville warned against. First of all, it is so reasonable and caring, who could be against it? I was enjoying the lowly pleasures of college basketball, but even I can agree with my neighbor, Mr. Census Bureau, that "we" should have hospitals big enough to serve "our" community.
On the other hand, the ad implies that a national census is the only or best way to determine how big any community is. It also suggests that the size of one's community is the sole or main consideration in determining the size of hospitals. Sure, the Census Bureau could add other considerations to the mix, but the point is that central planning inevitably simplifies and standardizes. And that - central planning - is the ad's most important premise: one arm of the Federal bureaucracy will supply the information that another arm of that bureaucracy needs to deliver services. The ad implies (at least to someone in small town Ohio) that decisions about the size of hospitals should be made by some distant experts, or at least with their information and under their guidance. And that mix of compassionate and gentle though irresistible suasion from outside is the problem. The more the decisions that affect our lives are made by others, Tocqueville argued, the less opportunity each citizen has to use and develop his or her own faculties and the less attached that citizen will be to his or her own community. The immediate danger is not tyranny, but that in turning over more and more decisions to the government shepherd, we become less and less like self-governing citizens and more and more sheep-like.
We're sure to hear a lot of oratory in the coming days about yesterday's great legislative accomplishment. The administration will be thanked for its relentless pressure on wavering Democrats, as will Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants. And we'll certainly hear a great deal of praise for Bart Stupak for the outrageously low price he set for his alleged pro-life principles. But there are others who will no doubt be left out of the speeches, even though they deserve the thanks of the Democrats:
1) The Republican leadership in 2003, for meritorious service in forcing through a massively expensive prescription drug benefit for senior citizens, using every legislative trick in the book to overcome bipartisan opposition. This undoubtedly made GOP criticism of the current bill--on grounds of expense, as well the Democrats' tactics--seem partisan and hypocritical.
2) Anthem Blue Cross of California, for its invaluable assistance in making the Democrats' case for them by suddenly announcing in February that it was jacking up its premiums by a whopping 39 percent. From the White House's perspective, the timing of the rate hike couldn't have been more perfect, as the Senate bill looked to be in serious jeopardy.
3) Finally, special recognition must go to the unnamed yahoos in the crowd of protestors outside the Capitol Saturday who thought it was a good idea to hurl racial epithets at members of the Congressional Black Caucus. What better time to resuscitate the old chestnut that opposition to Democrat policies equals racism? How con-VEEEN-ient, one might say....
The Dems get rid of their "pro-lifers," who will be wiped out in 2010. Republicans get to run against "deem and pass" Dems for a good decade or so, at least, if they understand how to teach constitutional government and the rule of law. Impeach Obama for signing an executive order he knows is unconstitutional? What about Bush signing McCain-Feingold into law, while saying he believed it unconstitutional? Republicans need to convince themselves about the Constitution before they can preach it to others.
Of course now GOP can demagogue about how every medical tragedy and disparity in treatment results from Obamacare, just as the Dems did with insurance companies.
See Paul Ryan for a higher road.
So the House vote is going pretty much as I figured. The moderates are folding to their party leadership. But I didn't think that Stupak would sell himself so cheap. Just goes to show that when it comes to our current politics, you can't be too cynical about or contemptuous of those politicians who get the label of"moderate" (or even worse, pro-life Democrat).
And the problem of good intentions. From a review of a new biography of Louis Brandeis. In the Lochner decision:
As Justice Rufus Peckham wrote for the majority, while New York certainly possessed the power to enact health and safety regulations (as all good progressives wanted), the maximum hours provision of the Bakeshop Act "is not, within any fair meaning of the term, a health law." Not only was the baking trade "not dangerous in any degree to morals, or in any real and substantial degree to the health of the employee," but the limit on working hours involved "neither the safety, the morals, nor the welfare, of the public."
So what was the purpose of the law? As George Mason University legal historian David Bernstein has shown, the origins of the Bakeshop Act lie in an economic conflict between unionized New York bakers, who labored in large shops and lobbied for the law, and their nonunionized, mostly immigrant competitors, who tended to work longer hours in small, old-fashioned bakeries. As Bernstein observed, "a ten-hour day law would not only aid those unionized workers who had not successfully demanded that their hours be reduced, but would also help reduce competition from nonunionized workers." So Lochner not only protected a fundamental economic right, it thwarted an act of economic protectionism as well.
Something similar happened in Adkins v. Children's Hospital, where the Court struck down the District of Columbia's minimum wage law for women as a violation of liberty of contract. This was the case where Urofsky claimed Sutherland exhibited "a complete disregard for the real world." Well, here are some facts about that world. One of the figures in the case was an elevator operator named Willie Lyons, who had earned $35 per month from the Congress Hotel. Under the new minimum wage law, the hotel would have had to pay her $71.50 per month. So they fired Lyons and replaced her with a man willing to work at her old wage. That's why she sued. As the legal scholar Hadley Arkes memorably put it, "the law, in its liberal tenderness, in its concern to protect women, had brought about a situation in which women were being replaced, in their jobs, by men."
Today's speech from the President:
The president cited Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Edward Kennedy as forebears who paved the way for the historic moment that could be just around the corner: passage of the biggest health care measure since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.
Teddy Roosevelt lived not long after Bismark invented the welfare state. What's President Obama's excuse for having the same program a century later?
I think Richard Adams makes a good point that a system that centralizes health care spending decisions across the age spectrum will over the long run tend to shift health care resources away from the old and very sick to other groups that might get more "quality of life benefit" as determined by somebody else. I think that concern is valid, but I come at it from another direction. Under any likely (or even very unlikely but possible) health care policy scenario, the government will still be paying for a large portion of end of life care. Medicare might be restructured any number of ways (including vouchers), but most old people will still be depending on government dollars for their health care. The key is balancing government's spending obligations, and changing the health care market so that the government can give the elderly access to high quality care without crushing the economy.
My favored approach is to try to bring down the cost of health care in general by forcing providers to compete for the health care dollars of consumers. Various versions of this approach have been described by David Goldhill, Walter Russell Mead and Paul Ryan. Health care providers would have to find ways to provide their services more cheaply than their competitors, which if the experiences of any other industry is a guide, will lead to business model improvement that will allow them to provide a higher volume of services at a lower cost per service. Mead's description of the walk-in Walmart clinic where the medical personnel will have instant access to your electronic medical records and a constantly updated database of best practices is just one possible example. Maybe we will see a partial return to older ways of doing things. Maybe semiretired doctors will hang a shingle outside their door to see people for routine ailments. The traffic might be low, but hey, they are at home watching tv anyway. A system in which people spend their own money for routine care (in return for higher wages and a tax credit) could make this a viable model. He could charge less (maybe twenty five bucks for a fifteen minute visit about something like a cold or ear infection) and since the transacton would be in cash, he would have little administrative overhead. As a (very large) participant in this market-oriented system, the government would be able to buy more health care for its elderly dependents at a lower cost and make continuing their care much less of a burden
Obamacare moves in the opposite direction. It cuts medicare while adding a new middle-class entitlement. It virtually outlaws HSAs and turns health care into government mandated and partially government subsidized comprehensive health care prepayment. Since government will force people into a system of health care prepayment (people will have to pay for their health care whether they need, want, or even use the services) there will be no incentive for consumers to shop and therefor no consumer pressure on providers to control costs. The result will be both artificially high prices and overuse of services. At some point the government will run out of money to pay for it all. That doesn't mean that cost won't be contained, just that it will be contained in a brutal and stupid way. Rather than improve productivity, the government will then ration the artificial scarcity that government policy created by denying services. Whether the denial is done by career bureaucrats or elected officials, the process will be opaque so as to deflect blame from those who are being denied care (in every sense of the word). There is a certain sensibility that argues this is the way to go. One might argue that centralized "expert" direction of medical resources will lead to more efficient and fair distribution than expanding the confusing, wasteful market. The distribution of medical resources from the soon to die (well relatively soon) also has its defenders. In one unguarded moment, Obama was one of them.
