Literature, Poetry, and Books
Is it too far a stretch to cite yesterday's Kansas State - Syracuse Pinstripe Bowl game as an example of the evils of big-government, excessive regulation and lowest-common-denominator political-correctness?
For those who missed the game, KS's Adrian Hilburn quickly saluted the crowd / American flag following a touchdown which could have (following a 2-point conversion) tied the game. However, for his "excessive celebration," Hilburn was penalized and KS subsequently lost the game.
The decision to criminalize celebration during a sporting event is unbelievably absurd. Pittsburgh's Jack Lambert didn't go far enough when he lamented "they should just put a skirt on the quarterback." The nanny-state sissies running football would have the entire team in bows and ribbons.
Unsportsmanlike conduct was an honorable penalty. Intentionally attempting to unnecessarily harm another player is contrary to the standards of gamesmanship. Spearing, late-hits and the like should be punished, as they demean the game and cross the line of decency.
But celebration? Combined with the proliferation of "illegal" hits - which really only means tackling a highly paid QB or wide receiver - the game has been neutered by administrators who have lost the love of sport and succumbed to the gradual enervation of joyless regulation. How can it be that Europe and (post-) Communist countries like Russia allow celebration on the field, whereas America has legislated the suppression of emotion?
This is America. For God's sake, let the boys play!
Literature, Poetry, and Books
2011 will mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. 1 billion copies have been printed since the KJV first rolled off the press in 1611.
As a genuine translation of scripture, the KJV occasionally lacks merit - the result of political motivations among 17th century Protestants in England. But as a work of English-language literature, the KJV is without compare. It was not only the Bible of England, but the Bible of Jefferson, Lincoln and America. Even arch-atheist Richard Dawkins admitted, "Not to know the King James Bible is to be, in some small way, barbarian."
So I'm reading Tim Wu's The Master Switch and I was struck by a couple of quotes. Wu wrote "in the immediate aftermath of the AT&T breakup, consumers saw a drop-off in service quality utterly unexampled since the formation of the Bell system. In fact, the "competitive" industries that replaced the imperial monopolies were often not as efficient or successful as their predecessors, failing to deliver even the fail-safe benefit of competition: lower prices." But there is a payoff. Wu writes that "the breakup of Bell laid the foundation for every important communications revolution since the 1980s onward. There is no way of knowing that thirty years on we would have an Internet, handheld computers, and social networking, but it is hard to imagine their coming when they did had the company that buried the answering machine remained intact."
This got me think of the Ryan Roadmap's approach to reforming health care. The Roadmap (and other conservative proposals like the one offered by James Capretta and Thomas Miller) would transform our system from one with little or no visible price system for consumers and where health care providers are used to billing either private insurers or government for routine medical costs, to a system in which providers would compete for health consumer dollars (for noncatastrophic costs) directly through price and quality. While I'm all in favor of this shift, I wonder if a sudden transition (even one phased in over several years) would produce similar problems to the ones that Wu described as providers initially flounder around trying to adjust to a new model. I'm even more worried about whether our politics would ever allow such a sudden shift to happen. People are a lot more risk averse about their health care security than they are about their phone service. That is why I think it is important to push primarily for incremental reforms that increase the number of people on consumer-drive health insurance policies and that show concrete benefits to subgroups of the population (and also regulatory reforms to improve price transparency.) This would allow providers to partially reorient themselves towards customers as well as insurers and the government and show the broad public that moving to a more market-oriented system has more benefits than drawbacks.
So what would this market-oriented system look like? Well when I first read this Walter Russell Mead post I thought it sounded too science fictional, but really it presents a change no weirder than the change from the rotary phone my parents had in 1980 to the cell phones that are now available to the middle-class (and often the nominally poor.) I don't think conservatives should promise those kinds of benefits if conservative reform proposals are adopted. Greater take home pay with continued health care security should be enough. But we will only get there piece-by-piece and every gain will be through political trench warfare. Staking reform on one huge radical-sounding change probably reduces the chances of averting government-run health care.
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Someone ought to put these questions to Robert Gibbs at his next daily press briefing, and watch hilarity ensure.If the Government can make money with a stamp, why does the Government borrow money? If the Government can create value out of nothing, why not abolish all taxation?
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Jonah Goldberg has made a highly qualified case for bourgeois homosexuals (Hobos) and hence for same-sex marriage. In the lively new University of Chicago journal, Counterpoint, "Carl Roberts" anticipated why Jonah's argument fails. Unlike the Robby George-inspired recent natural law essay "What is Marriage?" Roberts bases his argument on social science.
Roberts maintains that legalizing same-sex marriage would change the cultural underpinnings of marriage from procreation to companionship. This profound shift undermines marriage in general (here he uses the Chicago lingo of "incentives"). It subsequently encourages single motherhood, which clearly is the major source of urban poverty.
The conservative journal (edited by Chicago undergrads) boasts a series of thoughtful articles on Martin Diamond, Jane Austen, gun rights, Lady Gaga, and many other topics of enduring and contemporary interest. May it be blessed with a Rockefeller!
MoveOn.org just released a
Christmas (silly me) holiday message:
It's tough out there this holiday season. We all see the signs: a family member out of work, a neighbor who still can't afford health care, or a child not getting enough to eat.
So as a community, MoveOn and its members have chosen a few extraordinary nonprofits to support together. From thousands of nominations, we've voted to support Habitat for Humanity, Feeding America, and Planned Parenthood with our combined dollars.
I'm just wondering which of those problems an abortion clinic is supposed to fix?
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Stories of the times from today's Wall Street Journal:
The owners under pressure include Tasha McLaughlin, a 33-year-old mother of two in Sacramento's South Natomas neighborhood. She and her husband, Steve, bought their two-bedroom house in 2004 for $256,000, intending to stay about five years. After 11 months of trying to sell it between 2006 and 2007, the family took it off the market.
"Everyone is saying we should foreclose or claim bankruptcy, but I have a moral issue with that," said Mrs. McLaughlin. "The more we try to pay the mortgage and pinch pennies, the more we get punished."
Now, with a similar home down the block listed for $80,000, the McLaughlins are accepting that they won't recoup their losses anytime soon. Their interest-only loan is set to increase their current $1,600 monthly payment to $2,200 in seven years. If they were to default on their mortgage and walk away, they calculate that in about the same time, seven years, their credit scores would be stable enough to allow them to buy again elsewhere.
"I am just going to swallow my pride and walk out. I have to," said Mrs. McLaughlin. "The market for homes is not going up."
Wehner takes Palin to task:
Michelle Obama has encouraged parents to make sure their children exercise and eat healthy and has emphasized more nutritious school lunches. Ms. Palin seems to view this as an attack by Leviathan against individual liberty and parental authority. "What [Mrs. Obama] is telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat," according to Palin. "Just leave us alone, get off our back and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions." And at a visit to a Pennsylvania high school, she handed out cookies to students. The reason, she wrote on Twitter, was to "intro kids 2 beauty of laissez-faire" amid a "Nanny state run amok."
This is worse than silly; what Palin is doing is downright counterproductive.
For one thing, nearly one out of three children are overweight or obese. The annual cost of treating obesity and related preventable chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and orthopedic issues constitutes fully 16.5 percent of all U.S. spending on medical care ($168 billion).
Dyer begins by noting that Wehner has recently been arguing that conservatives must make a moral case for economic freedom. Ultimately, he thinks that mocking the First Lady's efforts is probably not prudent, but the heart of the argument is here. The moral case for economic liberty:
cannot stand alone. Economic conservatism is intrinsically linked to political liberty, a liberty meaning not just the right to speak freely on political matters and to vote, but the right to set limits on the central government's power and regulatory reach. This debate we have had, if possible, even less over the past two decades than the debate on the moral foundations of conservative economics. This very question is what motivated the American colonists to declare independence from the British king, but our public discourse today has fallen into a set of unexamined bromides on topics like the meaning of political liberty and the proper relation of man and the state.
In this vein, I took particular notice of the following passage from Peter Wehner's post today on Sarah Palin mocking the First Lady's anti-obesity campaign.
... the problem of childhood obesity is real. And there are entirely reasonable steps that can be taken to address it, including (to name just one) banning vending machines from schools. Does that constitute the "nanny state run amok"?
I understand the question is meant to be rhetorical. But there is actually a very large segment of the American population that would answer, "Of course." The central government's interesting itself in our obesity because that government has made the cost of our health care "its" problem - and proposing therefore to ban vending machines from schools putatively governed by local school boards and the states - can legitimately be considered at odds with the American idea of government as limited, constitutional, and federal. This arguably puts the proposition at odds, by extension, with the American idea of the citizen, the state, and natural rights.
I was watching a little bit of Beck the other day and it put me in mind of this typically smarmy Matthew Yglesias post from earlier this year. Yglesias writes that Barry Goldwater's opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has continuing relevance in understanding Amercan conservatism because "his sincere political ideology led to horribly wrongheaded conclusions [italics in original.] Okay, remember that.
The Beck show was built around the Japanese-American internment during WWII. The internment was a case where FDR (to use Yglesias' own words) "stood shoulder-to-shoulder with white supremacists" in order to strip members of an ethnic group of their basic rights. Now one difference is that Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act (again using Yglesias' own words) "out of principled constitutional reasoning" while FDR's racist and absurd policy (Japanese-Americans in Hawaii and elsewhere were not interned) was based on a combination of political opportunism and the ideological conviction that (to use liberal congressman Pete Stark's words) "The federal government, yes, can do almost anything in this country."
So what is Yglesias' point and what is Beck's? Yglesias' point is that American conservatism was and is inherently flawed for putting up a political champion who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Becks' point is that the liberal icon's support for the deployment of federal power to round up and arbitrarily intern and strip the rights from Japanese-Americans indicates a foundational and continuing flaw in American liberalism. Yglesias tried to soften the special pleading inherent in his argument by conceding that while "liberals have been wrong in the past", Goldwater's error is different because Goldwater's nomination was a "foundational moment" for conservatism - unlike say the peripheral role that the FDR administration played in the history of liberalism.
