Men and Women
Meh. It is the opposite of the Ryan Roadmap. The Roadmap is an admirably serious (which is not to say perfect) attempt to grapple with our long-term economic challenges, but is not a prudent campaign platform. The Pledge won't hurt Republican prospects for this election but doesn't do much to address our economic problems or even move public opinion in the direction of understanding the kinds of policies we will need. I'm not mocking. Coming up with a program that can address our economic challenges in a realistic way and attract enough public support that candidates that support the program can be elected in sufficient number is really, really hard.
I have sympathy. There is no consensus on the center-right on exactly how to design the means-testing of Social Security or how that means-testing should be balanced with some kind of increase to retirement ages (and there is more than one way to design that) and what role private accounts might (or might not) play in Social Security reform. And none of those policies are all that popular anyway. Reforming Medicare, if it is to mean more than just cuts to provider reimbursements, only makes sense in the context of a wider, incremental reform of health care policy. But there is no consensus among conservative policy analysts about exactly how to do it. The situation in the Republican Party is even worse. You have moderates with no principles that are leery of any politically untested idea that might incriminate them in the court of public opinion. I don't doubt that there are many conservatives who would be happy to repeal Obamacare, make some futile noises about tort reform and never think about health care policy again - until the next time Democrats pass a huge step toward government-run medicine.
A worthwhile consensus on entitlements, health care reform and tax reform (huge issues there) won't come from John Boehner consulting with the House Republican backbenchers. It will have to be an organic and entrepreneurial process. Entrepreneurial backbench members of Congress as well as candidates for governor and President will have to show that they can win elections based on the kinds of reforms we need. The Republican congressional leadership will come along last. What the Republican leadership can do is push to create the kind of regulatory space that would allow state-level policy experimentation in health care and that expands the number of Americans with consumer-driven health care policies in a way that doesn't immediately threaten people who are happy with their employer-provided policies.
So what would I do? Glad you asked. Off the top of my head I have four non-earth shattering (actually somewhat minor) ideas. I assumed that the House Republican leadership (and much of the membership) would not accept any idea that would encounter massive initial resistance from the majority and I kept that in mind in crafting this list.
1. Capping expenditures for federal civilian personnel costs.
2. Granting the President (yes, even President Obama) the impoundment power. Once granted, it might be put to some good use later.
3. Adding an Indiana-style HSA/catastrophic coverage option to the range of health insurance options available to all federal employees and making the sale of such policies by private entities or by state and local governments legal in all states. The program proved popular among Indiana state employees, and saved the state money too, so it can be sold to the public as a way to reduce the deficit. And if it good enough for federal employees, there is no reason why it should be illegal for the rest of us is there?
I'm a little less confident about my last suggestion.
4. Turning Medicaid into a voucher for high deductible private health insurance. I think it would be a good idea as Medicaid is presently a disaster, but crafting a funding mechanism would be really complicated given the combined state and federal nature of the current program. Republicans would also need ready answers to charges that they were abandoning the poor to die (as the program would not be immediately understood by the public.) I doubt most Republicans could master the argument in a few short months.
RONLT (Readers Of No Left Turns) will note that I am a surveyor of Czech news and happenings. As of late, the news has been especially interesting. The Summer elections wrought a crushing defeat upon the Social Democrat - Communist partnership which had expected to seize power. Instead, a coalition of conservative, right-leaning parties swept into government by the largest majority in the Czech Republic's history. The right campaigned on an austerity message of fiscal sanity and stabilization through genuinely needed reform - but they had remained rather quiet for a few months as they built a government and planned.
They have now announced the means to their end. The 2011 state budget narrows the deficit by 17%, the public finance gap will be reduced to 2.9% by 2013 (from 5.9% in 2009) and, perhaps most dramatically, public sector wages and operating costs will be slashed by 10% next year.