Much of the dicussion of rationing health care has focused on end of life issues. We currently spend a good chunk of health spending in the last few months of life. Hence, the argument goes, we are being unreasonable, making heroic efforts to save and prolong life, when they, as a rule, have little prospect of doing much good, particularly in comparison with what the same money could do elsewhere. Perhaps we might also look at beginning of life issues. If we have bureaucrats deciding how to allocate money, might they decide that fertility treatments for women over 40 or so simply are not a good use of scarce resources? Such treatments are not inexpensive, and as women age, the odds of having babies that cost more to raise than the average baby rises. (I also fear that there would be subtle, and perhaps not so subtle, pressure to abort children who are likely to have problems.) Rationing such treatment would be a tragic cost of the centralization of health care. If this bill passes, I hope that such choices are not taken away from us.
If it is constitutional, or perhaps I should say if no one with sufficient authority is willing to say that it is not constitutional to "deem" a bill to have passed without actually voting on it, it ought not to be. Hence I propose an amendment, to be added to Article I saying roughly: "No bill shall become law unless the exact same has been passed independently by each house of Congress and then signed by the President, or, failing his signature, being subsequently approved by 2/3 of each house."
Whoever introduced it could say, "it is unfortunate that the Democrats have resorted to Parliamentary casuistry to pass a bill without really passing it. That should never happen again. This amendment is designed to do that," or words to that effect.
It's still only 90 miles from Key West, and it's still a murderous dictatorship--although, as Henry Gomez writes, it never generated the sort of fury from the American left as did, say, South Africa in the 1980s. In fact, Michael Moore suggested that Cuba's health care system might be a model for the United States. Today Dr. Darsi Ferrer languishes in a Cuban prison for revealing that Moore was merely serving as a mouthpiece for Castro's propaganda.
Gomez would like us to remember that today--March 18--marks the seventh anniversary of "Black Spring," when Castro's goons rounded up 75 critics of the regime. Most of them are still locked up, but one of them, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died in prison on February 23.
But it is what I think,
1. The Senate version of Obamacare will pass in the House. The vast majority of undecided House Dems are either holding out for the best offer or hoping this is all just a bad dream. But at the end of the day, they will do as they are told. I don't know if it will be by "deem and pass" or by an up or down vote.
2. Obamacare will have become law without any overt changes to the filibuster rule.
3. I think that in the short term, conservatives will try (and I believe with all sincerity) to make the most of Democratic manipulation of procedural rules and their stated willingness to manipulate those rules even further. I think that the long term consequence will be a weakening of respect for procedural norms on the right. Respect for rules like the filibuster are dependent on the belief that those rules will be respected by the other party when they are in power. The majority gives up some power in the present in return for not being shut out when they are in the minority. The willingness of Democrats to use the reconciliation process to pass Obamacare is a clear signal to Republicans that respecting the filibuster in the present will not, on the most important issues (where filibusters are most important as a moderating device), preserve the filibuster when the Democrats take over again . So when Republicans are in such a position that only the filibuster stands in the way of achieving some major goal, the Republicans will gut the filibuster. I imagine that there will be a few liberals who cheer the loss of the filibuster as an advance in small-d democracy, but I don't think they will be very many.
The often astute Jeff Rosen eggs on Obama's confrontation with the Supreme Court, outlining a Court-bashing strategy Obama can use to his advantage. (Given Axelrod's interest in Lincoln's political savvy, I'm sure something similar has occurred to him and has put it in play.) The trouble is, Obama's manner of unleashing his attack, at the SOTU, made him look like a schoolyard bully, not a TR with the bully pulpit.
If the Dems use the Slaughter House Rules to get Obamacare through, this Court-confronting strategy might help delegitimize an opinion declaring the desperate tactic unconstitutional. Hence the short as well as long-term importance of the current wave of Mrs. Clarence (Virginia) Thomas-bashing. But the left needs to silence more than her for the proposed Rosen strategy to work.
UPDATE: See Matt Franck's demolition of Rosen.
So Yglesias is now shilling his "You might lose your House seat but make history" line over at the Daily Beast. But how will those Democrats who waited until the last moment to collect the final payoff or who broke under pressure from their party (or both), before they voted yes on Obamacare be remembered even by sympathetic historians? How do we remember Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky? She was the House Democrat who buckled to the House Democratic leadership at the last moment and voted for Clinton's tax increase in return for a promise that Clinton would go to her district for a pr show. She lost her House seat, but I don't think that historians who stoop to notice her will see real heroism.
My impression is that she is remembered as a case study of how congressional leadership can intimidate and bribe weak-willed caucus members into politically suicidal acts. So perhaps the wavering House Democrats face a more complicated choice than they might assume. If they switch at the last moment, putting aside their principles (if they have any) and the will of their constituencies, they might well get a place in history. But it might not be the place in history that Yglesias is offering. They might instead, get the place in history that they deserve.
With Obama's latest feint toward moderation, his reform of No Child Left Behind, consider Kevin Kosar's brief critique. Here's his assessment of political science's contribution to political understanding.
See the sidebar links for book reviews, commentary, and lengthier studies on education, including his book. Besides being an authority on federal higher education policy, Kevin also manages a website devoted to the model of all social science scholars Edward Banfield and another called AlcoholReviews. He is the late professor's grandson-in-law--a fact evidenced by the closing line in the NCLB article "So call me grumpy, but I think much work remains to be done, and I won't be surprised if we end up sorely disappointed again."
If I had to bet, I think that the Democrats will find enough votes in the House of Representatives to pass the Senate version of Obamacare. I suspect that status rewards will play a role in the switches. I was thinking presidential appointments, academic sinecures, and awards ceremonies. Matthew Yglesias suggests another status reward. House members who vote no and lose reelection as a result will be remembered as Heroes of the Revolution and lauded by liberal historians in 2060.
So lets break this down. Why might these no votes be inclined to vote against Obamacare? I can think of two major reasons. First, because they might object to Obamacare on the merits of the policy. Second, because they respect (or fear) the perceived wishes of their constituents who oppose Obamacare. How many members of the House of Representatives would be willing to put aside their substantive objections and/or the will of their constituents not for rewards in this world, but in the hopes of gaining a posthumous favorable mention from some liberal-leaning historian? My first guess is too many.
This morning Bloomberg is reporting that the United States, along with Great Britain, is in danger of losing its AAA credit rating. In addition, Social Security has announced that it has begun cashing in its Treasury bonds to make up the difference between what the SSA has been collecting in taxes and what it's been paying out in benefits.
I know what you're thinking--what a perfect time for Uncle Sam to take on a massive new entitlement program!
Men and Women
At the Happy Mean, Priscilla reflects on the right of gun ownership in the Third/Fourth world and its meaning for women. "'Tapestries are lovely, and we all want one, but [Afghan Colonel Shafiqa] Quraishi prefers that women have guns. Her immediate goal is to expand the number of women in the police force to 5,000.'" Priscilla agrees with Mary Eberstadt that women should not serve in wars--but a policing situation is different.
So I bought Romney's new book . I figure that If I'm going to oppose him, I ought to be up to date on my reasons. I think that the combination of mandates and subsidies in Romneycare was an idea worth trying. It must have seemed like a good way to increase coverage and reduce consumer health care costs while preserving a private health insurance market. It hasn't worked out as well in practice. The combination madates and subsidies has created a perverse political incentive within the Massachusetts health care market. Providers can expand their customer base by lobbying the legislature to mandate coverage for more services rather than try to compete for customers based on price. The cost of these mandates are hidden from consumers because it ends up as higher-than-the-national-average premium increases and ends up getting blamed on the mean old insurance companies. To the extent that our current health care system is unsustainable, a national version of Romneycare would make it more unsustainable.
The health insurance system under a Romneycare arrangement becomes an ever more rigid and government regulated form of comprehensive medical care prepayment in which the costs are hidden from the consumer and the benefits go to organized interests. Any attempt to reopen the market by reducing the mandate burden is easily spun as benefiting the same insurance companies that are currently overcharging you. And there is of course no guarantee that lifitng the coverage mandates will lead to lower premiums. For all you know, your employer might switch to a policy with less coverage but no less cost. The risks of change are obvious, the benefits of change speculative, the costs of stasis hidden.