Yglesias and Beck deserve each other. They are both practicing the same kind of partisan and opportunistic essentialism. They both imply that a now repudiated policy once held by people who claimed a label in the past demonstrates a fundamental wrongness relevant to current disputes. Neither is quite willing to state the absurdity underlying their arguments (well, maybe Beck has - I haven't seen most episodes). For Yglesias it boils down to the insinuation that support for lower tax rates and less government spending is inherently in latent alliance with white supremacy, and for Beck it is that support for Obamacare is a step toward concentration camps.
Liberals have spent decades trying to understand and explain why FDR's internment of Japanese-Americans was wrong on the level of liberal principle. Conservatives have sought to explain why, as a matter of conservative principle, Goldwater was constitutionally and morally wrong to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Most liberals seem to understand that conservatives can assert the unconstitutionality of the federal health insurance purchase mandate without at the same time advancing the cause of Jim Crow. Most conservatives seem to understand that liberals can support the same federal mandate without putting us at increased risk that Japanese-Americans will again find themselves in concentration camps. This reasonableness in our politics exists despite the efforts of some ideological propagandists to divide us into warring tribes and make the tribesmen dumber and more self-satisfied.
I caught the Bill of Rights Institute's debate between Angelo Codeville (Claremont Institute and Boston Univ.) and Jeffrey Rosen (New Republic and George Washington Univ.) on "Interpreting the Constitution" in D.C. on December 15.
Rosen took up the liberal position, and continued the trend - common amongst the left since the Citizens' United case - of expanding the definition of "judicial activism" into meaninglessness. This precise issue of definitions came up in the Q&A, and Rosen attempted to eschew any use of the term (as counter-productive) before including any judicial review of a law within the meaning.
The left long ago attempted to expunge the derided label of "liberal" in favor of "progressive" (John Kerry's unconvincing plea that "liberal" wasn't a bad word notwithstanding), and they are now attempting a similar linguistic manipulation. Rather than saying that they don't favor "activism," they assert that conservatives also favor the practice, and so we might as well shift the conversation elsewhere.
I assume most liberals recognize the disingenuousness of their argument. Marbury v. Madison expressed the valid definition of judicial review to which conservative scholars subscribe: should an act of Congress and the Constitution contradict, the Constitution wins - and the courts are required to enforce the law of the Constitution. Judicial activism seeks to remedy perceived social ills through the courts, in order to circumvent the unenlightened laws of a democratic majority, by empowering courts to strike down laws which are not in conflict with the Constitution, but (in the view of the proponent) should be.
The latter exalts the judicial branch over the legislative as a sort of enlightened priesthood, enforcing a particular social preference on the evolution of American society - it is anti-democratic, philosophically indefensible and contrary to America's constitutional design. Exalting the constitution (as per the conservative view of judicial review) is entirely different from exalting the Supreme Court (the result of liberal judicial activism).
Liberals must not be permitted to muddy the waters by masquerading activism as a central judicial responsibility. Judicial activism and review may have the same result in a particular case, much like murder and self-defense may both result in the same lethal result, but the rationale and intentions are fundamentally diverse. Liberal scholars are not unaware of this distinction, and act shamefully in attempting to obscure their goals.
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Literature, Poetry, and Books
The New Republic's Noam Scheiber suggests, by implication, that the web will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to have a single, large bureaucratic organization in charge of health care for 300 million people.
The Civil War & Lincoln
If, as E. J. Dionne allows, "the central cause of the [Civil] war was our national disagreement over race and slavery, not states' rights or anything else," then there is no reason why we need to associate the defense of federalism with either slavery or racism.
Perhaps Mr. Dionne will soon come out in support of Randy Barnett's proposed federalism amendment.
Kevin Clarke highlights significant events of 2010 for Pope Benedict XVI, with emphasis on "Travels, saints, and blessed," "Documents and teachings," "Controversies and battles," and a preview of 2011.
In 1941, Winston Churchill became the first British prime minister to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress.
... to all, and, very soon, to all a good night!
God bless all our NLT readers, and thank you for your attention, engagement and glorious comments.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang are both worried about the sustainability of municipal employee and retiree costs. Lang argues for a "new public employment covenant." Conservatives and state and federal-level Republicans should recognize that there is room for creative alliances with elected municipal officials (many if not most Democrats) and urban property tax payers. These alliances could go a long way to making government both more efficient and sustainable at every level. The key to the success of such alliances will be in conservatives offering constructive policies in non-alienating language.
One place where there is potential room for cooperation between conservatives, municipal officials and urban tax payers is municipal employee health care costs. Rising municipal employee health care costs are damaging the ability of towns to pay for public services without ruinous tax increases. This is where a conservatives could come in. Indiana's state government managed to save 11 percent on its health care costs by introducing and HSA/catastrophic coverage option for state employees. Such savings would no doubt sound very attractive to both mayors and urban tax payers who are trying to maintain public services without tax increases. It also helps that most Indiana state employees seem to like HSA/catastrophic coverage option. The widespread adoption of HSA/catastrophic plans by municipalities would have the added benefit of increasing the number of people on consumer-driven health insurance plans and make it tougher to enact a full government takeover of the health care sector.
There would have to be a division of labor between state and federal-level Republicans (and sympathetic Democrats) and municipal officials. State and federal-level legislators and state governors will have to pass laws to make such plans legal and allow municipalities to offer such plans. Municipalities would then have to enact those plans. There will be coalitional tensions. Conservatives will have to resist the temptation to demonize public employees or cast their program as some kind of revenge or punishment on a large constituency. Reformist conservative policy is good policy because it saves the tax payers money, maintains public services and maintains the health care security of public employees - not because it is a chance to settle scores. The main opponents of an HSA/catastrophic health care coverage option for municipal employees are likely to be some union leaders and especially liberals who recognize that expanding the number of Americans on market-driven health insurance policies threatens he dream of government-run medicine. This is a fight conservative can win if we pick our allies and our arguments wisely.
One, from Iowahawk, on how retired Members of Congress might make their way in a wicked world.
The second, from the Pope, in a Christmas greeting message:
Alexis de Tocqueville, in his day, observed that democracy in America had become possible and had worked because there existed a fundamental moral consensus which, transcending individual denominations, united everyone. Only if there is such a consensus on the essentials can constitutions and law function. This fundamental consensus derived from the Christian heritage is at risk wherever its place, the place of moral reasoning, is taken by the purely instrumental rationality....
That's a good way to think of the political significance of Christmas and our other religious holidays, such as Thanksgiving. H/t WheatandWeeds.
The EEOC is suing the Washington Post's Kaplan business for using credit histories in vetting job candidates. Why? Because in the judgment of the lawyers at the EEOC, ""This practice has an unlawful discriminatory impact because of race and is neither job-related nor justified by business necessity."
Perhaps I'm wrong, but my guess is that the Washington Post has been a big supporter of disparate impact lawsuits in the past.
The economy is, obviously, the main issue. But, other than getting the budget closer to balance, I am not sure there's much the federal government can do. If oil jumps well above $100 per barrel again, perhaps there will be room to argue for more wells, and more natural gas. If corn prices spike, or there's a real scarcity of food, perhaps we can start to work for ending the ethanol mandate. In addition, the move to more freedom friendly regulations (as opposed to simple deregulation or the command and control version) would be good. A tax code with fewer looholes would probably also be good. (The slogan: "The campaign against K street.")
Beyond that, perhaps Congress should play some small ball. As I have noted before, it would be good for them to repeal the ban on the incandescent buld, and regulations that limit the size of our toilet tanks. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I suspect both those would be popular moves with the majority of Americans (even if they might not get a majority of votes among people who read the NY Times with their breakfast every day).
Might it also be possible to make some moves against political correctness and related things? Could Congress require all schools that take federal funds not to have speech codes? Could they require that the difference between candidates admitted via affirmative action (and perhas legacy and athletic friendly admissions as well) not exceed, on average 5% on standardized tests?
Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I suspec that most Americans think that diversity training is an expensive joke, and a waste of time. Would it be possible to change the underlying laws that lead businesses to have such training? Perhaps the law could stress the obligation of employers not to discriminate based on race, sex, etc., but also include a finding indicating that in a free society we have the right to offend each other, and that disciminiation requires much more than offensive speech or behavior. (It might be that the law technically allows that, but the common interpretation, and company policies that follow it, are often less open to free speech. Perhaps Congress could try to fix that).
Lawyers, particularly trial lawyers are not popular. Are there any actions that Congress could do to make it harder to create class action lawsuits?
Could Congress legislate against the finding in Kelo, at least as it applies to federal takings. Relatedly, could Congress expand the legal definition of a regulatory taking? If memory serves, Congress did something after Kelo, but it was relatively weak.
Could Congress legislate against disparate impact? (Has this issue been polled? If asked, would most Americans think that it is reasonable? I suspect most Americans would want proof of actual discriminiation in a particular case, and not a mere statistical correlation).
Those are just a few ideas dashed off quickly. Not sure if they're on target, but it's worth thinking about. The legislature is Article I, pace Joe Biden, because it was supposed to be the most important branch, and the House of Representatives is first in that section because it's closest to the people. It would be good to see Congress following public opinion on some of these issues. The House, of course, does not make law on its own. There are higher, and hopefully more thoughtful branches, that can refine the raw ideas put forth in Congress. But the House is where things are supposed to start, not the regularory bureaucracy, where some of these laws, regulations, and interpretations have come from.
When did the Good News become bad news? It's understandable from non-believers, but surprising numbers of Christians get in on the act. I don't know how the world is supposed to rejoice when Christians don't. Our Advent preparation consists largely of complaining about how much there is to prepare.Christians, especially, ought to eschew this temptation. It can be difficult to do because there is so much work involved in a good celebration but we have to remember that, "all festivity is ultimately an affirmation of the goodness of existence" and to resist this kind of joy is to affirm its opposite.