The effects of this fiscal austerity policy (or, rather, mere expectations of such a policy) are tangible. The Czech koruna has gained 5.2% against the euro (which Czech has wisely declined to adopt) since the Summer elections, ranking the koruna as the world's third best-performing currency during the period. The S&P has raised Czech's standing from "stable" to "positive." And the public seems optimistic of the future.
Perhaps Czechs simply recall communism well enough to avoid its lures and snares (even in the guise of socialism - or "social democracy"). But by their example they are a city on a hill - visible, one should hope, even from the corridors of Washington. The Tea Party movement speaks to the relevance of their fiscal message here in America - if only we had a conservative, right-leaning political party with the courage to govern according to such principle. I think the result would be just as surprising - and rewarding - here in America as it has been in Czech.
Family Research Council has released a compendium of articles of socially conservative consequence. Though lengthy, the authors, institutions and content are deserving of attention - the list is reproduced here for ease of reference. As an introduction of sorts, read Rick Santorum's remarks at the University of St. Thomas, "A Charge to Revive the Role of Faith in the Public Square."
Educational Freedom and Reform
Faith and Policy
Homosexuals in the Military
Marriage and Family
Sanctity of Life
Stem Cell Research
Other News for Social Conservatives
Thursday morning, the GOP will unveil a "Pledge to America" (text here), attempting to reproduce the results of the 1994 election by replicating the means: the "Contract with America." Both the CwA and the PtA was / is a mere sidebars to the prevailing national zeitgeist which swept / will sweep Republicans into office - but the substance is instructive of how well the GOP has internalized the prevailing national zeitgeist.
The PtA emerged from town hall meetings and an internet project, America Speaking Out. CBS highlights the PtA agenda as:
- Stop job-killing tax hikes
- Allow small businesses to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income
- Require congressional approval for any new federal regulation that would add to the deficit
- Repeal small business mandates in the new health care law.
- Repeal and Replace health care
- Roll back non-discretionary spending to 2008 levels before TARP and stimulus (will save $100 billion in first year alone)
- Establish strict budget caps to limit federal spending going forward
- Cancel all future TARP payments and reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
- Will require that every bill have a citation of constitutional authority
- Give members at least 3 days to read bills before a vote
- Provide resources to troops
- Fund missile defense
- Enforce sanctions in Iran
The GOP has thus shown its hand.
The Obama administration immediately expressed its knee-jerk, blanket opposition to the PtA. Co-option of some provision and targeted opposition to others might have proved a more bipartisan, practical response. But delusions of that sort should be all but evaporated by now.
On the right, NRO's lengthy review embraces the PtA as "bold" and "compelling," and Powerline praised it as a "ringing statement of first principles" which "deliberately echoes the Constitution and, especially, the Declaration of Independence." Conversely, Redstate lambasts the PtA as "the most ridiculous thing to come out of Washington since George McClellen." "Dreck," they call it. "Stagnant water."
Six weeks to go.
In a previous post I argued that the version of Obamacare that passed sure seemed similar to Romneycare They are more similar than different, but the differences are important too. Romneycare was a good faith effort at a long-term Left/Right compromise on heath care policy. The Left got a plausible commitment to universal health insurance coverage through the combination of an individual insurance mandate and subsidies along with a series of coverage mandates that turned health insurance into something like (but not quite) comprehensive medical prepayment. The Right got to have the insurance subsidies channeled through private insurance companies and with no formal government price controls.
Obamacare is best described as a kind of Romneycare designed to fail and create public demand for a single-payer system. Romneycare included coverage mandates that made health insurance more expensive but it didn't give unelected bureaucrats the power to indirectly force insurance companies to enact huge premium increases. Obamacare also creates a weaker individual mandate than Romneycare. This (combined with the soon-to-be illegality of insurance companies denying coverage) would make it inviting for younger people to avoid getting insurance, pay the fine and only sign up for insurance when they get sick. This would of course raise premiums on those who comply with the law and buy insurance. That is why liberals were so upset about the loss of the public option. Bureaucrats would have been able to destroy the private insurance companies by forcing them to raise premiums and thereby drive customers to the government-run insurance program creating a virtual government monopoly in health insurance. Now liberals will have to try to direct the public discontent that Obamacare will create toward passing a yet another program - one that will establish full government-run medicine.