In his book, Romney wrote that he was surprised that "every [italics in original] interest group in the state supported" Romneycare. As well they might have. Everybody gets a cut. Even the insurance companies have their customer base guaranteed by the individual mandate and the coverage mandates shield them from aggressive competition. The politicians even get to posture against the premium increases (and maybe win back some small, certain to be temporary reductions) even as the system they constructed and administer guarantees endless future premium increases. Perversity piles upon perversity.
It might be possible to construct a mandate and subsidy system that works better but it would have to be totally different from Romneycare. It would mean giving consumers more control of their health care dollars (through a combination of HSA's and catastrophic coverage) and forcing providers to compete based on a transparent price system. It would mean creating a mandate and subsidy system that fostered a competitive rather than corporatist health care market. Mitch Daniels in Indiana has shown how such a program can bring down costs even without mandates.
I had been skeptical for some time regarding the claims being made against Toyota in recent months. Now that Washington and the UAW essentially own General Motors, the ferocity of the government's assault on one of GM's leading nonunion competitors seemed strangely suspicious. It appears that there were acceleration problems with the Prius that the company is now trying to fix. However, the story isn't being allowed to die so quickly, and the media has been all over an alleged incident involving one James Sikes. Michael Fumento has reason to believe that Sikes is lying. For one thing, there are some significant holes in his story. At one point Sikes claimed that he was afraid to try putting the car into neutral or hitting the ignition button--even when the 911 dispatcher pleaded him to do so--explaining that he was too frightened to let go of the steering wheel. But apparently he wasn't afraid to reach down and try to pull up the accelerator with his hand (which, he claims, didn't work).
But what would be his motive to lie? Well, this site reveals that Sikes is over $700,000 in debt, and among his creditors is Toyota. He also has a history of filing false insurance claims. These are tidbits that have yet to come up in the network coverage of the case. Let's hope that they do soon.
David Brooks insists that Barack Obama, despite his misreading of public opinion, "is still the most realistic and reasonable major player in Washington." (Look at the abuse leftist commenters heap on him, as your conservatism dismisses this as liberal madness.) "In a sensible country, people would see Obama as a president trying to define a modern brand of moderate progressivism." Bring me smarter citizens--the cry of savants throughout the ages! In truth, Brooks has a point about Obama's Middle East policy and maybe on another issue or two. But what is at the man's core, what he does he ultimately want to achieve? Brooks is at odds with, among others', Charles Kesler's reading of Obama, which finds far more ambition (and political extremism) in him than in Clinton or other liberals.
Michael Gerson is even more problematic in his reasoning, making extraordinary parallels based on the relative successes of the gay rights and the pro-life movements:
But so far the gay rights movement has succeeded for many of the same reasons that the pro-life movement (to a lesser extent) has succeeded. Both have taken sometimes abstract, theoretical arguments and humanized them. Both have moved away from extreme-sounding moralism (or anti-moralism) and placed their cause in the context of civil rights progress. Whatever your view on the application of these arguments, this is the way social movements advance in America.
Yes, the way social movements advance is often through spurious comparisons, repeated by authorities. Moreover, the civil rights movement morphed into racial/ethnic preference pleading that is a key part of expanding the administrative state. It is the civil rights movement based on the Declaration that must move Gerson, but he has a strange view of it, if he wants to apply it to both pro-life and gay rights.
Both Brooks and Gerson seem to lack any objective standards by which to assess whether a policy is moral or immoral, just or unjust. Brooks endorsed a form of gay marriage; is Gerson far behind?
But as much as some conservatives fail us we should ourselves of how bad liberal establishment journalism was and remains. See the anti-Fox rant of Howell Raines, former NY Times editor, in tomorrow's WaPo.
Wouldn't it be a fine thing to have another president whose first serious taste of failure didn't come in the Oval Office? We don't need presidents with exclusive academic credentials. We need presidents who know what it's like to work for a living. We need presidents who understand average Americans. We need presidents for whom the White House isn't just the ultimate résumé entry.
Our brilliant commenter Carl Scott (who should be hired for some full time pundit gig at a major newspaper or magazine) rightly pointed out in one of the threads that if Obamacare passes, "Repeal It" will be the phrase of the day, month and maybe years on the right. This sentiment might help drive turnout among right-leaning people who consume conservative media, and it might help win some close House and Senate seats. But I think that "Repeal It" sentiment will prove to be a wasting asset if it is not supplemented with an-almost-as-great focus on alternative conservative policies. People are risk averse on health care. That is one of the great advantages that conservatives have enjoyed in the argument over Obamacare.
The problem is that the moment Obamacare passes, that advantage begins to flip in favor of Obamacare. Repealing guaranteed issue might seem like a net loss. Some of the medicare cuts can be repealed. Whats an extra couple of hundred billion between friends? We'll take care of it with an... uh freeze...starting in a couple of years. If premiums rise faster than expected, the blame can be shfted to the mean old insurace companies. Not only are they raising your premiums, if we repeal Obamacare, they will take away your insurance. There will be no alternative to patiently explaining the policy problems of Obamacare and pitching the message to the median (and even Democrat-leaning but persuadable) voter rather than commited and inflamed conservatives. The problem is that it will be tough to sell them on the benefits pre-Obamacare status quo, not because Obamacare will be good, but because, in the short and medium term, the practical difference between Obamacare and pre-Obamacare will be so small. One would give up security and get in return the pre-Obamacare rate of increase in premiums. But that rate was already too high, so it might not seem like such a big benefit. I can see Obamacare being replaced by a conservative policy alternative that promised lower cost and equal or better quality, but I can't see it simply repealed.
Replacing Obamacare with a free market-oriented alternative will involve huge expenditures of time and energy in explaining the policies and benefits to the public and defending them from what are sure to be furious and well funded liberal attacks. Conservatives are already years behind in the task of selling the public on free market-oriented alternatives to the status quo. In the wake of Hillarycare's defeat, the dominant consevative message on health care was 1) greatest health cares system in the world 2) no socialized medicine 3) something about tort reform. McCain had a health reform plan he could not bother to defend from Obama's attacks. Perhaps he thought responding would take attention away from more important issues like earmarks and whether Obama had compared Sarah Palin to a pig. Both of these approaches probably seemed like the easy way at the time. Explaining how a combination of HSA's and catastrophic coverage (or moving to a system of individually bought insurance through tax code changes) will help bring down costs without hurting the availability of crucial services is tough. Explaining the policies to help people with preexisting conditions during the transition to such a system will be painstaking because people will be scared, the ideas will be new to them, and the Democrats will be trying to terrify them. If conservatives have a rhetoric for explaining these approaches to people who aren't CSPAN junkies, I haven't heard it.
Focusing on "Repeal It" will likewise seem easy. Right-leaning America will have those words on their lips (and as Carl said, bumber stickers too). It won't mean having to do the hard jobs of settling on alternative reform policies, developing ways of explaining them and having the sheer energy and persistence it will take to defend them in the face of what are sure to be relentless attacks. But avoiding the hard jobs is one of the reasons why we are on the edge of state-run health care.
"President Obama took office hoping that constructive diplomacy [read: elegant talking - JP] could yield progress on some of the thorniest foreign-policy challenges facing the United States. Among these was Burma...." Thus begins today's WaPo story, which quickly continues as everyone of reasonable clarity always expected. "This week the regime delivered its answer: Get lost."
Everyone in the world is aware that Burma's ruling junta is guilty of a longstanding "pattern of gross and systematic violation of human rights." In 2007, I wrote of the massacre of peaceful, pro-democracy monks and the international community's failure to respond. Burma's junta has now excluded the only opposition party in its sham democracy from participating in anticipated elections.
WaPo concludes: "Mr. Obama was right to offer, cautiously, an open hand. It has been spat upon. Now is the time for something new." The first sentiment is naive, the second foreseeable and the third long overdue. When the WaPo is calling for a - shall we call it, "smarter" - strategy, one must wonder how long it will take for Obama to (even quietly) concede that the world is a harder place than he imagined - and not just because mean, Western conservatives aren't listening hard enough to everyone else.