Powerline provides a good collection of the commentary concerning the FCC's (and Obama administration's) continued corruption of the democratic process and American freedoms:
Since Congress declined to adopt the Orwellian "net neutrality" legislation, the FCC stepped into the breach. It's another example of the usurpation of constitutional government by the administrative state.
John Fund calls out the FCC in "The net neutrality coup," and David Harsyani proposes that we "Abolish the FCC." Michelle Malkin holds that net neutrality is the Obamacare of the Web. Senator DeMint is not amused.
Richard Epstein applies the law-and-economics perspective to the underlying issue of policy.
I'm a big fan of both Reihan Salam and Ramesh Ponnuru so I was interested in their recent article on how the GOP can make inroads among working-class voters. I agree that the GOP should be offering working-class voters and especially working-class parents a tax cut. The lousy economy is obscuring that the tax argument, as currently constituted, structurally favors the Democrats. Obama won (or at worst tied) the tax issue in 2008 with his combination of tax cuts for most and a tax increase on high earners. Ponnuru and Salam rightly point out that a 2012 tax argument that boils down to Democrats and Republicans agreeing on middle and working-class tax rates but disagreeing on high earner tax rates will tend to favor the Democrats. Even worse would be a Republican plan that increases taxes on lower earners while cutting taxes on higher earners (or a fantasy land plan of "huge tax cuts for all and never mind the deficit wheeee!!!").
I think Salam and Ponnuru have something like Robert Stein's pro-family, pro-growth tax plan in mind. I like the plan. It cuts taxes on most Americans, and encourages investment. The thing is that this plan does raise taxes on a significant number of high earners in high tax jurisdictions. That is going to be a political problem. Considering the political tradeoffs of other kinds of tax reform that either raise taxes on the middle and working-classes or bust the budget, the Stein plan both moves policy in a better direction and is politically doable. The appeal of the plan to the middle and working-class is obvious but the appeal to high earners is going to have to be comparative. The Republicans are going to cut some of your deductions, but leave your rates low (and cut taxes on investments) while the Democrats are going to raise (and raise and raise) your rates until you end up spending most of your time working for the government. Still there be political as well as economic tradeoffs.
Salam and Ponnuru point out that Republicans should focus on having a replacement to Obamacare and I think that working-class voters would benefit enormously from a combination of a tax credit for catastrophic coverage, and state based reinsurance pools. This would save working-class voters money while maintaining (and in some ways improving) their security of access to health care. Now explain the ideas behind, and benefits of, these policies in two minutes using plain language. Not easy.
While I generally share Salam and Ponnuru's policy preferences and political analysis, I think that any move by the GOP toward their kind of agenda will have to be very, very careful. The voters are not familiar with these policies and the Democrats (as well as the various kinds of liberal-leaning media that most swing voters consume) will do their best to distort reformist conservative policies. That doesn't mean public spirited conservative politicians shouldn't support these kinds of policies. They should! But defending these kinds of policies will be mentally taxing work.
I remember reading about how when John Roberts was an appellate lawyer, he would spend weeks trying to imagine all the objections that Supreme Court Justices and opposing counsel might offer to his arguments. Roberts would then carefully, over weeks and sometimes months, craft concise and convincing answers and commit them to heart. Reformist conservative politicians will have to learn from Roberts' example if they are going to win the future.
Men and Women
As expected, the quickly growing Hispanic population has easily surpassed blacks as the largest minority. Whites presently represent less than 2/3 of the population, and are shrinking. Minority population has grown at five times the rate of whites since 2000 - so if you're an "America is a white nation" advocate ... you'd better get breeding! 2050 is forecast as the shift in balance when whites fall below 50% of the population.
On the issue of segregation, about 80% of whites live in predominately white areas, while just under half of black and Hispanics live in areas with a majority of their own ethnicity.
Most troubling by far, however - women are only 50.7% of the population. That's still way too many dudes, in my opinion. Ladies, more of your own, if you please!
I wasn't previously aware of Ohio's Rep. Steve Driehaus, but the Democrat is now on my short list for most pathetic politicians. During the election cycle, Driehaus filed a criminal complaint against a pro-life group which criticized his vote for Obamacare.
But that's not the worst! Driehaus dropped his criminal complaint the day after he was defeated in November - and immediately sued the pro-lifers for defamation and "loss of livelihood," since they pointed out his record on abortion.
Driehaus pettiness, spitefulness and sense of political entitlement is difficult to covey. He has wandered so far off the reservation that even the ACLU opposes his lawsuit. And when a liberal Democrat losses the ACLU....
Both a total lunar eclipse and the winter solstice occur today - a celestial concurrence with a frequency of perhaps once a millennium.
In case your
astrological [correction: astronomical - h/t Thomas Henry] vocabulary is in need of brushing up, a total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth blocks the sun's rays and the moon is fully enshrouded by the shadow, and the winter solstice marks the sun's lowest arc in the northern sky.
So go look at the sky, wonder for a moment, and take part in a little piece of history.
AEI's Gary Schmitt (no relation, as he takes pains to note) disagrees with Mark Lilla's description of Chinese intellectual fascination with political philosopher Leo Strauss and Nazi apologist Carl Schmitt:
Now, I have no way of knowing if what Lilla reports is accurate about Chinese views regarding Schmitt and Strauss. However, my own experience has been somewhat the same but also somewhat different. Only a few years ago, I had dinner in China with some the leading "leftist" intellectuals.... [T]hey were reading Strauss and Schmitt as in line with each other: anti-democratic, anti-liberal and, in the case of Strauss' work on Plato and Machiavelli, as in favor of thought-infused dictatorship. What China needed was philosopher kings and a prince to guide it into better rule....
In other words, the Chinese intellectuals Gary Schmitt met were looking for western justification for their tyranny.
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In September, Randy Barnett and William Howell penned a WSJ op-ed calling for a new, tea-party-esque amendment to the Constitution. The Repeal Amendment would allow two-thirds of the states to repeal any federal law. Draft text reads:
Any provision of law or regulation of the United States may be repealed by the several states, and such repeal shall be effective when the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states approve resolutions for this purpose that particularly describe the same provision or provisions of law or regulation to be repealed.
The NY Times has now taken note, linking the proposed amendment to attempts to undermine Obama-care. Naturally, any endeavor seeking to reign in the federal government will find opposition in big, blue states. But the concept is an interesting and serious defense of states' rights, and has a growing national appeal.
Always remember: Anything can happen.
Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been charged with abuse of power for misusing more than 151 million euros in state funds. If convicted, she could face 10 years in prison, followed by a three-year ban from politics.
This is a tragedy. I have no idea if Tymoshenko is innocent, but her absence from politics has been sorely lamented by this foreign affairs enthusiast - and losing her for another 13 years would plunge eastern-bloc news coverage into the abyss (as regards "attractive" political stories).
Tymoshenko follows just behind Queen Rania for politicians capturing my attention. But I'm partial to elegance and aristocracy - while Tymoshenko wears leather and rocks a crotch rocket.
The U.S. has rejected as illegitimate the re-election of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. Claiming 80% of the vote, Lukashenko jailed all opposition leaders and hundreds of activists prior to the election - which he claims to have won by 80%. He promises to deal accordingly with anyone sufficiently foolish to protest his claimed victory, which would continue his rule since 1994.
George W. Bush called Lukashenko the last dictator in Europe and sought his isolation. Obama had previously joined Poland in calling for free elections in Belarus, and it's commendable that Obama has reacted by condemning this rogue tyrant.
Can President Obama triangulate after the fashion of President Clinton? Everyone knew that Bill Clinton was a political animal first and foremost. His tendency to say or do whatever politics demanded was well known when he was elected in 1992. He also campaigned as a centrist, DLC Democrat, He worked with the GOP to secure NAFTA early in his term. After 1994, when left health care and his stimulus ideas behind, and worked with the GOP Congress to cut taxes, balance the budget, change welfare, etc., it did not really change America's perception of who he was. If memory serves, approval of Clinton as President waxed as approval of him as a person waned.
President Obama, by contrast, presented himself as a fundamentally decent person, and a man of principle. Hence it might be harder for him to repudiate what he once said was a matter of principle, even if he also presented himself as a pragmatic guy. In contrast to Clinton, he remains personally popular, even as his job approval drops.
Agreeing to a compromise on taxes, and denouncing it publicly as bad policy is not surprising from that perspective. It reminds me of President Bush throwing down the pen after he signed the bill to build a wall to secure our border.
In short, will President Obama be able to sell himself as a centrist, pragmatic politician?
The Washington Times reports that the 2010 census, due to be released tomorrow, will include "a boatload of good political news for Republicans and grim data for Democrats."
UPDATE: WaPo has the census results, with a map showing changes. Indeed, bad for Democrats.
+2 Seats: Texas and Florida.
+1 seat: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.
-1 Seat: Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania
-2 Seats: New York and Ohio
Republicans will control the redistricting process in eight states, Democrats will control just two.
The total population of the country as of April 1 was 308,745,538, a 9.7% increase from 2000.
WaPo observes that Catholic universities are enrolling increased numbers of Muslims in recent years - an interesting, if expected, trend. The article relates minor tensions but overwhelming harmony in this inter-religious condition.
On the one hand, this reflects well on America and Catholicism, which treat foreigners and religious minorities in their midst with respectful hospitality. The same is not routinely true of the treatment offered to Christians in Muslim lands.
It's also noteworthy that Muslims prefer Christian (even, or especially, doctrinal and conservative Catholic) surroundings in America. Both faiths likely recognize radical secularism as a greater threat to world order than diverse religions. Hence, Islamic terrorists do not tend to target churches, but Wall Street, the military and Washington. Islam's problem is not, foremost, with American faith, but its perceived faithlessness. A relevant perspective on Islamic sensibilities.