The thing is, trying to rebuild Obamacare in the image of Romneycare isn't a good idea. The better designed Romneycare is still leading to rising premiums, and evasion of the individual mandate, there are longer waiting periods for seeing a doctor, and emergency room visits are on the rise. The problem is the model of government both subsidizing and (on the state level pre-Obamacare) mandating a costly and inefficient system of health insurance that amounts to comprehensive prepayment for noncatastrophic medical services. Romneycare, for all of its good intentions, makes that problem worse.
Character, so goes the saying, is what you do when you don't think anyone is watching. Relevant wisdom when considering Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern's on-tape, profane disparagement of Tea Partiers and others opposed to Obama-care. Redfern explained that he thought the cameras had stopped rolling.
Chris Littleton, the president of the Cincinnati Tea Party, responded that just because Redfern didn't know the cameras were rolling doesn't mean his point of view changes. He added that all the accusations that Tea Partiers are racist or hateful are a "projection" of opponents' own thoughts and he'd be willing to explain to Redfern why the health care law is problematic to Tea Party participants.
It's helpful to remember that "those f-ckers," on behalf of whom Mr. Littleton would be speaking, constitute the 61% of voters who favor repeal of the health care law. One wonders just how the Ohio Democratic Party really views Ohio's voters.
Mike Pence won the straw poll at the Values Voter Summit and is experiencing a presidential boomlet. I think he has a better chance to win than does Larry Sabato. He is a smooth talker and is obviously conversant on national issues. After 2008, six terms in Congress will hardly seem like too little experience. He seems to be a principled conservative and projects a kind of calm reasonableness that is very helpful in an ideological politician - as Obama would be the first to tell you. I'm not sure that being in the House of Representatives rather than holding statewide office is as big a drawback as it seems. The trick to getting credibility in the 2012 Republican presidential race will involve some combination of getting media attention and using it to make an impression, winning support from activist networks and building a fundraising base for paid media. Pence is an ex-talk radio host and probably understands the right-leaning media environment at least as well as any other 2012 Republican contender. His victory at the Values Voters Summit shows real appeal to conservative activists. If Pence manages to use the media well, and makes inroads among activists, the money should come (assuming Pence runs a competent and industrious campaign - which is never a sure thing for a first time presidential candidate.)
Pence has real issue advantages over his best known potential Republican rivals. Unlike Romney, Pence never supported TARP and National Review pointed out the similarities between Romneycare and Obamacare. Romney could respond that TARP wan an okay idea messed up by Obama and that Romney's version of individual insurance mandate/coverage mandates/middle-class insurance subsidies/guaranteed issue/community rating is different and better than Obama's version of individual insurance mandate/coverage mandates/middle-class insurance subsidies/guaranteed issue/community rating (and Romney would have a point though it is complicated and Romneycare is probably fatally flawed anyway.) It just wouldn't be that easy to sell and Pence could easily tag a potential Romney administration as an Obama administration without Obama. Pence seems to have a solid social conservative record, which doesn't make him much different from Huckabee, but unlike Huckabee, I've never heard of Pence advocating a huge sales tax that seems like it might hurt middle-income voters.
Pence also has stylistic assets. His speeches don't set the room on fire but he speaks the language of the populist conservative narrative as a native tongue. It isn't that easy. Look at the pitiable effort of Tim Pawlenty when he tried to get all populist at CPAC. As a talk radio host, Pence had a lot of practice selling his limited government and socially conservative ideas to a broad audience rather than intellectuals or other politicians. That is pretty good practice for winning over the right-leaning voters that dominate Republican primaries. Finally, Pence has that combination of looks and bearing that comes across as presidential. It isn't fair or healthy but having that (superficial) quality helped Obama and not having it hurt Tommy Thompson and Duncan Hunter.