The Reason Foundation's Shikha Dalmia tells us why the administration finds itself in the mess it's in over health care, and why, even if the current abomination passes, things are likely only going to get worse for the Democrats. The problem, of course, is that the public simply doesn't want what they're selling:
The combined unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Social Security--the federal health care and the pension programs for the elderly--are $107 trillion, seven times the current GDP. Meanwhile, Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program, is consuming on average 21% of state budgets, their single biggest ticket item even before ObamaCare dumps another 16 million people into the program, expanding the Medicaid population by 25%. Beyond that, state and local government have promised their employees a trillion dollars more in pension and other benefits than they have funds to deliver.
There are not enough taxpayers in the country or creditors in China capable of financing all these promises. Expanding this massive, multifarious entitlement state even more strikes most normal people as sheer lunacy--especially now that it is visibly coming apart at the seams.
Nevertheless, Obama's own character makes it impossible for him to step back from the precipice:
His goal is not to remake his party as it could be but "remake this world as it should be." In his book Dreams From My Father Obama gives the distinct impression that his gifts are too great for the smallness of our political stage. He regrets not having been born during the civil rights era when the grandness of the cause would have measured up to the grandness of his ambition. He is in search of something big that will allow him to make his mark on the world as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King did. Hence, the defeat of ObamaCare would not just be par for the course in the rough-and-tumble world of politics for him. It would be sign of his ordinariness, his mortality, and that, to him, is unendurable.
ABC is reporting the role of "'Net Vigilantes" in leading authorities to the Pennsylvania woman who called herself "Jihad Jane." Apparently there's a network of internet users who've been following YouTube, various blogs, and other websites where individuals have been making violent Islamist tirades. They then make their findings public on sites such as The Jawa Report and YouTube Smackdown. They've apparently had considerable success in getting YouTube to pull the most offensive videos (some 31,000 since 2007), and in persuading web hosting companies to shut down the nastiest sites. They use pseudonyms, and with good reason, given that they themselves could find themselves the targets of Islamist violence; the person who runs The Jawa Report goes by Rusty Shackelford. (Bonus points if you recall that name as the pseudonym used by Dale in King of the Hill.)
For years, it turned out, Colleen LaRose (who frequently posted as "Jihad Jane" and "Fatima LaRose" had been putting out videos praising terrorists and expressing violent hatred of the United States. One of the "'Net Vigilantes" in particular began following her tirades closely, picking up bits of information that LaRose provided. She was, this individual writes, "the perfect recruit for extremist; lonely, isolated, blaming others for her problems, in the middle of a midlife crisis, and upset that she had to care for her elderly mother. She lashed out and converted to Islam then used this as an excuse to lash out further at society for being at fault for her problems and citing her elderly mother she had to care for who did not approve of her conversion."
The Civil War & Lincoln
Here is Mac Owens on YouTube (this is big-time stuff, Mac!) talking about Lincoln as a war president. Probably some of the best stuff out there on the topic, yet, if any one of you decide to attack Mac (or Lincoln), I sure would like to see how your dogs of war fare against this Silver Starred Marine.
Drudge notes that New York wants to ban the use of salt in restaurant kitchens. Here we have more evidence, as if it were needed, that socialized medicine and basic liberty are very hard to reconcile. When I am on the hook for your health care bills (and vice versa), I have an interest in what you eat, whether you exercise, whether you engage in risky sports, etc.
I am sure that when socialized medicine was first brought up in the U.S., people said that it would, ultimately, give the government the right to tell us what to eat. I am also certain, that supporters of socialized medicine said that was absurd. We'll much of American health care is paid for by all of us, collectively, and it is already happening.
Once again, we see that unintended consequences are often predictable.
He's turning into President Telemarketer: incessantly bugging you, trying to get you to buy a product that you don't want, can't afford, and have heard terrible things about. But he's convinced that this call at dinnertime will be the one that changes your mind.How do we get our names put on the "do not call" list for this Telemarketing scheme?
Henry Adams wrote that "The progress of evolution from President Washington to President Grant, was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin." In an update, George Will sees the replacement of politics by the administrative state, as called for by Wilson and Obama, in the healthcare legislation. RTWT, but here are the last two paragraphs:
So note also Obama's yearning for something [in healthcare legislation] "academically approved" rather than something resulting from "a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people," aka politics. Here, too, Obama is in the spirit of the U.S. president who first was president of the American Political Science Association.
Wilson was the first president to criticize the Founding Fathers. He faulted them for designing a government too susceptible to factions that impede disinterested experts from getting on with government undistracted. Like Princeton's former president, Obama's grievance is with the greatest Princetonian, the "father of the Constitution," James Madison, class of 1771.
Update: Jonah Goldberg elaborates on Will's column, with thanks to Claremonsters.
I think and maybe fear that the argument over reconciliation might have inflicted a mortal wound on the filibuster, but not in the way that liberals might have hoped and probably in a way that they will live to regret - at least for a time. On the one hand the filibuster will come out of this current scrap okay. Obamacare will pass or fail based on whether the House of Reps passes the Senate version of Obamacare unchanged. If the House passes it, the Senate version of Obamacare become law. The law passed the Senate according to the familiar filibuster rule. It got sixty votes in the Senate (as the vote was taken before the Massachusetts Senate election). The reconciliation process then might or might not (I suspect not) be used to make some changes in the version of Obamacare we get.
The problem will come when the Republicans again take over control of the presidency and both houses of Congress. The Democrats remembered how the Republicans in the Bush years threatened to change the filibuster rule (using weak and transparently self-serving constitutional arguments) to back the Democrats off filibustering Bush Supreme Court nominees. The Republicans will remember how a Democrat President who was a staunch supporter (and user) of the filibuster rule when he himself was in the Senate minority was happy to see the filibuster circumvented. They will also remember that he abandoned the filibuster in order to pass a major and controversial piece of legislation - exactly the kind of legislation that the filibuster, if it has any purpose, was designed to to moderate in order to garner crossparty support and broad legitimacy.
In the memories of many Republicans, the filibuster will have become a one way door in which the Democrats can pass things by ignoring the filibuster, but Republicans require supermajorities. And it will be a door that can be broken by fifty Republican Senators and an allied Vice President. It is easy to imagine that a Republican President with narrow congressional majorities will take such a path to undo many liberal policies and enact many conservative policies of that would not have gotten sixty votes in the Senate and therefore not have passed in so pure a form or perhaps not passed at all.
Liberals will have many complaints. The will argue that the "fierce urgency of now" had given way to the need
to do nothing until liberals are back in the saddle for consolidation and broad consensus for major change. They will also note correctly that they never actually changed the filibuster rule. But Republicans will remember the bad faith across decades, and the cries of the liberals will not avail.
In the latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books, editor Charles Kesler explains why Obamacare clashes with America's most fundamental political principles. Charles notes the massive delegation of power to boards and agencies, among other anti-Lockean (that is, anti-Declaration of Independence) practices.
It was against the threat of such a despotism that proper and not so proper Bostonians threw the original Tea Party. The English East India Company was about to go bankrupt, and the British government bailed it out by passing the Tea Act of 1773, granting the Company's agents a monopoly on selling tea to Americans and filling the government's own coffers by taxing the sales. The Americans had already rejected this tax as unconstitutional in 1767, but it stayed on the books. Among the Company's agents in Massachusetts were the royal governor's two sons and a nephew. They didn't call it Chicago-style politics then, but the principles were the same.
Today's Tea Party movement sees a similar threat of despotism-of monopoly control of health care, corrupting bailouts, massive indebtedness, and the eclipse of constitutional rights-in the Obama Administration's policies. The Tea Party patriots may mistake the President's motives when they compare him to King George. But they are right to suspect in the very nature of modern liberalism and the modern state something hostile to the consent of the governed and to constitutional liberty. The republic will owe them a debt of gratitude if Obama's plans end up just as wet as George III's, floating in the salty tea pot of Boston Harbor.
A desperate response to such attacks on Progressivism from resident WSJ leftist Thomas Frank (subscriber only); here's his conclusion:
Now, here is the revolt against big government stripped down to its essentials. Civilization itself is the [sic.] bunk, its taxes and regulations as artificial and as unhealthy as its diet of booze and candy. For today's cavemen conservatives, the correct model is simplicity itself: It's every man for himself. And if you want a piece of the mammoth, you'd better get to work.