NRO's Corner had a wonderful recap of how the Democrats' ignorance of the Constitution will likely cost them the formerly-presumed passage of the food safety bill. In short, the Senate version of the bill raised taxes, which Harry Reid forgot is a power reserved to the House.
Democrats forgetting that there are limits (Constitutional or otherwise) to raising taxes. Say it ain't so....
There's a certain just righteousness in the Constitution asserting herself so.
UPDATE: The WaPo reports that the food bill "came roaring back to life Sunday as Senate Democrats struck a deal with Republicans that helped overcome a technical mistake made three weeks ago and a filibuster threat that seemed likely to scuttle the legislation." Even GOP aids state they don't know why the GOP relented and allowed passage. One hopes the bargain was worth it - and the Dems are good to their word.
I have an op-ed in Friday's Washington Times, weighing in on the latest absurdities in the Smithsonian's ants-crawling-on-Jesus exhibit scandal. The article begins:
A good share of conservative commentators have avoided remarking on the Smithsonian scandal involving the gay-themed "Hide/Seek" exhibit featuring a video of ants crawling over a bloody, crucified Christ, among other lewd, sado-masochistic porn displays. There was no need to comment because it all had been said before. The cowards and hypocrites who constitute the chattering-class activists of the art world dogmatically avoid offending those corners of society deeply in need of critical reflection, such as Islam and the Middle East, or considered sacrosanct, such as feminism and racial/ethnic/sexual minorities, under the banner of tolerance and diversity. Yet these same noble paragons ruthlessly and intentionally insult Christians and everyone with a modicum of taste and decency, all the while praising their double standard as speaking truth to power.
The Smithsonian pulled the offensive piece after the Catholic League raised a fuss and called for an end of public funding. Yet I can't see praising the Smithsonian for this decision, as it's rather akin to praising an acquaintance's decision to stop beating his girlfriend - he shouldn't have done it in the first place. Belatedly pulling the piece merely represented the Smithsonian's grudging adoption of the common decency obvious to any adolescent of average intelligence and morality.
However, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts - lacking an adolescent standard of intellect and morality - has protested the Smithsonian's decision:
"Such blatant censorship is unconscionable ... we cannot stand by and watch the Smithsonian bow to the demands of bigots who have attacked the exhibition out of ignorance, hatred and fear."
Monopoly, the classic and most-played game in history has turned 75.
My Czech relations tell me that they even had an underground variant, Dostihy a sázky, when such capitalist games were forbidden under communism. Ironic, since the original intent of the game was to reveal an evil of private land ownership. Also ironic in that the board game outlived the evil empire.
The European Court of Human Rights today upheld Ireland's abortion ban and ruled that the European Convention on Human Rights does not contain a general right to abortion.
Does anyone expect that this is the sort of international law which liberal Justices on the Supreme Court intended to take into consideration when formulating their decisions?
From Matt Miller in today's Washington Post:
If we keep taxes low on America's high earners, the terrorists win.
Just an observation of related sentiments from the left in recent, diverse news stories. First, everyone is noting that Obama has come under intense scrutiny from the left, which is furious at his failure to implement a radically liberal agenda and irrationally refuses to accept political (and economic) realities as an excuse. Second, a public event regarding the Smithsonian's decision to pull the ant-covered-Jesus exhibit hosted a furious group of leftists planning public protests of the gallery and refusing to accept political (and economic) realities as an excuse.
In both cases, the angry left are well aware that the targets of their scorn and rage are absolutely on their side. In fact, both figures publically admitted that they "hated" the decisions to compromise, but were forced away from "purist" positions due to realities beyond their control - realities which could have had far more damaging consequences if they'd not compromised.
The left seems to have unresolved anger-management issues from the Bush years. Having survived their anti-Christ, they had high expectations of their new messiah. But God's new-best-thing-since-sliced-bread just isn't walking on water and working miracles in their midst, and the betrayal of their fanatical faith and fantasies has evoked zealously passionate (and irrational) indignation and self-righteous rage. They want a new world order, and they want it now - but they're not going to get it. So false-prophets and mere realists alike should take cover, for the pitchfork-wielding left want a martyr or a sacrifice for their cause... and either will do.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
Then; and then
All his leaves
Fall'n at length,
Look, he stands,
Trunk and bough,
I came across it in an obscure explanatory volume of poetry, the sort I generally don't like because such are written to check further questions, you know, like a bad high school English teacher. Also, they never have the effect of getting you to love the thing it is trying to explain. It was therein explained that "The Oak" is an example of "Cretic (or Amphimacer), a trisyllabic foot whose sequence is accented-un-accented-accented. Poems in English amphimacers are rare and are mostly novelty items in monometer." I like the poem.
Political scientist and all around smart guy Carl Scott asks why I think the filibuster will have to go if we are to truly get rid of Obamacare. The short answer is that I have trouble seeing how we get sixty votes in the Senate to either restore the pre-Obamacare status quo or to enact, on a national level, one of the several kinds of market-oriented health care reform. I'm under no illusions that the David Goldhill or James Capretta-style health care reforms you will find in the above links are popular. In fact the vast majority of the public (probably including most self-identified conservatives) have barely even heard of them in any detail. I can imagine a (not especially likely) scenario where some version of the above policies win majority support within Congress and the electorate (though like I said, the obstacles would be huge), but I don't see the breadth of support you would need for a bill embodying those kinds of policies to get sixty votes in the Senate.
The Democrats know how high the stakes are on health care. The Democratic leadership, the liberal-leaning media institutions, and the Democratic base would go all out against free market-oriented health care reform. Unless we have the kind of Republican Senate supermajorities that we haven't seen in eighty years or unless red and purple state Democratic Senators think it is death to vote against cloture, I don't see how there aren't 41 Senate Democratic votes to filibuster free market-oriented health care reform to death. I don't expect that, even under an optimistic scenario, the public will support David Goldhill or James Capretta-style health care reform by the same huge margins that the public supported Lawrence Mead-style welfare reforms in the 1990s. I don't expect the Senate Democrats to split down the middle regarding whether to block free market-oriented health care reform. Alice Rivlin is a former Clinton OMD Director and she worked with Paul Ryan to come up with a plan to voucherize Medicare and block grant Medicaid. If more Democrats were like her I would be more optimistic, but I don't think there is (at this moment) any significant constituency within the Democratic political coalition for free market-oriented health care reform. The issue of opposing a Goldhill or Capretta-style reform is more likely to unify than divide congressional Democrats. I do think there is room for creative conservative politicians to form alliances with local elected Democratic politicians to advance certain kinds of state-level reforms like allowing cities to offer municipal employees an HSA/catastrophic coverage option that might save municipalities money on rising employee health care costs while avoiding layoffs.
I might still favor retaining the filibuster if I didn't believe that the Democrats would ditch the filibuster themselves if they had a narrow majority in the Senate and a narrow majority among the public in favor of single-payer and the filibuster was all that stood in the way of government-run health care.
Quote of the Day
From FDR brain truster Rexford Tugwell, on the New Deal and the constitution: "To the extent that these new social virtues developed, they were tortured interpretations of a document intended to prevent them."
Family Research Council has released their latest edition of The Social Conservative Review, which includes three articles of mine and two articles from No Left Turns writers Michael Schwarz and John Moser. Among the many luminaries, I'd also like to mention a friend of mine from Catholic University Law, Seana Cranston, who does good works at the UN watchdog, Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.
So go ahead, annoy the Southern Poverty Law Center and read FRC's latest edition of conservative literature. It's categorized by topic, and I promise you'll learn something.
Obama is holding offshore drilling (and the American economy) hostage and demanding concessions to his otherwise-doomed, voter-rejected, ultra-liberal environmental policies. He's demanding passage of his agenda if the U.S. ever wants to see its economy alive again.
Certain people or groups are so identifiable with an idea that their name becomes a shorthand verb encompassing the idea. Consider being "Borked" or "swift-boated." Well, I'd like to suggest another:
To Berlusconi: To act in the most egregiously juvenile manner while in a position of utmost authority without ever suffering the slightest consequences.
Of course, the verb would indicate something you do to other people, rather than something they do to you. Buck the odds, break the rules and tell everyone who would hold you responsible to bugger off - and get away with it - and you've Berlusconied them!
I'm not certain if he is the fox or the hedgehog, but il caveliere (the knight, as he is formally titled) takes the Teflon Presidency to undreamed heights. He has weathered scandals related to politics, finances, influence, mobsters, dictators, Islam, sex with prostitution, sex with minors and just plain old sex. Last month, at 74, he introduced "bunga-bunga" to the world - contributing his own Afro-sexual research to the global deposit of erotic terminology. And his prevailing defense has been: You wish you were me!
Today he did it again: Berlusconi survived another vote of no confidence, retaining his hold as Italy's second longest serving PM. Ironically, despite his utter unpredictability, Berlusconi has provided Italy with its longest run of political stability in recent times - pretty much simply because he refuses to go away!
How bland the world would seem if Berlusconi had gone the way of the Dodo.
FDR, like his cousin Theodore, was an affluent heir who had contempt for men who built businesses and made money. They were "economic royalists" and "malefactors of great wealth" -- sentiments echoed by Barack Obama last week.Do sentiments like this echo with the majority of Americans today? Barone points to the amazing resonance of the Joe the Plumber incident to suggest that they do not. Folks like TR, FDR and, even, Barack Obama are not representative of the average American experience that encompasses actual contact and familiarity with the character of America's small businessmen. These are not economic royalists. They are just hard-working Joes trying to make a buck. And what is wrong with that? Americans do not need government intervention to protect us from hucksters . . . for all that ever does is put the hucksters in charge of the government!
Quote of the Day
From President James Madison's veto of the Bonus Bill in 1817:
"The power to regulate commerce among the several States" can not include a power to construct roads and canals, and to improve the navigation of water courses in order to facilitate, promote, and secure such commerce without a latitude of construction departing from the ordinary import of the terms strengthened by the known inconveniences which doubtless led to the grant of this remedial power to Congress.