I have my worries about Pence. The most substantive worry is that he never seems to have held an executive position. My less substantive concern is that he never seems to have had to win over a nonconservative electorate. Pence made his name as a conservative talk radio host. He has represented a right-leaning district (McCain by 6% in 2008 and Bush by 29% in 2004.) I'm not sure his rhetoric works as well for voters (which is most voters) who have not already committed to the conservative narrative. His run in with Obama at the 2009 Republican retreat does not inspire confidence.
A Palestinian Court has ruled that people who sell land to Israelis face either the death penalty or life in prison:
A Palestinian court has ruled that anyone selling land to Israelis will automatically face the death penalty. The ruling came in response to an appeal from Palestinian public prosecutor Ahmed al-Mughani. The current law says courts can choose life in prison or death
The ruling came in response to an appeal from Palestinian public prosecutor Ahmed al-Mughani. The current law says courts can choose life in prison or death.
Al-Mughani told the AP on Monday that the law isn't tough enough. In practice, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has not approved executions since coming to power in 2004..
Literature, Poetry, and Books
And there is something in it for Mr. Clinton, too. Any microphone or tape recorder is a two-fer for him, giving him a chance to talk up his global works, as well as discuss politics. On Monday, for example, he urged donors to give more so he can hire more staff for the daunting rebuilding efforts in Haiti.So the next time you hear Bill Clinton waxing eloquent about Republican errors, Democrat virtues, and the way things really moved along swimmingly in those halcyon days of the 1990s, just remember: he's doing it for Haiti. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Powerline notes that more Americans think that their positions on the issues are closer to Sarah Palin's than to President Obama's.
If one polled people in the so-called "Mainstream Media" (I prefer, Old Establishent Media), or people who work at Universities, schools, or for government, however, I suspect that the answer would be very different.
There are, in short, two mainstreams in America: that of America as a whole, and that of the establishment.
Even if you work for New Jersey government (transit)? John Eastman, among others (Eugene Volokh), disagree, in a New York Times symposium. No Heckler's Veto--especially if you're not on duty when the stupid act was done.
[H]ow far are we willing to let the threat of violent reaction to peaceful speech and expression go when it is used to curtail First Amendment freedoms? Suppose that Fenton had simply held up a placard (or a cartoon!) defending Israel and chastising those who launched mortar attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip as the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were getting under way? If New Jersey Transit thought that might provoke attacks against its trains, too, could Fenton be fired for that as well?
Governor Christie's heroic efforts to rein in spending may be for naught if New Jersey has to pony up for the firing!
Anne Bayefsky of Eye on the UN has an article in today's NRO revealing the real dangers of the leftist politicization of human rights (particularly at the international level). Anne notes that leftist George Soros has just dumped $100,000 million into Human Rights Watch - and then relates the fall of HRW (as well as Amnesty Int'l) from a true guardian of individual rights to a shameful puppet of imposter rights invented by tyrannous nations to protect their own systemic and unapologetic abuses.
Human rights have been "hijacked" (to borrow the term) by leftist fanatics and the very worst of the world's human rights abusers - a glance at the ruling bloc of the UN Human Rights Council (Islamic and African states, backed by China, Russia and Cuba) suffices as ample proof. The only human rights abuser in the world, according to the UN HRC is Israel (occasionally joined by the U.S.) - states which still indulge in slavery, genocide, honor killings, female mutilation and the like are immune to criticism.
For further human-rights-as-anti-Semitism evidence, note a recent experiment by University of Illinois Professor Fred Gottheil. He wrote to hundreds of professors who had signed a petition urging the U.S. to abandon Israel over human rights abuses, and asked them to sign a similar "statement expressing concern about human rights violations in the Muslim Middle East, such as honor killing, wife beating, female genital mutilation, and violence against gays and lesbians." Less than 5% agreed to sign.