Men and Women
Speaking before the UN Commission on the Status of Women yesterday, the Holy See's Archbishop Celestino Migliore assessed that the plight of women over the past 15 years "includes some light, but also many and disturbing shadows." While "cultural and social dynamics" are surely major factors in explaining the continuing realities of "female feticide, infanticide, and abandonment," Migliore also pointed to "principles, priorities and action policies in force in international organizations."
"Gender equality" - the "context" in which the UN and EU discuss women's issues - "is proving increasingly ideologically driven, ... delays the true advancement of women... [and] dissolve[s] every specificity and complementarity between men and women." This radical feminist ideology defines gender (as opposed to sex) as a social construct devoid of natural, genetic or inherent qualities (i.e., boys only act like boys because they're taught to do so - if left alone, men would be mentally and psychologically indistinguishable from girls). Such a misguided principle seeks not to celebrate womanhood or protect a unique female identity, but rather to duplicate masculinity among females in the name of equality.
The result of this fanaticism is the use of abortion access as the principal measure "of personal, social, economic and political rights." Because feminist leaders regard conservative thinking and Christian morality, rather than generational poverty and third-world oppression, as the greatest enemies to their vision of women's rights, their priority is to promote the most radical, divisive and anathema policies in order to offend, defeat and drive-out the competition.
The effect, of course, has been most devastating among vulnerable women. In last week's article, "The worldwide war on baby girls," The Economist relates the disparate impact of global abortion on women, determining that the result is nothing short of "gendercide." Though the natural gender ratio of births is about 103-106 boys for every 100 girls, in some provinces of China the ratio is 130-100, and among third children as high as 275-100. Similar male-heavy trends are scattered throughout Eastern Europe and Asia.
Rather than eradicating abortion as a plague upon female infants, the EU this week fined Poland for refusing to allow a woman to abort her child on the grounds that pregnancy "affected her eyesight" and censured a national Catholic newspaper for simply reporting on the matter. (The offending sentence read: "we are living in a world where a mother is granted an award for the fact that she very much wanted to kill her child, but was forbidden to do so.").
The co-mingled women's rights and abortion rights industries are the single most destructive and fatal forces affecting women today. In their blind radicalism, they devote themselves to the very causes of female gendercide in the name of female empowerment.
We should answer Question 9 by checking the last option -- "Some other race" -- and writing in "American." It's a truthful answer but at the same time is a way for ordinary citizens to express their rejection of unconstitutional racial classification schemes. In fact, "American" was the plurality ancestry selection for respondents to the 2000 census in four states and several hundred counties.
So remember: Question 9 -- "Some other race" -- "American". Pass it on.
Cesar Conda does a nice job noting that it is quite a stretch to compare John Adams' defense of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre with contemporary attorneys who volunteered to defend the prisoners at Guantanamo:
The John Adams analogy that Ken Starr and the other lawyers cite in their statement is ludicrous: At the time of the Boston Massacre we were not at war and the British soldiers he defended were in court facing a criminal charge of murder. Adams was not representing prisoners of war, enemies of the nation, trying to get them released in the middle of a war. And Adams wasn't embarrassed about what he did -- if what the terrorists' lawyers did was so noble, why is the DOJ refusing to tell us what they work on now?
Once the war started, Adams did not think the redcoats deserved jury trials when they were captured. In this case, the issue is also that some of those same lawyers are now working on the same issue for the U.S. government. As I understand it, legal ethics usualy suggest that such lawyers recuse themselves in that situation.
Meanwhile, perhaps we should remember what Adams was arguing at the trial. The soldiers, he noted, were exercising their right of self-defense from attack by a mob. They were exercising their rights under law. They were not engaging in war. Under English law, which followed the law of nature, he noted:
"The injured party may repell force with force in defence of his person, habitation, or property, against one who manifestly tendeth and endeavoureth with violence, or surprise, to commit a known felony upon either." Furthermore, he noted: "In these cases he is not obliged to retreat, but may pursue his adversary, till he findeth himself out of danger, and if in a conflict between them he happeneth to kill, such killing is justifiable."
Wonder what Adams thought about the right to bear arms?
Abraham Lincoln once asked an audience how many legs a dog has, if you called the tail a leg? When the audience said "five," Lincoln corrected them, saying that the answer was four. "The fact that you call a tail a leg does not make it a leg."The same hard truth, Sowell argues, can be applied today to things now veiled with the gauzy mantle "stimulus" and "jobs bill." These failed attempts to "prime the pump" have failed (and will continue to fail), Sowell argues, because the whole point of priming a pump is to draw out the water that is already there but reluctant to come out. Banks aren't lending and the economy is not growing because the "priming" they are getting feels a bit more like an attempt at a draining:
You don't lend when politicians are making it more doubtful whether you are going to get your money back-- either on time or at all. From the White House to Capitol Hill, politicians are coming up with all sorts of bright ideas for borrowers not to have to pay back what they borrowed and for lenders not to be able to foreclose on people who are months behind on their mortgage payments.
Congratulations to this month's winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:
The agony over Obamacare continues. As Jeffrey Anderson reminds us at NRO, only the House of Reps. matters now. If the House passes the Senate version of Obamacare, then America get the Senate version of Obamacare. Period. Who really cares if the tax on "cadillac" health care plans begins in 2018 or 2016 or 2015 or whatever?
Based on simple self-preservation, it should be impossible for Obama to switch any of the votes of House Democrats who voted no on Obamacare to yes. Most come from districts who have right-leaning constituencies. The liberal blog memes seem to be that that voting yes on Obamacare would a) get out the liberal base and save their hides and b) passing Obamacare will show the public that higher taxes and medicare cuts are just awesome and that only Republican spin caused people to doubt our dear President. I doubt if any of the Democrats being targeted are dumb enough to buy this nonsense. They come from districts where getting the Democratic base on your side doesn't get you very far when it is an issue where less than 45% of the people are on your side. They must also know that it will not be helpful to vote for tax increases and medcare cuts in right-leaning districts in a year where the turnout model will skew both older and more conservative.
But there is another, more promising path. One might argue to these Democrats that they are probably losers no matter how they vote on Obamacare. It really is 1994 all over again (at least in their districts) and keeping his distance from Clintoncare didn't help Jim Cooper when he ran for Senate from Tennessee. But there is more than the November election to think about. There is voting no, sterile defeat, and obscurity and there is voting yes, defeat and attractive options. The Obama administration and the institutions of the left-of-center have gifts in hand for a defeated member of the House of Reps whose vote made the difference in making real the dream of state-run health care. For the lawyers, are places on the federal bench. For those more interested in uh... culture, there are ambassadorships to safe countries with pleasant climates. For the wannabe academics, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government could place a whole crop of Professors of Distinguished Public Service Who Lost In A Good Cause Because of Unfair Republican Attacks. And Profiles in Courage Awards for all.
The most effective argument Obama might haveleft is that the targeted Democrats face electoral death no matter what they do, but if they vote right (or left, if you will), they can find an afterlife of financial stability and and status rewards.
In a Tocquevillean reflection on the flattening of American religion, Ross Douthat concludes:
Most religious believers will never be great mystics, of course, and the American way of faith is kinder than many earlier eras to those of us who won't. But maybe it's become too kind, and too accommodating. Even ordinary belief -- the kind that seeks epiphanies between deadlines, and struggles even with the meager self-discipline required to get through Lent -- depends on extraordinary examples, whether they're embedded in our communities or cloistered in the great silence of a monastery. Without them, faith can become just another form of worldliness, therapeutic rather than transcendent, and shorn of any claim to stand in judgment over our everyday choices and concerns.
Without them, too, we give up on what's supposed to be the deep promise of religious practice: that at any time, in any place, it's possible to encounter the divine, the revolutionary and the impossible -- and have your life completely shattered and remade.
A good Lenten practice (for believer and non-believer alike) might be to reread Tocqueville on religion and Solzhentisyn, among others. And, with Douthat, tunafish sandwiches for lunch.