To refer the power in question to the clause "to provide for common defense and general welfare" would be contrary to the established and consistent rules of interpretation, as rendering the special and careful enumeration of powers which follow the clause nugatory and improper. Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms "common defense and general welfare" embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust. It would have the effect of subjecting both the Constitution and laws of the several States in all cases not specifically exempted to be superseded by laws of Congress, it being expressly declared "that the Constitution of the United States and laws made in pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges of every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." Such a view of the Constitution, finally, would have the effect of excluding the judicial authority of the United States from its participation in guarding the boundary between the legislative powers of the General and the State Governments, inasmuch as questions relating to the general welfare, being questions of policy and expediency, are unsusceptible of judicial cognizance and decision. . . .
I am not unaware of the great importance of roads and canals and the improved navigation of water courses, and that a power in the National Legislature to provide for them might be exercised with signal advantage to the general prosperity. But seeing that such a power is not expressly given by the Constitution, and believing that it can not be deduced from any part of it without an inadmissible latitude of construction and reliance on insufficient precedents; believing also that the permanent success of the Constitution depends on a definite partition of powers between the General and the State Governments, and that no adequate landmarks would be left by the constructive extension of the powers of Congress as proposed in the bill, I have no option but to withhold my signature from it, and to cherishing the hope that its beneficial objects may be attained by a resort for the necessary powers to the same wisdom and virtue in the nation which established the Constitution in its actual form and providently marked out in the instrument itself a safe and practicable mode of improving it as experience might suggest.
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I wouldn't read too much into today's decision on the individual mandate for two reasons. First, the issue of the constitutionality of the individual purchase mandate is exactly where it was yesterday - in Anthony Kennedy's head. Second, because removing the individual purchase mandate does not, in itself, take us off the road to government-run health care. Obamacare is designed to decompose and result in higher insurance premiums and dropped coverage for millions. Under Obamacare, insurers won't be able to deny coverage or charge premiums based on a customer's health. The obvious incentive is for a consumer to avoid getting health insurance until after getting sick. The individual purchase mandated was designed to partially mitigate this tendency (though it was probably too weak to do so and part of a lousy plan anyway.) If the individual purchase mandate is found unconstitutional, it won't remove the keystone to Obamacare. Guaranteed issue (insurers not being able to deny coverage) and community rating (insurers not being to charge rates based on health) would still be there.
Removing the individual purchase mandate would just speed up the death spiral of the health insurance companies as employers and individuals dropped coverage until individuals got sick. And what kind of world would it be as the health insurance industry was collapsing? Premiums would rise on those dumb enough to buy insurance even as more and more insurance companies fled the industry. There would be a bitter argument about which direction to go. A system of price controls and single-payer (with some kind of supplementary system for the wealthy) might seem like the way to go in such a situation. You don't need an individual purchase mandate to get to government-run health care. Whether we have a mandate or not, conservatives don't need a strategy for getting back to the pre-Obamacare status quo. They need a strategy for getting to a reformed health care system. It won't be easy. Try reading the work of free market-oriented health care analysts.
David Goldhill in the Atlantic, Paul Howard and Stephen Parente in National Affairs and James Capretta and Thomas Miller for AEI have all come out with plans for moving the health care sector in a more free market-oriented direction. From reading all those plans, one thing that jumps out at me is the complete lack of a reformist conservative public rhetoric on health care reform. Even if the majority of the public were willing to give one hour of undivided and active attention (which it ain't), I still doubt that they would walk away from the above essays with a very clear understanding of what was being said. David Goldhill comes the closest to an accessible account but even he takes over ten thousand words to get there. The outlines of several (not wholly compatible) conservative reform agendas exist. The next step is to find ways to explain the key insights, policies and benefits of those agendas in several minute chunks that use plain English and draw from everyday experience. I know it sounds tough (it is tough!), but that is what Reagan would do.
Another concern I have with all of the above approaches is that they are all proposals for enormous system wide changes. I'm for that kind of change, but we need to recognize the practical barriers to achieving huge nationwide changes as a first step. The elected braches of the federal government have multiple veto points. It was only the combination of Democratic supermajorities and an implacable President that got Obamacare through. Getting the anti-Obamacare through will be equally tough though not impossible given enough public support (and the abolition of the filibuster.) But getting the required breadth of public support won't be at all easy. For one thing, the vast majority of the public has not yet heard of the Goldhill, Howard, Capretta, etc. proposals. As far as most of the public is concerned, the positive conservative position on health care is tort reform plus nothing. Just explaining the reformist proposals will be a huge public education effort and I'm not sure most people will like what they hear at first. Market-oriented health care reform will transform how people pay for their health care (not getting insurance from an employer and paying more routine expenses out of pocket.) If we aren't careful, we might make single-payer sound good.
That doesn't mean conservatives shouldn't try to popularize the case for national, market-oriented health care reforms. Conservative members of Congress, conservative journalists and media figures and conservative presidential candidates would do us all a huge service if they dedicated more of their time to explaining the ideas of James Capretta in accessible language. But policy progress will probably come from the federal government last and if we put all of our efforts and hopes into the Ryan-Rivlin plan, we make it more likely that we will get single-payer rather than reform.
Market-oriented health care reform, if it is to happen, will probably have to happen in the states first. The key points for supporters of market-oriented health care reform to get across is that our current system of virtually comprehensive prepayment for health care services costs you too much money without improving your access to quality health care. Goldhill's homely analogy of what would happen if you paid an insurance company for "grocery insurance", bought food where you wanted (and where most stores didn't post prices), and then faced ever rising "food premium" bills should be deployed at every opportunity. If you paid for routine health care costs out of pocket and got to keep the savings from wise spending and provider competition, you would have more money in your pocket at the end of the year, still have access to great health care and still be insured against a catastrophic health care event. But even if you explained market oriented health care reform in the best way possible, it would still be tough going. Decades of experience have made the idea that you can save money by paying out of pocket for routine medical expenses counterintuitive. People are risk averse when it comes to health care policy and nothing will convince like real world demonstration.
That is why it is so important to have concrete examples of market-oriented health care policy where going (for example) to HSA/catastrophic coverage saves real people real money while maintaining their access to quality health care. That is why I'm going to keep linking to Indiana's HSA/catastrophic health care program until a torch bearing mob marches on my home.
The important thing to keep in mind is that state-centered and federal-centered approaches to health care reform need to be complementary if we are to avoid government-run health care. If there is no national health care reform movement and no congressional Republican pressure, the Obama HHS bureaucracy will strangle state health care reforms. If there are no (or very few) state-level examples of promising market-oriented health care programs, passing a federal market-oriented health care reform becomes much more difficult if not politically impossible.
The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the right "to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." Wouldn't that necessarily imply that there is commerce that is not "among the several states"? If not, wouldn't the clause read "to regulate commerce," without any specifications? Wickard v. Filburn suggests that the federal government does not see it that way, of course, but it's still worth raising the point. (And we're not even raising the question of what the constitutional definition of "commerce" is. When the people ratified the constitution, a great deal of business activities were not thought of as "commerce."
Of course, if we have a "living constitution," we can simply reinterpret the language to suit current needs. But if that's the case, we can reinterpret it again, however we want.
Finally, back to Wickard. The Court ruled that a man growing his own wheat on his own land was "commerce among the several states." They did so because New Deal regulations on crop growing could not function if Wickard could legally do what he was doing. The Court, at the time argued that since Wickard's acts impaired a certain type of regulation of commerce among the states, his action could be regulated under the commece clause. But it might be that the precise language of the constitution puts limits on both what and how it may regulate even commerce that is certainly "among the states."
Michael Mernstam's The Palestinian Proletariat is a deeply insighful exploration of the rise and progress of the Palestinian refugee problem. The whole essay is worth reading. Here are a few key paragraphs:
The core issue is a phenomenon we can call "refugeeism." For 60 years, UNRWA has been paying four generations of Palestinians to remain refugees, reproduce refugees, and live in refugee camps. It is UNRWA that put them in refugee cages and watched the number of inhabitants grow. The Palestinian refugee population in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza has exploded from 726,000 in 1950 to 4.8 million in 2010. About 95 percent live under UNRWA care. The unprecedented nature of this guardianship is rooted in the unusual nature of this institution. UNRWA is a supranational welfare state that pays its residents not to build their own nation-state, for, were they to do so, they would forfeit their refugee status and its entitlements of cash, housing, health care, education, credit, and other largesse.
It is these perverse incentives above all that have undermined efforts to improve the lot of the Palestinian people, such as those measures aimed at fostering economic development in the West Bank undertaken by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the Israeli government. If the international community truly wishes to serve the needs of the Palestinians and improve their lot, its first task would be the abolition of UNRWA. . . .
UNRWA is unique by design. Whereas all other refugees and deportees fall under the jurisdiction and care of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Palestinians belong to UNRWA. Only actual refugees qualify for aid under the UNHCR, and that on a short-term basis. This draws a clear line between refugees as such and various ethnic diasporas. The UNHCR's mandate is to resettle and integrate all refugees in their historical homelands or in new host countries--to un-refugee them, so to speak. Out of the millions of refugees and deportees who emerged after World War II and since--Germans, Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Finns, Russians, Ukrainians, Japanese, Indians, Pakistanis, Jews, Turks, Chinese, Koreans, Algerians, Cubans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, and many others--the UN provided Palestinians a different sort of relief.
The UNRWA charter specified that the Palestinians who lived in British Mandate Palestine during the years 1946-48 and who subsequently fled in 1948-49 qualified for refugee status together with all their descendants. This open-ended definition of refugees applies for generations to come. It bestows housing, utilities, health care, education, cash allowances, emergency cash, credit, public works, and social services from cradle to grave, with many cradles and grand-cradles along the way, to its beneficiaries. In practice, this means multigenerational refugee camps and ghettoes in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza. Close to one-third of today's refugees, about 1.4 million, live in 59 refugee camps. There is no room in UNRWA's mandate and agenda for resettlement and integration.