Leftists have circumvented (read: overcome) democracy for decades by corrupting and utilizing the judiciary - the entire "right to privacy" line of case law, flowing out of "emanation from penumbras" of the Constitution, have served little function but to implement liberal policies opposed by the majority of Americans. International organizations are the next weapon they hope to develop. At present, these bodies lack enforcement power over the U.S. (as they have gained over Europe), but just as the courts were originally without power to subvert democratic governance, this too could change. All that is needed is a sympathetic ear in the White House and a Congress willing to appease for American sovereignty to be curtailed by the rule of internationalization.
Men and Women
Correction: The debate airs at 10:00 PM tonight on C-Span 2 - which my cable company, alas, does not support. Let me know how it is....
CSPAN is airing a Fixed Point Foundation debate between Christopher Hitchens and David Berlinski on the question of whether atheism poisons everything (a counter-point to Hitchens' latest book subtitle: "How Religion Poisons Everthing"). The next (and final) CSPAN showing should be tonight at 9:00 PM.
Democrats, their apologists, and centrists have dismissed Dinesh D'Souza's argument that Barack Obama absorbed anticolonialist ideology from his father's writings and career. I have yet to see such a critic actually cite the President's autobiography, the basis for many of D'Souza's claims. Dreams From my Father presents a young man who sees himself as a smirky, post-modern and post-nationalist critic of almost everyone he encounters. (I would add to D'Souza's observations Obama's own comments about his anthropologist mother's influence over him, in his second autobiography.)
Clearly the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. goes a long way to explain the actions and policies of his son in the Oval Office. And we can be doubly sure about his father's influence because those who know Obama well testify to it. His "granny" Sarah Obama (not his real grandmother but one of his grandfather's other wives) told Newsweek, "I look at him and I see all the same things--he has taken everything from his father. The son is realizing everything the father wanted. The dreams of the father are still alive in the son."
In his own writings Obama stresses the centrality of his father not only to his beliefs and values but to his very identity. He calls his memoir "the record of a personal, interior journey--a boy's search for his father and through that search a workable meaning for his life as a black American." And again, "It was into my father's image, the black man, son of Africa, that I'd packed all the attributes I sought in myself." Even though his father was absent for virtually all his life, Obama writes, "My father's voice had nevertheless remained untainted, inspiring, rebuking, granting or withholding approval. You do not work hard enough, Barry. You must help in your people's struggle. Wake up, black man!"
The climax of Obama's narrative is when he goes to Kenya and weeps at his father's grave. It is riveting: "When my tears were finally spent," he writes, "I felt a calmness wash over me. I felt the circle finally close. I realized that who I was, what I cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words. I saw that my life in America--the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I'd felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I'd witnessed in Chicago--all of it was connected with this small piece of earth an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the color of my skin. The pain that I felt was my father's pain."
In an eerie conclusion, Obama writes that "I sat at my father's grave and spoke to him through Africa's red soil." In a sense, through the earth itself, he communes with his father and receives his father's spirit. Obama takes on his father's struggle, not by recovering his body but by embracing his cause. He decides that where Obama Sr. failed, he will succeed. Obama Sr.'s hatred of the colonial system becomes Obama Jr.'s hatred; his botched attempt to set the world right defines his son's objective. Through a kind of sacramental rite at the family tomb, the father's struggle becomes the son's birthright.
I really don't want to pile on Christine O'Donnell, but I'm not sure all this talk about her involvement with witchraft is on point. In one sense, who cares? The people of Delaware aren't being asked to vote for the teenage version of O'Donnell or anyone else and if that is all there was to questions about O'Donnell there wouldn't be much there at all.
What disturbes me more is what this might tell us about Christine O'Donnell's career as a conservative activist and pundit - which is much more relevant to her Senate run than her teenage dating history. I don't really believe her story. It is isn't imposible that it happened the way she says, but it sounds to me like she made it up to have something to talk about on the show. It fits in with a wider pattern of behavior like her fishy lawsuit against ISI and her "Who are you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?" approach to questions about her financial and academic background. None of this makes O'Donnell a monster, but it does make her a lousy candidate for Senate