And in the spirit of
democratized Americanized religion, this looks like appropriate reading too, Robert Alter, Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible, reviewed by Stephen Miller. Alter's editions of Old Testament books and his biblical interpretations are spectacular.
Barack Obama loses the ACLU - in a full-page ad in the NYTimes. Neverminding the silliness of the ACLU's persistent objections that military tribunals are unconstitutional, the ACLU's real value is as an indicator of hyper-liberal mood and temperament. The natives are getting restless, Mr. President.
I have always regarded as a rare pleasure the opportunity to digress from the views of respected fellows, and so I respond to Richard's post on Obama's potential diplomatic revolution with gracious objection. As amply displayed in my somewhat exhaustive (exhausting?) post on the subject, I am among those on the right who Richard observes complaining about Obama's slights toward brother Britain.
While I would love to concede Obama the credit of pursuing a shrewd, classical foreign policy (even one with which I disagree), I think this would be an unmerited assumption. Obama entered the White House with the unique dichotomy of having almost no foreign policy experience and a broad public expectation that his greatest acheivement would be a complete restoration of American foriegn policy. The President's sharply declining approval rating is a reflection not simply of his own missteps, but of the evaporation of such naive and unrealistic expectations (not being George W. Bush can only get you so far).
The Obama Doctrine, alternatively described as listening and wisely having no docrine at all, is a progressive-liberal's rhetoric-centric foray into a euphoria-induced delusion of we-are-one global diplomacy. That is, it is a great spring-board for riveting speeches, but a lousy arsenal with which to contend with the imperfect state of human nature. This inequality to the task has been painfully evident in objective and demonstrable failures in negotiations with Iran, China and Russia.
With regard to Britain, if Obama's slights were unintended, then he is a frightening amateur devoid of a diplomatic compass. However, If they were intended, as I believe, then the question is ... why Britain?
Richard's desire to link Obama with a Washingtonian statesmanship which prescribes a sort of foreign stoicism as a safeguard of national interest simply does not strike me as plausible. Save for his Nobel Prize speech, Obama has lacked any such desire to promote an arrogant, pro-America foreign posture. Also, the vagueries and niceties of the Obama Doctrine afford no indications of an objective to separate America from global partners - in fact, Obama's bed-side manners approach to global adversaries seems to lead in exactly the opposite direction.
The only exception to Obama's all-inclusive, let's-talk-about-it approach to foreign affairs has been the slighting of Britain, Israel, Tibet, Poland and the Czech Republic. That is to say, Obama seems to believe that the most effective route to proving our sincere desire to dialogue with America's adversaries is to allow them to see us cast aside any allies with whom they hold a grudge. The Obama Doctrine has thus sought to divest America of meaningful alliances with liberal Western democracies in the hope that such disavowals and enemy-of-my-enemy triangulation will win sympathy in oppressive autocracies.
The Obama Doctrine, and Obama's treatment of Britain, emerges from a misguided reflection on human nature and realpolitik, as well as, I suspect, a personal prejudice against the Anglo-American legacy in world history.
UPDATE: According to a poll released yesterday: "A majority of Americans say the United States is less respected in the world than it was two years ago.... [B]y a 10-point margin -- 51 percent to 41 percent -- Americans think the standing of the U.S. dropped during the first 13 months of Mr. Obama's presidency."
Many on the right have complained that the Obama administration's refusal to side with Britain over the Falklands, combined with other slights aimed at Britain and other European nations, are rookie mistakes. Perhaps they are or even calculated slights. But I'm not so sure. There might be more to it.
As President Washington noted long ago, the United States should not make "permanent alliances." The "special relationship" between the U.S. and Britain, is, in theory, a relationship of that sort. Beyond that NATO sometimes seems to be similar.
Given the state the many of the nations of Europe are in, it is not unreasonable for the U.S. to start looking elsewhere for aid and support abroad. Perhaps it's prudent for the U.S. to be more friendly to Argentina and less friendly to Britain.
The trouble with this line of thought, however, is that the very things which are weakening Europe, an extensive administrative and welfare state which is sapping the vitality of the nations of Europe, seems to be Obama's model for America's future too.
AG Holder has been given his just deserts, but State Department legal adviser Harold Koh may deserve even sterner rebuke. In a lengthy (and fascinating) article in the Weekly Standard (see part 2), NYU law professor Kenneth Anderson notes Koh's unwillingness to offer defense of the legallity of the highly effective Predator drone strikes on terrorist leaders.
Even as the Obama administration increasingly relies on Predator strikes for its counterterrorism strategy, the international legal basis of drone warfare (more precisely, its perceived international legal legitimacy) is eroding from under the administration's feet--largely through the U.S. government's inattention and unwillingness to defend its legal grounds, and require its own senior lawyers to step up and defend it as a matter of law, legal policy, and legal diplomacy.If you didn't know Koh, Ed Whalen told us what to expect. Perhaps Koh, Holder, and any number of Administration attorneys may feel more comfortable in this Swiss legal post, in the canton of Zuerich--an office that defends the rights of animals, including a pike that failed in its 10-minute struggle against a fisherman. "On Sunday, the Swiss will vote on a referendum that would compel all of Switzerland's cantons to hire animal lawyers."
David Brooks sees a parallel between the New Left and the Tea Party movement and cites Rousseau in support of this dubious claim.
[T]he core commonality is this: Members of both movements believe in what you might call mass innocence. Both movements are built on the assumption that the people are pure and virtuous and that evil is introduced into society by corrupt elites and rotten authority structures. "Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains," is how Rousseau put it.That is truer of the New Left than of the Tea Party folks. Both movements have their flakes and nuts, but the New Left's openness to or even embrace of Marx shows how radical they were--and they remain in power, in think-tanks and universities. Tea Partiers show far more Locke than Rousseau (and not just Lock and Load, either). That is, they are closer to what actually reflects human nature. There is no utopianism here, rather anti-utopianism.
The Tea Partiers have a sharper edge (and perhaps duller minds) than Brooks would care for, and he somehow denies they hold to a conservatism that believes in original sin and the institutions of civilization. He contends that "They don't seek to form a counter-establishment because they don't believe in establishments or in authority structures.... They believe in mass action and the politics of barricades, not in structure and organization."
Brooks misses their point. The Tea Party folks have rather discovered they live in the leviathan of centralized administration Tocqueville predicted. They object to being treated as a herd with a shepherd ordering them about. And unlike even the astute Tocqueville and our intellectual elites they take the principles of the Declaration of Independence seriously.
In light of Ken's country-government distinction below, Rasmussen has some revelations about America's view of the latter:
10% of voters say Congress is doing a good job, whereas 71% say it is doing a poor job (the highest result in Rasmussen polling history).
63% said it would be better for the country if most incumbents in Congress were defeated, while only 27% said their representative was the best person for the job.
9% believe most members of Congress are genuinely interested in helping people, and, most disturbingly, only 21% believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed.
Take-away #1: The Democrats are doomed.
Take-away #2: The Republicans are simply a little less doomed.
On the one hand, Americans expect a bit more from their government (in terms of statesmanship and decency, not entitlements and welfare) than citizens of most other nations. We are, at core, an optimistic and idealistic people. Thus, we are liable to judge human nature in governance somewhat harshly. Pope John Paul II went to confession every day - not because he was particularly sinful, but because he demanded so much of himself (making him all the more aware of his every failing). It is a good thing that we demand much of our government and grade her strictly.
Then again, such dismal confidence has tended historically to result in apathy and revolution. We are not so politically unstable as to easily succumb to such social distress - but the polls don't have much farther to go before the ruling class is entirely devoid of meaningful public confidence. The Tea Party Movement, regardless of one's partisan perspective, may be the gentle, incremental version of an American revolutionary coup.
Today it is the Democrats' immediate problem, but it will be fully inherited by Republicans should they prevail in November. One hopes they have a plan.