Men and Women
Progress in the United Kingdom?
During a chat with a group of 17-year-old girls recently, our conversation turned to their dreams for the future. One girl, Patty, wants to be a lawyer. Another, Justine, has her heart set on becoming a doctor.
But it seems there's one aspiration that's proving surprisingly popular -- and it doesn't involve years of dedicated study, either.
Yes -- feminists look away now -- most of the girls I talked to are intent on marrying a rich man. . .
As a teacher, perhaps I should have argued with these teenagers and told them their happiness depended on financial independence and high-flying careers. A few years ago I would have done, but not any more.
So what's changed? Well, four years ago my daughter Nancy was born and I became a harassed working mother. It was my implacable belief that a career was the path to female fulfilment that kept me working after her birth.
Back then, I honestly believed that women who didn't work were boring little drones who had given up all vestige of personality.
How wrong I was!
Exit question: if, as a rule, men and women want different things out of life, and if one of the the central questions of liberal eduction is how to live, how should we address the differences between men and women in our schools? A start would be recognizing at least the possibility that the reason why just about every society in history has had gender roles is because men and women like to differentiate themselves from each other.
Has the idea of the equality of men and women been rendered secure enough in modern America to allow us to discuss the both the ways in which men and women are equal and the ways in which men and women are not the same, and don't want to be the same?
Quote of the Day
Since some Progressives have been suggesting that amending the constitution to block the nationalization of health care is un-conservative, I thought it might be wise to post a bit from President Washington's Farewel Address:
You have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support.
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The president must have thought that distancing himself from left and right would make him more attractive to the center. But you get credit for going to the center only if you say the centrist position you've just embraced is right. If you suggest, as the president did, that the seemingly moderate plan you agreed to is awful and you'll try to rescind it in two years, you won't leave the center thinking, "He's our guy!" You'll leave them thinking, "Note to self: Remove Obama in two years."I think it is revealing to the point--almost--of obscenity that Obama chose that particular moment to chastise his base. Watching it, you get the sense, almost of having walked in on a private conversation that you were not meant to overhear. It is remarkably aloof and abstract and distant--directed almost over your head, as if you were a bug crawling on the floor. It is especially to be noted when you combine that outburst at the left with the utter dismissive contempt he demonstrated for Republicans (e.g., tax cuts for the wealthy are their "holy grail"!?). It shows that he is only open to arguments and sensitive to criticism coming at him from his left flank. This--and this alone--was the knife that cut at him. His left flank is the only place where he imagines real political conversation happens. And you will note, too, what "political conversation" looks like. It is not about the ends. It is ONLY about the means. It is about what is possible and how to accomplish it. This reveals that he does not believe that serious debate about the nature and meaning of justice in American politics is either possible or legitimate. He does not consider his political opponents to be potential friends or, even, fellow citizens. They are, alternately, "terrorists" or "enemies" or now "hostage takers." It ought to go without saying, but I cannot let it pass without remarking that this is an utterly despicable way for a President of the United States to address himself to the people.
Reihan Salam gives us a remarkably thoughtful and civil critique of the DREAM Act.
"So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health-care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for a hundred years," Obama began, "but because there was a provision in there that they didn't get that would have affected maybe a couple million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people and the potential for lower premiums for a hundred million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise."
The result of such a inflexible approach, he said, is that "people will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people."
Defending his own tactics, he invoked his race, something he rarely does in political discussions.
"This country was founded on compromise. I couldn't go through the front
door at this country's founding," he said. "And, you know, if we were
really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn't have a union."
1. I'm enjoying the tantrum that many liberals are throwing.
2. There is something weirdly hyperbolic about all this carrying on over extending the 35 percent top marginal income tax rate for two more years. It isn't usually something people get that angry about. If I thought that Bernie Sanders. Michael Lerner, and Keith Olbermann were serious about bringing down the short-term budget deficit, this hissy fit would make a little more sense, but even then not really. They still support the deficit-financed middle class tax cuts and payroll tax holiday. David Limbaugh argues that it is about a desire to get at the rich. I don't think that is it. A desire to see higher marginal tax rates on the rich might be a reason to oppose keeping the top marginal income tax rate at 35 percent rather than 39.9 percent but it doesn't begin to explain the current freakout. I think a lot of this is about George W. Bush. Repealing the "Bush tax cut" on the "rich" would have been a victory over Bush and one more step toward obliterating his economic legacy. I wouldn't discount this kind of pettiness. I remember a debate in 2004 where Howard Dean suggested repealing all of the Bush tax cuts. The other Democrats reminded him that some of the tax cuts were actually quite popular even among Democrats. Dean then suggested repealing all the Bush tax cuts and then re-passing some of them. This isn't even about economics. It is about pride and vengeance. Now Bush has gotten the better of them again and worst of all Obama helped Bush make fools out of liberals one more time.
3. There is also a self-promoting, self-dramatizing, and principled explanation too. As David Weigel points out, criticizing Obama in extravagant terms and threatening to support a primary challenge from the left brings more media attention to the left critique of the compromise and to to the people doing the critiquing/threatening.
4. This tax cut extension/new round of economic stimulus won't break us of course, but there is something ominous about the fact that the bipartisan deficit commission reported last week, and this week we get a bipartisan bill that will increase the deficit. I get the whole short-term weak economy vs. long-term thing entitlement crisis thing, but I don't see much reason to feel good about the long-term either.
Obama continues to excite the rage of the "professional left," as he has derogatorily referred to his liberal detractors. Still under fire for his compromise to freeze federal workers' pay, Obama yesterday faced "an uprising among angry Democrats who strongly opposed his deal with Republicans on tax cuts" Leftist commentators are even beginning to call for a challenge to Obama in the next Democratic primary.
And Obama isn't taking it lightly. Once rated the "most liberal member of the Senate," a visibly angry Obama branded his former compatriots "sanctimonious," accused them of not understanding that "the New York Times editorial page does not permeate across all of America," and chastised Democrats to remember the virtue of "compromise."
Hello pot. Meet kettle.
To be fair, the president has also repeatedly referred to the GOP as terrorists. But Obama's new-found charity toward compromise is amusing. No longer insulated by a Democratic super-majority, the harsh reality of an actual diversity of opinions has suddenly awakened our dear leader to an appreciation of the give-and-take of politics (as opposed to his usual tactic of brute-force, hyper-partisan warfare).
So the president is now taking it from both sides. I'd say that is a good thing - both objectively (it shows compromise, which is necessary from so ideologically extreme a politician) and for the president's approval (again, it shows compromise - a quality of which he has been viewed as sorely lacking). Idle primary threats aside, such a course is the most likely to keep Obama in the Oval Office for six more years. Let's see if it lasts.
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First, "highly educated Americans are embracing a pro-marriage mindset even as Middle Americans are losing faith in marriage."
...marriage is in trouble among so-called "Middle Americans," defined as the 58% of adults who have a high school diploma ... no four-year college degree.
...trends in non-marital childbearing, divorce and marital quality in Middle America increasingly resemble those of the poor, many of whose marriages are fragile. However, among the highly educated and affluent, marriage is stable and appears to be getting even stronger - yet more evidence of America's "marriage gap."
The "marriage gap" also accompanies a corollary "faith gap," as the upper-class now attend church more often than middle-class Americans. Another recently study by NMP concluded that "across America's major racial and ethnic groups ... shared religious activity - attending church together and especially praying together - is linked to higher levels of relationship quality."
The logic is not surprising. Religious people consistently report higher levels of happiness and stability, as do married people, and religious people are more likely to marry and remain married. It's a virtuous circle. Decrease either the religion or marriage components of the equation and you're certain to produce a decrease in happiness and stability.
The retreat from marriage in Middle America cuts deeply into the nation's hopes and dreams as well. For if marriage is increasingly unachievable for our moderately educated citizens--a group that represents 58 percent of the adult population (age 25-60)--then it is likely that we will witness the emergence of a new society. For a substantial share of the United States, economic mobility will be out of reach, their children's life chances will diminish, and large numbers of young men will live apart from the civilizing power of married life.
This retreat is also troubling because highly educated Americans (defined here as having at least a bachelor's degree) have in recent years been largely unaffected by the tidal wave of family change that first hit the poor in the 1960s and has since moved higher into Middle America. Indeed, highly educated Americans, who make up 30 percent of the adult population, now enjoy marriages that are as stable and happy as those four decades ago. There is thus a growing "marriage gap" between moderately and highly educated America.5 This means that more affluent Americans are now doubly privileged in comparison to their moderately educated fellow citizens--by their superior socioeconomic resources and by their stable family lives.
Men and Women
It deserves notice that Elizabeth Edwards passed away yesterday. The NY Times obituary summarizes her life as consisting of "idyllic successes and crushing reverses." In her own words, when she decided to forgo further treatment for her terminal breast cancer, Ms Edwards wrote:
I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces -- my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope... The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that.
Our prayers for her, her family and friends.
Foolishly, I supposed that Helen Thomas' most recent meltdown would be the most fanatical anti-Semitic sentiment I would read today.
...we are owned by propagandists against the Arabs. There's no question about that. Congress, the White House, and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists.
Then I read that Egypt has blamed the recent spree of shark attacks off their coast on ... the Jews.
Speaking on the public TV program "Egypt Today" yesterday, a specialist introduced as "Captain Mustafa Ismael, a famous diver in Sharm El Sheikh," said that the sharks involved in the attack are ocean sharks and do not live in Egypt's waters.
When asked by the anchor how the shark entered Sharm El Sheikh waters, he burst out, "no, who let them in."
Urged to elaborate, Ismael said that he recently got a call from an Israeli diver in Eilat telling him that they captured a small shark with a GPS planted in its back, implying that the sharks were monitored to attack in Egypt's waters only.
"Why would these sharks travel 4000 km and not have any accidents until it entered Sinai?" said Ismael.