"People have been raising children for approximately as long as there have been people. Only recently -- about five minutes ago, relative to the long-running human comedy -- have parents been driving themselves to distraction by taking too seriously the idea that "as the twig is bent the tree's inclined." Twigs are not limitlessly bendable; trees will be what they will be. "Well, "bravo" to that. For surely, you can't grow a fig tree from an acorn. So much of our modern angst and general unhappiness, it seems to me, is centered around the notion that happiness is to be found in some kind of will to power: I'm born an acorn who can, if properly nurtured, grow into a strong and mighty oak tree . . . but, gee . . . I prefer to be a fig. If only I believe it, then I can achieve it. I'm not going to discover the nature and the limits of my purposes. Instead, I will combat them, overcome them, transcend them, defy them. We'd all do well to remember how closely the modern parenting tripe about "self-esteem" can come to resemble something dangerously close to a bitch-slap in Mother Nature's face. Of course, confidence and nurturing are required even for an acorn to become a strong oak tree. But the first has to be earned through effort and the second should come first from love--but perhaps, more important, from understanding. How far do you bend a twig before you break it?
Men and Women
America is the child and heir of English liberty and tradition - our most sacred public virtues are the bloom of an ancient English root. Indeed, the colonists' justification for the American Revolution was the oppression of their rights ... as Englishmen. The Crown had failed to protect them, His Loyal Subjects, from the capricious whims of Parliament, which denied their English birthrights by passing objectionable laws over them without their consent or representation. It was to reclaim the privileges of the Ancient English Constitution that farmers and statesmen shed their blood and founded a new nation to enshrine and protect that eternal law.
Though our early history proved turbulent, America and Great Britain have enjoyed a "special relationship" for nearly a century now - an Atlantic alliance which led the world to victory against Hitler and Communism. Even in recent times, when America was struck on September 11th, Britain rose to our defense without hesitation, marching to Afghanistan and Iraq at our side. We owe them a special debt and duty, which they owe also to us - many times over on each side.
It is of unique repugnance, then, that our president has rejected this shared heritage and obligation, even to the point of spurning our most trusted ally. At the outset of his administration, Obama flouted custom and protocol to make clear his disdain for England during his first visit with PM Brown. Brown provided Obama with priceless gifts: a pen set from the timbers of the HMS Gannet, a 19th century anti-slaving ship, as well as the charter to the HMS Resolute, a sister ship to the Gannet from whose timbers the Oval Office desk was built by Queen Victoria, and, finally, a first-edition, 7-set biography of Winston Churchill, to accompany the bust of Churchill found in the Oval Office since Britain sent it as a symbol of their devotion to America following the attacks of 9/11. Naturally, Brown also provided the Obama children with a half-dozen yet-to-be-released children's books and outfits from a recently opened British store in America.
In return, Obama gave Brown a box set of 25 American films on DVD. American DVDs, probably worth a little over $200, which won't play on DVD-players outside the U.S. And Brown is completely blind in his left eye, with degradation (postponed by experimental surgery) in his right. In case this mockery was insufficient, Mr. Brown's children were each given a toy model of Marine One, alla the White House gift store. Obama also refused to stand alongside Brown under their respective flags, as is custom upon a prime minister's arrival, cancelled a joint press conference and, defiantly refusing invitations to the contrary, returned the bust of Churchill to Brown upon his departure.
This was the beginning - a sign of what was to come, both with respect to Britain and American foreign policy. Eschewing a recitation of other affronts to Britain over the past year, America has now officially discarded her on a matter of Britain's own sovereignty. Responding to a dispute between Britain and Argentina regarding oil-drilling off the Falkland Islands (which are internationally recognized as belonging to Great Britain, though Argentina claims them also), the Obama administration not only refused to support Britain, but called into question her sovereignty.
We are aware not only of the current situation but also of the history, but our position remains one of neutrality. The US recognises de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the sovereignty claims of either party.
Today, "amid smiles and laughter," Hillary Clinton arrived in Argentina and summoned Britain to negotiations, giving "no sign of backing the British position on negotiations." Argentina, whose closest ally is Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, exclaimed Clinton's backing as "a diplomatic coup" over Britain and disclosed that Clinton had offered to mediate. The residents of the Falklands were outraged by America's betrayal, and Britain was forced to politely dismiss the insult.
Obama has invited warm camaraderie from Hugo Chavez and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, while spurning Israel's Netanyahu and the Dalai Lama. He has abandoned or ignored popular struggles to sustain or establish democracy in Honduras, Iran and Lebanon. He has betrayed promises to the Czech Republic and Poland in favor of appeasing renewed Russian aggression. He has prostrated America before China and the Middle East, while emboldening Iran and Hamas through idle rhetoric and indifference.
Obama's foreign policy has revealed not only that he does not value the Atlantic alliance, which has long lead the cause of freedom and democracy in the world, but also that he is not worthy of that special relationship and its honorable legacy.
Four reflections on the American exceptionalism Obama and too many Americans today reject or ignore. Liberalism wants to escape America's past; and too many conservatives take exception to what is truly exceptional in our past. In both camps, globalization poses an economic challenge to American exceptionalism. This SMU economics professor and former Fed economist had some observations on that subject.
Then there's this Richard Samuelson essay on what truly differentiates China from the US.
There is so much wrong with Michael Lind's Salon article, so lets just stick with the self-serving idiocy and malice of his thesis. He writes that the white working class is in demographic decline and that the Republican party is resisting Obama's "change" agenda out of "demographic panic". Well its tough to tell, and of the presidential approval tracking polls don't carry racial crosstabs that I could find, Obama's approval is at 50% or lower in all of them. Whites without a four year degree made up somewhat less than half of the 2008 electorate. So presuming that the half or more of the country that does not approve of the President's job performance, is not entirely made up of working class whites, we would have to expand the circle of anti-change people in "demographic panic". Maybe anti-change, demographic panic is a general affliction among whites. I think that we might inquire into the theory's explanatory value.
Let us look into the intersection of fear of change, demographic decline, and whiteness. President Bush supported adding private accounts to social security. This was a big change. Lind opposed the change. Lind is white. Is Lind's article some kind of projection of his own bigoted anti-change, demographic panic in the last decade?
The Civil War & Lincoln
First it was global cooling, then global warming and now climate change. But if ol' Al finds out about this, we might just have a whole new beacon of environmental hysteria.
It seems that the 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chili was so powerful that it slightly tipped the Earth's axis and permanently shortened our days - by 1.26 microseconds (1.26 millionth of a second). Apparently, when a "large quake shifts massive amounts of rock," it is possible to "alters the distribution of mass on the planet" and alter "rate at which the planet rotates." Which, of course, provides the measure of our days.
So, the days are getting shorter because of a natural event. It's only a short distance for Gore to respond that earthquakes are somehow related to man-made events - part of that whole complicated climate-change thing that we can't possibly understand - and man will soon be responsible for shrinking the days until we cease to exist!
I can see it now: "Anthropogenic Global Shortening Threatening Planetary Extinction!" "Fossil Fuels Linked to Temporal Change." "UN Intergovernmental Panel on Time Reduction Report: Computer Models' Tennis Racket Graph Proves Time Will End by 2040."
Over at the Corner, Abigail Thernstrom reminds us to be sure to fill out our census forms. She also argues that the question of counting residents who are here in violation of our laws is moot, since "the U.S. Constitution demands an enumeration of all free persons, excluding Indians "not taxed," and with slaves counted as only three-fifths of a person."
The issue is more complicated than that. The U.S. Constitution, like any legal document, needs to be construed according to the logic of the provision in the larger context of the document. In 1789, the catagory illegal alien did not exist. Hence the question is whether illegal aliens are more like citizens or Indians. Since Indians were excluded precisely because they were not citizens, and were subject to the laws of their own tribes, one can make a very sound argument that illegal aliens ought not to be counted. (By the same logic, of course, the idea that anyone born on U.S. soil is a citizen also does not hold water, if one reads the 14th Amendment closely. I suspect that's part of the reason why Justice Harlan, famouse for his dissent from Plessy, also dissented from the birthright citizenship case).
One further point on the census. The purpose of the census is to determine the political population of the states so that the House of Representatives can be apportioned properly. That being the case, may Congress rightly require us to fill out any other questions? (I realize that according to the Courts, the answer is yes, but, once again, I think they are wrong here).