Earlier today, General Abdel Fadeel Shosha, the governor of South Sinai, backed Ismael's theory. In a phone call to the TV program, he said that it is possible that Israeli intelligence, Mossad, is behind the incident and that they are doing it to undermine the Egyptian tourism industry. He added that Egypt needs time to investigate the theory.
GPS, meh. If only they had "sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads."
You can't make this stuff up - and shouldn't have to take it seriously.
The GOP is trying a new tactic for bringing down Obamacare and I while I don't think it will actually get Obamacare repealed in the forthcoming Congress, it might be a useful exercise. Medicare is set to cut reimbursements to health care providers by 25 percent. If the cut goes through, it might be tougher for many old people to continue seeing the same providers. The GOP is looking to pass a "Doc Fix" which would keep Medicare reimbursements at the current level. This would of course cost more money, but the money to pay for the Doc Fix would come from shifting money from Obamacare to Medicare. I especially like Douglas Holtz-Eakin's idea of trying to take money from the future Obamacare subsidies to finance the Doc Fix.
It's a neat trick that won't work, but might do some good. As Jonathan Chait points out, the Senate will probably not pass and Obama would in any case veto a bill that shifted funds out of Obamacare. So what? The fight would dramatize that Obamacare took money out of an already underfunded Medicare program to create an expensive new subsidy that won't even exist until years from now - if ever.
So I'm for this tactic, but only tepidly. Most old people already know that Obamacare robbed Medicare and dramatizing this could have real, but only limited benefits. I'm not even sure how many Americans will even hear of (never mind understand) the controversy. Even one concrete state-level initiative to significantly increase the availability and usage of consumer-driven health insurance policies (and the attendant controversies with the HHS bureaucracy and with congressional Republicans cheering the state government on) would do more good in eroding the policy and political basis for Obamacare - though it isn't an either/or matter.
Refine & Enlarge
Modern democracies have created a new morality. Government benefits, once conferred, cannot be revoked. People expect them and consider them property rights. Just as government cannot randomly confiscate property, it cannot withdraw benefits without violating a moral code. The old-fashioned idea that government policies should serve the "national interest" has given way to inertia and squatters' rights.
So opines Robert Samuelson in today's WaPo, drawing specific attention to Europe's present fiscal miseries, America's reckless similarities and the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform's "accounting exercise to shrink the deficit without trying to define what government should do and why." The overarching problem is that commission has failed to produce "a moral rationale for change."
The "entitlement" mentality has long been a feature of American politics, but the urgency of an economic downturn is finally forcing Americans to confront the unsustainability and pending consequences of this problem. Samuelson notes:
The social contract will be rewritten either by design or, as in Europe, under outside pressures. If we keep the expedient morality of perpetual programs - so that nothing fundamental can ever be abandoned - then Europe's social unrest could be a prelude to our own.
Samuelson hopes to begin a conversation about "the broader national interest" in order to form a philosophy of government. I salute his intention, second his diagnosis of the problem and commend his prescription for change - but I wonder if he has noticed that the Tea Party has already begun this particular conversation - and November's election was America's response.
The principle question now is whether our politicians have the knowledge and prudence to decipher the public will and translate it into governing policy. This would be a considerable accomplishment in the formulation of a new governing philosophy, as it would provide an example of true "politics": statesmen responding to sentiments of the citizens by crafting just and prudent laws respecting the will of the people and mindful of the good of the state.
The Supreme Court on Monday accepted what will likely become the highest-profile business case of the year, agreeing to decide whether 1.5 million female employees of Wal-Mart can pursue job discrimination claims [worth billions of dollars in damages -JP] in the largest employment class-action suit in the country's history.
Without having looked at any facts of the case, I presume that the underlying claim (that Wal-Mart "pays women less than men and promotes women less frequently") is factually true. However, I also assume it is irrelevant. This seeming inequality is likely due to a historical trend of women working less hours / part-time as compared to career-oriented men. The assertion that the world's largest private employer has somehow managed to convey a secret message of gender discrimination to store managers across the world seems a bit preposterous.
Wal-Mart is hated by the left, serving as the quintessential model of corporate evil - suffocating humanity beneath a plastic shell of enervating greed. Of course, most on the left have no idea that their regurgitated sound-bites are simply flowery rhetoric peddled by union bosses who recognize Wal-Mart's opposition to unionization as a grave threat to their existence. The largest employer in the world refusing to unionize workers. What could more directly strike at the heart of union power and prestige?
The left apparently fails to notice that Wal-Mart provides 1) jobs to unskilled workers and 2) a wide range of affordable commodities to low-income buyers. These are critical services which the government simply cannot duplicate. (What is the average cost per job created by Obama's stimulus package?) Unions have convinced liberals to sacrifice their concern for the poor, enlisting them instead to oppose the company providing the most benefits to low income families. All due to the left's blind loyalty to labor unions.
The infamous 9th Circuit in San Francisco ruled that the class-action suit could continue to trial. The Supreme Court's acceptance of Wal-Mart's appeal of that ruling suggests the possibility for a dismissal. The high court will not rule on the merits of the underlying discrimination claim, but rather a question of class action suits. However, on my assumption that the global conspiracy theorists are wrong in their Wal-Mart-hates-women campaign, dismissal is the best ultimate conclusion. (I just hope Wal-Mart doesn't have to raise prices to pay for the lawyer bills!)
Refine & Enlarge
Refine & Enlarge
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Quote of the Day
The wisdom of Franklin:
Men I find to be a sort of beings very badly constructed, as they are generally more easily provoked than reconciled, more disposed to do mischief to each other than to make reparation, much more easily deceived than undeceived, and having more pride and even pleasure in killing than in begetting one another; for without a blush they assemble in great armies at noonday to destroy, and when they have killed as many as they can, they exaggerate the number to augment the fancied glory; but they creep into corners, or cover themselves with the darkness of night, when they mean to beget, as being ashamed of a virtuous action. A virtuous action it would be, and a vicious one the killing of them, if the species were really worth producing or preserving; but of this I begin to doubt.
So it looks like everyone has all their cards out on the table for their preferred avoiding-a-debt-crisis plan. We conservatives have the Ryan Roadmap. Liberals have the Schakowsky Plan and the liberal think tank plan. I think that the very best that we conservatives can reasonably hope for given our politics is some combination of the Simpson-Bowles final report (yes even the tax increases and defense cuts) and the Ryan-Rivlin health care plan. The tax increases and defense cuts in the Simpson-Bowles plan might upset some conservatives, but they can comfort themselves with the knowledge that if we don't change the trajectory of our politics, Simpson-Bowles will seem like a lost golden dream.
I start off with the assumption that neither side in the debate will end up with exactly what they want. Conservatives will end up with higher taxes than in the Roadmap and liberals will get less federal spending than in the Schakowsky Plan. Victory will be determined by where along the continuum we end up. I think that liberals are well positioned to structure our political choices in a way that we end up far closer to a Schakowsky-type outcome than a Ryan-type outcome. I think a lot of this comes down to the politics of emergency.
Reihan Salam wrote that the passage of Obamacare shifted the status quo in a structurally center-left direction. I think that with Obamacare, a Greece-type fiscal crisis would most likely tend to shift our politics (unless the timing of who holds power is just right) into a social democratic direction. If we are approaching a sovereign default, some drastic changes will be easier to implement in the short-term than others. As commenter Art Deco has often told us, you can only cut entitlement spending on the old and infirm very very slowly. The quickest way to get the budget under control would be some combination of huge tax increases, sudden (and almost certainly poorly thought out) defense cuts, and a huge cut in the medical inflation rate - almost certainly as part of a full government takeover of medicine. You would also get some policies that conservatives would support like sharp cuts in federal domestic discretionary spending, cuts in the compensation and numbers of federal civilian employees, and maybe even the long dreamt about banning of earmarks. The result of this kind of emergency budget balancing program would be a social democratic structure with a Tea Party paint job.
A look at the health care issue might show why liberals would, if current policy circumstances continue basically unchanged, have a huge edge in the politics of a debt crisis. If the experience of Massachusetts is anything to go by, Obamacare will make private health insurance even less affordable than at present while increasing the number of people with government health insurance. If a debt crisis hits, the choice will be either to sharply cut government benefits (to the old, to those on Medicare, and to those who will be receiving government subsidies on the forthcoming health care exchanges) without measures to slow medical inflation, to move in a free market-oriented direction or to go to a regime of price controls followed by the implementation of a single-payer system.
The first would have no particular constituency. Free market-oriented reform might make sense as policy, but it won't be implemented under the conditions of a decaying Obamacare plus a debt crisis. You might be able to slow the rate of medical inflation through reforms that change consumer behavior (like Mitch Daniels did in Indiana) and that encourage provider reorganizations (of the kinds that David Goldhill suggested) that save money and improve service, but you can't get it all at once, all across the system, under crisis conditions and as a way to realize quick savings. Even if you could produce such a system for the whole country on the fly (and who can picture Congress doing any such thing?), the public would never allow it. It would mean destroying the system of employer-provided health insurance, and transforming Medicare and Medicaid under conditions of a general economic panic. Good luck with that. Realizing savings through a full government takeover and government rationing of medical care would seem like a more intuitive and equitable way to deal with sharing sudden scarcity. The same dynamic would play out in a sudden (as in emergency) fight between tax increases and entitlement reforms.
Time is not on the side of conservatives and smart, strategic-minded and not especially honest liberals like Matthew Yglesias and President Obama seem to realize it. I suspect that is why Yglesias would prefer tto wait until the economy has recovered to his satisfaction before implementing debt-reducing reforms (even ones that would not reduce government spending in the short and medium-term - like cutting benefits for higher earning retirees and raising the retirement age for those who retire in future decades.) I suspect that is why Obama plays down the Social Security shortfall by speaking of tweaks and modest adjustments. I don't think that either Obama or Yglesias actually want a debt crisis, but I also think they like their side's chances in the event of one.
That is why it is especially important for conservatives to start winning their political and policy fights right now and especially in the realm of health care. The best way to move toward the Ryan-Rivlin plan and to prevent the full government takeover of health care is to change facts on the ground in ways that slow medical inflation and create a large enough class of Americans with consumer-driven health care policies that a full government takeover of health care becomes a political impossibility. Market-oriented health care policies will have to come from the outside-in as governors and state legislatures pass laws to increase the number of Americans with consumer-driven health care policies ( Iwould start with Medicaid clients and state and municipal workers) and as Republicans in Congress push to give the states more space to experiment. If Indiana-style HSA/Catastrophic coverage plans save the government money, you might even find new allies as Democratic mayors come out in favor of such policies as a way to slow down the spiraling employee health care costs that many municipalities face. If we can do this, we might be in a better position to win the politics of a debt crisis. Even better, if we can show that conservative reforms can save money and maintain public living standards, we might earn enough public trust to implement policies that avoid a debt crisis altogether.
... just say Republicans are like "terrorists?"
Oh well, at least the Democrats have finally found the nerve to use the word in public.
Treppenwitz: I don't notice historyteachers poeticizing American history. This would be a important mission for conservative artists--imagine a video of the Boston Tea Party, for example. The Internet allows the insignificant to outwit the mighty.
Men and Women
Women follow rules better than men do, so the women do better in school. But, there is no correlation between doing well in school and doing well in adult life. And there might be a reverse correlation, because school is about doing what you're told, but strong performers in business make their own rules. Maybe this is why most big law firms have no women in their top 10 rainmakers. This is because it's an ill-defined, outside-the-rules-of-what-you-learn-in-law-school kind of job. But these are the people who make the money and have the flexibility to have a lifestyle they want outside of work--one not so hours-bound. So for women to really get the kind of workplace they want - flexible, responsive, and engaging, the women are going to need to break some rules.
Powerline cites Michael Fumento's powerful and contra-PC stance against excessive AIDS funding. Domestically, Fumento's argument that AIDS research receives an egregiously disproportionate share of public funding is undeniable - and his corollary thesis that this imbalance was founded and is perpetrated upon a series of lies and misinformation is damning of the AIDS lobby (particularly when one fully recognizes that the cost is literally a matter of life and death for those needlessly dying of unfunded diseases for which cures might otherwise have been discovered).
All of this is basically irrefutable in America. Research funds are finite, and should be used to the greatest benefit of the greatest number of people - particularly targeting diseases which cannot otherwise be prevented. Regardless of liberal stammering, AIDS can be fully prevented through responsible personal behavior - as the link notes, heterosexual men are more likely to contract breast cancer than AIDS. AIDS research is overfunded, and so cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's (among other afflictions far more deadly than AIDS) are underfunded.
My only observation would be that AIDS is a far graver matter overseas - particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where infection rates may exceed 1/3 of the adult population. Yet generally unpreventable illnesses such as respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases and malaria are just as prevalent - and cancer, heart disease and other "common" causes of death are just as prevalent overseas as in the U.S. Thus, there is a greater global rationale for AIDS research than exists in the U.S., yet even those areas would profit more abundantly from a reallocation of some funds away from AIDS.
But medicine is money, and money is politics. The AIDS lobby - intimately associated with the homosexual lobby, for quite understandable reasons - has dominated the political game and confiscated an incredible amount of money for their efforts. I sympathize with their compassionate self-interest, but research funds should be allocated by need and promise of progress - political correctness and unethical lobbying tactics result in increased deaths, both here and abroad.
All life on Earth - from microbes to elephants and us - is based on a single genetic model that requires the element phosphorus as one of its six essential components.
But now researchers have uncovered a bacterium that has five of those essential elements but has, in effect, replaced phosphorus with its look-alike but toxic cousin arsenic.
While "the discovery does not prove the existence of a "second genesis" on Earth," it "very much opens the door to that possibility." Since we don't actually know if the microbe replaced arsenic with phosphorus in its DNA structure always possessed arsenic instead of phosphorus, the possibility exists of a theorized "shadow biosphere" on Earth - that "life evolved from a different common ancestor than all that we've known so far."
We are witnessing (or discovering) history - even if in its most minute progression.
Quote of the Day
Assuming this link is correct, here's an excerpt form the textbook at issue in the Scopes Trial:
The Races of Man. - At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure. These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; the American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan, and the Eskimos; and finally, the highest race type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America. . . .
Improvement of Man. - If the stock of domesticated animals can be improved, it is not unfair to ask if the health and vigor of the future generations of men and women on the earth might be improved by applying to them the laws of selection. This improvement of the future race has a number of factors in which as individuals may play a part. These are personal hygiene, selection of healthy mates, and the betterment of the environment�.
Eugenics. - When people marry there are certain things that the individual as well as the race should demand. The most important of these is freedom from germ diseases which might be handed down to the offspring. Tuberculosis, syphilis, that dread disease which cripples and kills hundreds of thousands of innocent children, epilepsy, and feeble-mindedness are handicaps which it is not only unfair but criminal to hand down to posterity. The science of being well born is called eugenics.
The Jukes. - Studies have been made on a number of different families in this country, in which mental and moral defects were present in one or both of the original parents. The "Jukes" family is a notorious example. The first mother is known as "Margaret, the mother of criminals." In seventy-five years the progeny of the original generation has cost the state of New York over a million and a quarter dollars, besides giving over to the care of prisons and asylums considerably over a hundred feeble-minded, alcoholic, immoral, or criminal persons. Another case recently studied is the "Kallikak" family. This family has been traced back to the War of the Revolution, when a young soldier named Martin Kallikak seduced a feeble-minded girl. She had a feeble-minded son from whom there have been to the present time 480 descendants. Of these 33 were sexually immoral, 24 confirmed drunkards, 3 epileptics, and 143 feeble-minded. The man who started this terrible line of immorality and feeble-mindedness later married a normal Quaker girl. From this couple a line of 496 descendants have come, with no cases of feeble-mindedness. The evidence and the moral speak for themselves!
Parasitism and its Cost to Society. - Hundreds of families such as those described above exist to-day, spreading disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country. The cost to society of such families is very severe. Just as certain animals or plants become parasitic on other plants or animals, these families have become parasitic on society. They not only do harm to others by corrupting, stealing, or spreading disease, but they are actually protected and cared for by the state out of public money. Largely for them the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society, but they give nothing in return. They are true parasites.
Remember, many of the people who supported teaching this stuff denounced those who disagreed for being anti-scince, and backward. Willian Jennings Bryan defended Christianity against Darwin, but he also turned to a more basic language when he called it a "barbarous doctrine." When science makes claims beyond its legitimate realm, and uses its authority to denounce those who disagree, it is science, not religion, that has crossed the line.
Today, on the Feast of the Apostle St. Andrew, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated to Bartholomew I, Orthodox ecumenical patriarch, "the need to progress toward full communion with the Orthodox Church." The Pope marked the occasion by delivering relics of St. Andrew to Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Kazakhstan.
While the Catholic Church has long sought an end to the 1,000 year schism between the churches, the Orthodox have often been unresponsive - a legacy of communism, war and clerical entrenchment. But there are hints of a positive shift among the Orthodox. Reunification would rank among the most important events of the past 500 years.
The UN climate change summit begins today in Cancun (Americans for Progress has a humorous video of the opening festivities).
Global cooling / warming / climate change has always been a fraud in the sense that its most fervent advocates corrupted data, published lies and censored critics in an attempt to control global economics under the guise of environmental protection. In the past, they had the decency to hide their real motives, but either a sense of futility or shamelessness has convinced some to speak more candidly.
Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair the Cancun summit, recently admitted:
The climate summit in Cancun at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War.
... we redistribute de facto the world's wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.
Luckily, the U.S. is entirely ignoring Cancun and attendees have little hope of leaving with anything more than a suntan. As the Kyoto treaty nears its 2012 expiration, may this also spell the slow death of the climate change movement.
John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have written an op-ed attempting to convince Americans that the GOP is focused (and willing to work with Dems) on America's priorities "to cut spending, rein in government, and permanently extend the current tax rates. Senate GOP have promised to filibuster all legislation until a budget (sustaining tax cuts) is resolved and the House votes on tax cuts tomorrow.
On the other side of the aisle, Obama's Debt Commission report was released today. Highlights include cutting 200,000 federal jobs by 2020 (10% of the workforce), cuts in defense spending, $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020, reducing the deficit to 2.3% of GDP by 2015, tax code reforms costing the average taxpayer an extra $1,700/year, a government revenue cap of 21% of GDP, reducing debt to 40% of GDP by 2035 and raising retirement age. Yet the split bipartisan commission may fail to pass the measure.
The two parties came together yesterday for a meeting on the economy and tax cuts. "No formal agreement was made," writes WaPo, "but the meeting marked a sharp departure from the practice of the past two years, when Obama dealt almost exclusively with Democrats - in part because Republicans were content to try to block his every move." Ignoring WaPo's obligatory, reality-challenged snark, the meeting may have been a refreshing glimpse of less partisan times, but it achieved nothing.
The NY Times observes that conservative economic policy is enjoying a resurgence in popularity following the November elections. Let's see if the GOP is comitted to conservative economic policy.
"The Tea Party's battle cry - Take Our Country Back - expresses a clear desire to return to a time when America was whiter and gays and lesbians were chained in the closet." Thus opines Harold Meyerson in today's WaPo, condemning the Tea Party as "apostles of our dankest bigotries."
Progressives have yet to learn the art of losing graciously. But given their view of America's past (and America's growing awareness of their views), it's a virtue I suspect they'll have ample opportunity to refine in the future.
Given modern technology, how likely is it that we can keep documents secret nowadays, compared to the past? Poor Richard, of course, noted that three can keep a secret if two are dead, but that's not the whole truth. There's a difference between secrets seeping out, and them being easily available to anyone with google.