P.S. It is also interesting to note that the race box on the census is done according to whatever standard the citizen wants to check off. Some employers, however, have definitions for each of the categories, which they give to prospective employees when they apply for jobs. Hence there could be a problem in evidence in disparate impact cases. The two sets of data, might not register the same thing. Personally, I wish that everyone simply boycotted the race box, as that would render disparate impact suits impossible.
P.P.S. Just thought of this. If the census' standard is self-categorization, could employees exercise their right to categorize themselves by race, and check off various race boxes, and hence change the percentage of "minorities" who work for various employers?
The notorious Van Jones, recently ousted from his ludicrous post as green jobs czar in the Obama administration due to quasi-terrorist ranting and associations, has found a more fitting role for a person of his extremist views.
He has accepted a teaching position at Princeton, in the African-American and environmental fields.
This is the man who branded non-activist students as "worthless people" with "worthless degrees" and sees the purpose of a university education as turning students into "revolutionaries" (keeping in mind that his professed revolutionary heroes are communist-Marxist luminaries such as Mao Zedong and Amilcar Cabral). The founder of a communist revolutionary group himself, Jones called for "resistance" against America and the destruction of America's capitalist economy. He also founded an anti-law-enforcement group, a black-identity movement and a radical environmental group which honors the founder of a known eco-terrorist group as its director. And, of course, he thinks George W. Bush was behind 9-11.
So he should fit right in with the faculty of Princeton.
Is this truly the state of the elite institutes of higher education in America? Does this man qualify as a "distinguished visitor" to the Princeton administration? Is there no distinction between a famous and infamous person within the Ivory Tower bastions of relativism? "Elite" universities have long shunned diversity in the political philosophy of their faculty - the Democrat-Republican ratio is often 20 or 30 to 1 (if there are any Republicans at all) - but are Republicans soon to be outnumbered in university faculties by communists?
Hold fast, dear Ashland - I plead, do not go gentle into that good night!
Pop quiz time! What right-wing extremist said the following?
You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating [as] it is, to make sure that there's a broad consensus before the country moves forward.... And what we have now is a president who...[h]asn't gotten his way. And that is now prompting, you know, a change in the Senate rules that really I think would change the character of the Senate forever.... And what I worry about would be you essentially have still two chambers -- the House and the Senate -- but you have simply majoritarian absolute power on either side, and that's just not what the founders intended.
For the answer, go here.
I think that Ross Douthat is too hard on the Republican performance at the health care summit. The Republican were articulate and thoughful in criticizing the President's plan and offered regulatory changes that would have put downward pressure on health insurance premiums and might have taken a small step in the process of moving our health care market in a more consumer-driven direction. Helping to stop a situation from getting worse and limited but real suggestions for making things better isn't bad for the congressional leadership of a party that suffered to straight election defeats.
The Republicans didn't have a big plan and they probably shouldn't just yet. There are many ways of restructuring the health care market in a more consumer-driven direction. One is the Ryan plan of changing the tax code to shift most people to cheap, renewable, individually owned health insurance. Another is a system of forced savings and universal catastrophic government health insurance. Mitch Daniels seems to have gotten good results from a small-scale and voluntary version of such a plan. One could imagine a combination of federalizing Medicaid, voucherizing and reducing the rate of growth in the program and using the saving to expand public health services. All of these suggestions include complicated political and economic trade-offs and there is no reason why John Boehner and Mitch McConnell should have been able to get a consensus around any one of those approaches within the GOP caucus, and the summit was probably a bad time to spring them on the American people. If we are very lucky, we will seen an extended discussion about which of those approaches to adopt during the 2012 Repubican presidential primaries.
But for now, honor to the Republicans for their performance during the summit.
For any of you who feel enlightened by the wise words of NLT - you are not alone!
Well, at least not alone in your medium of news consumption. The web has surpassed newspapers as the more popular news source among Americans. A growing 61% receive news online, whereas a dwindling 50% read the papers. Even the largely conservative talk radio beats newspapers with 54% - hence the impetus for Democrats to pass the greatest assault on free-speech in the history of America, the Fairness Doctrine.
It must truly rankle the editors of the NY Times (which will, ludicrously, begin charging for access to it's web site in 2011) to know they are second fiddle to the Pajamas Media. And national TV news agencies, at 71%, should also be feeling the heat.
Conservatives have long been awaiting the downfall of the liberal main-stream media. With the rise of Fox, the dominance of conservative talk-radio and now the exponentially growing impact of the internet (with its health contributors for the cause of conservativism) - coupled with the downward spiral of rival cable news networks and print media - it seems that a victory of sorts may be in sight.
Perhaps right-leaning bloggers should declare, We are the one's we've been waiting for! But, then again, maybe they shouldn't.
You might want to listen to Gov. Daniels for a few minutes. He spoke last October to a meeting of the Philadelphia Society. We have invited him to speak at Ashbrook later this year.
The Terrorist Finance Tracking Program is a highly successful program which, as the name implies, tracks known terrorists via their financial paper trail. The program relies upon data provided by a consortium of banks and has generated 1,500 reports and leads credited by Europe and the U.S. as having uncovered or prevented numerous terrorist attacks.
But all that will change now that the bureaucratic-nightmare which is the EU Parliament has revoked American access to European records. Privacy-based excuses for walling off EU banks have been largely dismissed as a facade, as plentiful safeguards have been in place for a decade. Even a French judge found the "privacy protections were robust and effective."
The true motivation seems to be the stunning pride of EU parliamentarians, attempting to assert their authority over the EU Council while poking a finger in America's eye. The U.S. and EU Council concluded an agreement last November granting the U.S. continued access to files moved from America to Europe. However:
The Treaty of Lisbon, which took effect in December, gave lawmakers [in the EU Parliament] the power to review and approve measures that affect internal security and counterterrorism, and their vote [revoking U.S. access] was seen as a flexing of that new power.
The EU decision is an invitation for terrorist to use European banks as terror-havens in order to avoid U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies. And the EU has taken this reckless action for no reason other than ... because it can.
One hopes the EU leadership is simply risking our mutual safety for a momentary episode of grandstanding and will soon restore the program to it's full functionality. But one must never underestimate the churlishness and tenacity of an entrenched bureaucrat, nor the willingness of EU leaders to tolerate the "infiltration" of their governments by "Islamic radicals," as is presently being decried by members of Britain's Labor Party.
I previously noted the likely DOJ reversal which would clear Bush administration lawyers of politically-driven disciplinary action for providing legal opinions on interrogation techniques. The 5-year witch-hunt has now concluded as expected, though leaks confirm the partisan malice which motivated the unjust investigation. Andrew McCarthy uncovered a letter from DOJ leadership which "shredded OPR's initial Draft Report and the process by which OPR's preliminary conclusions about ethical misconduct were reached." McCarthy highlights the letter's criticism of basic factual and legal errors in the Draft, exposing the extreme liberal bias of the investigation (Paul Mirengoff dissects the issue here and here).
I mentioned that the curbing of this tyrannous legal assault on free-thought would not sit well with the fanatical Left. On cue, the NY Times runs an op-ed lamenting that the lawyers were not punished for their legal opinions and pleading for disciplinary action against doctors associated with the program. In a summersault of logic, the authors regard the constant and documented medical monitoring and consultation involved in interrogations as evidence of a crime. They admit that both the military medical teams and independent CIA-DOJ teams later charged to investigate the interrogations concluded the methods did not constitute torture.
Of course, that is the very element of their crime. The Left does not seek to punish negligence, recklessness or even behaviour under the criminal statutes of the law. They want to punish thought with the power of the government. It is precisely because these doctors followed the law that they ought to be punished - their dutiful upholding of the law suggests that they willfully consented to those laws, and the policies and beliefs which led to their enactment. And such people - let's call them conservatives - need to be punished when they succeed in passing or obeying laws which are disagreeable to the Left. The NY Times article is a call for political thugery reminiscent of communist Russia - the authors and Times should be ashamed of their hypocrisy, touting tyranny of the mind as the path to liberty.
To the Times and extremist Left: You have met the enemy, and it is you.